Grounds for Divorce in Utah

Learn about the requirements for divorce in Utah.

By , Attorney

What Are Grounds for Divorce?

In all divorce cases, couples must provide the court with a legal ground to terminate the marriage. Although there are different ways to apply for a dissolution of marriage (divorce), every case requires the applicant to list a specific reason for the request.

Some states allow parties to file for a fault divorce, which is where you claim that your spouse's behavior during the marriage caused the relationship to fail. Acceptable grounds for fault divorce vary depending on where you live, but the most common include adultery, drug or alcohol abuse, or abandonment.

All states permit couples to request a no-fault divorce, meaning that neither spouse is individually responsible for the breakup. Typically, no-fault divorces are based on irreconcilable differences. In these cases, couples need to prove to the court that despite your best efforts, there are too many issues in the relationship for reconciliation to be possible. The most appealing factor of no-fault divorce is that spouses can ask the court to terminate their marriage without the need for finger pointing or mud-slinging. Many states also offer a divorce based on a separation for a specific period of time.

Utah and No-Fault Divorce

If you're not interested in airing your dirty laundry in a public courtroom setting, no-fault divorce is probably the best option for ending your relationship. Utah courts understand that many people, primarily parents, want to preserve what's left of their bond after a divorce, so it allows couples to pursue a divorce using its no-fault procedures.

For divorcing couples to be successful, the parties will need to explain to the court that their marriage has suffered irreconcilable differences. Judges don't usually make it a habit of questioning the motives behind a no-fault divorce, so if you are willing to testify, under oath, that you and your spouse can't work things out, a judge will grant your divorce.

If you can't prove irreconcilable differences to the court, you can also apply for a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have lived separate and apart from each other for a minimum of three years.

Your Spouses Bad Behavior May Help You Get a Divorce

No-fault divorce is by far the most popular method of ending a marriage, but for some couples, it's not the right choice. As an alternative, Utah gives couples the option of petitioning the court for a divorce based on a spouse's bad conduct during the marriage.

The acceptable reasons for a fault divorce in Utah include:

  • impotency at the time of the marriage
  • adultery by either party
  • willful desertion for more than one year
  • habitual drunkenness
  • conviction of a felony
  • cruel treatment to the extent of causing bodily injury or great mental distress, and
  • willful neglect to provide the standard necessities of life.

Spouses may also file for divorce based on one spouse's incurable insanity.

Unlike no-fault divorce, which only requires one spouse to testify that the marriage has suffered irreconcilable differences, if you accuse your spouse of marital misconduct or incurable insanity you will need to present evidence, like witness testimony or medical records, to prove to the court that your allegations are true.

For example, in one case, a husband filed for divorce based on his wife's mental cruelty toward him. The couple had been married for over 16 years, but the wife suffered some medical issues that caused her personality to change. The husband provided testimony that painted a picture of mental cruelty by his wife, which was enough for the court to approve his request. The wife appealed, stating that she didn't intend on being cruel to her husband and that the judge should have denied the request for a fault divorce, but because the husband proved his allegations with evidence, the appeals court upheld the decision by the judge.

What Are the Other Requirements for Divorce?

Like most states, Utah has a residency requirement that you must meet before you can file for divorce. Couples must demonstrate that the filing party has been a resident, continuously, for a minimum of three months.

Additionally, there is a 90-day waiting period before the court can hold a hearing for your divorce. This waiting period was created by legislators to provide couples with a "cooling off" period, which may or may not assist the spouses in making meaningful, divorce-related issues, like property division and spousal support. Either party can ask the court to waive this waiting period. The person requesting a waiver would need to file a motion (request) with the court and provide the judge with extraordinary circumstances for their application.

We Have Minor Children, Does that Change Anything?

Yes. Utah law is unambiguous that if a divorcing couple has minor children from the marriage, the court can't finalize the divorce until each parent has attended a mandatory course for divorcing parents and presented a certificate of completion to the judge.

The court can, on its own or if one parent makes a motion, waive this requirement, but this doesn't typically happen unless the couple can prove that the class isn't necessary, appropriate, or feasible.

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