Divorce & Family Law in Utah Frequently Asked Questions
Marriage makes a big legal difference. When a married couple has a child, both partners are legally acknowledged as the child’s parents. The married mother and father have equal responsibilities and rights as parents.
When parents are not married, in contrast, the mother has full rights and responsibilities but the father does not. Paternity—the fact that the mother’s partner is the biological father—has to be legally established first, and only then does the father officially take on the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Give our law office a call to learn more on how to establish paternity in Utah.
File a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (known as a VDP) with the Department of Health. You may obtain the VDP form at the hospital where your child was born, at a local health department office, or at the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
Yes. If you as a possible father refuse to submit to genetic testing freely, the judge has the authority to order you to undergo testing in a paternity case.
Either parent may file a paternity case in court, asking a judge to declare that a specific person is a child’s father. When making this determination, the judge can issue related decisions about child support, custody of the child, and parenting time (visitation).
If you, the unmarried biological father, believe that the child’s mother may want to put the child up for adoption, you should establish yourself as legally entitled to a notice of any adoption proceedings.
To protect your rights and interests as a parent, you will need to file a paternity action. Seek legal counsel to avoid missing critical steps or jeopardizing your rights.
Yes. Adoption formalizes the bond between a child and the adoptive parent. The result is a legal relationship that is the full equivalent of biological parenthood.
The divorce process in Utah starts with a Complaint for Divorce, filed with the District Court in the Utah county where you have lived for at least three months. The court will set a hearing date for your case.
You need not prove anything to get divorced. The Complaint for Divorce in a no-fault filing declares “irreconcilable differences” between the two parties Most couples file for a no-fault divorce as it is simpler, more efficient, and less intrusive than a court case attempting to prove fault.
If the marriage partners can agree on a fair way to divide their assets and if they don’t have children, a divorce can be completed within weeks. If the divorce is not contested, the judge will meet with the parties, go over the filings, and promptly issue the divorce decree.
An agreement is not always easy and straightforward. It’s common to rely on a judge to resolve various disputes. In that case, attorneys for both parties will present their cases to the judge in an effort to receive what their clients want. difficult cases in which the parties wrangle over child custody and property division can take as long as two years, although Utah lawmakers implemented provisions in 2018 to speed the average time.
Yes. Utah has designed a collaborative divorce provision in which the lawyers for both sides deliberately work to achieve an agreement through mediation, and Utah Attorney Eric Swinyard will be able to explore that possibility with you if you request it.
No matter which route you take to the next stage of your life, Eric will do what’s possible to expedite the process and keep your costs down where possible, by pointing out where and how an agreement can be reached.
Generally, if there is no temporary restraining order, you do not need to leave your home. Your grounds to stay are especially firm if you’re not the one filing for divorce but instead are suddenly taken aback by a demand to move out.
Do hire a Utah divorce attorney. If your spouse demands a divorce and wants you to leave the home, an attorney’s advice is vital. It can keep you cool-headed, and assist you with a legally informed decision on your living arrangements as well as actions to take to strengthen your position.
You are not giving up any claim to the house by leaving. But nor are you free from the legal responsibilities to pay the rent or mortgage loan. Keep up your payments, and the court will decide later whether you must continue paying after your divorce is final. Much will depend on your income.
Once you leave the home it may be very difficult to return to retrieve important records. Be sure you have your personal documents. Additionally, create documentation on the spot. Write down what your spouse says while the statements are fresh in your memory. Date your notes. Make it as easy as possible for yourself to confidently explain later what unfolded and led to the Complaint for Divorce.
In many cases, one spouse will come away from the marriage with stronger earning potential than the other spouse. Especially at the end of a long marriage, and when there are children involved who require support, the higher earner will likely be called upon to support the other spouse.
Unless the couple agrees on the terms of spousal support, Utah law directs the court to consider a number of factors when ordering alimony payments in Utah.
The court considers:
- Whether the person who seeks support is losing a source of income through the divorce—because, for example, the two were business partners;
- Whether the person who seeks support paid for—or otherwise enabled the other spouse to undertake—education during the marriage; and
- Other factors that enter into a balance of fairness. Note that the best interest of the minor children, if any, will always lead the court’s priorities.
Generally, the responsibility to pay spousal support does not continue beyond the length of time the couple spent married.
In Utah, spousal support will also end upon the death or remarriage of the recipient, or upon the recipient’s cohabitation with a new life partner.
The court will determine how decisions and time with the children will be divided between you both. Can you come to an agreement on these terms? A judge will accept the parents’ agreement—as long as it is in their child’s best interest.
If you cannot agree, then custody becomes a matter for the judge to decide, taking into consideration:
- The way each parent has interacted with the children to date, and how dependent the children are on each parent;
- Who is more likely to put the children’s best interests first—including sharing the children’s time;
- Each parent’s willingness to shield the child from any conflict between the parents;
- Whether a child’s overall well-being will benefit most from joint custody;
- Where each parent will live after the divorce; and
- The wishes of the child, if the child is capable and old enough to weigh in reasonably.
“Joint physical custody” describes a typical situation in which each of the two parents legally gets to spend at least 111 nights with their child. This joint solution does not always mean both people have equal shares of parenting time.
“Sole physical custody” means one parent is entitled to 254 nights with the child. In order to be awarded the desired custody plan, a parent must show the court a number of overlapping factors, such as keeping relationships between siblings intact and offering a stable, nourishing environment for the child. Note that a court is likely to put a strong emphasis on which parent had been the child’s primary caregiver throughout the marriage.
Legal custody is the power of a parent to access information and contribute to decision-making in the child’s spiritual upbringing, schooling and cultural activities, and medical care. Of course, minor decisions about the child’s food, clothing, transportation and so forth generally need to be made by whichever parent is caring for a child on a given day. In the event of disagreement on any of these things, big or small, the parent may turn to a dispute resolution provision included in their custody plan.
Utah law favors joint legal custody as it usually serves the child’s best interests.
For religious or personal reasons, some people might prefer to nullify a marriage. Within an annulment proceeding, just as in a divorce, a Utah judge can order spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation time, and the division of assets. The law permits annulment of a marriage that occurred when one spouse already had an existing marriage to another person, or if one marriage partner married while underage.
Utah law sets forth several further reasons for granting an annulment, such as a serious misrepresentation regarding an issue related to marriage, or a spouse’s refusal to have sexual relations. Annulments are not easily granted. An attorney can tell you if your petition would be viable.
Having an attorney involved, even if you both agree on all terms, will ensure that the divisions of assets and responsibilities are equitable and that the divorce adheres to every relevant provision in Utah divorce law. Should one of the ex-spouses or any family member raise any issues later, you’ll have the peace of mind to know you have acted according to the law in all ways.
Eric M. Swinyard is an experienced Utah divorce and family law attorney who additionally holds an MBA, augmenting Eric’s ability to assist clients in dividing sophisticated holdings in both business and property.
If You Need Help with Any Divorce or Family Law Issues in Utah, Contact Our Experienced Divorce Attorneys in Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah Today
Our office handles family law and divorce cases under Utah law, affordably and with unyielding attention to detail. Utah Attorney Eric Swinyard has a depth of experience in divorce, family relationships, adoption, spousal and child support, parental rights and time scheduling.
Call for a complimentary 30-minute consultation:
- For our Salt Lake County office in South Jordan, UT, call (801) 850-9740.
- For our Utah County office in Provo, UT, call (801) 939-0315.
- Or Email Eric Swinyard at [email protected].
Our SLC and Provo Utah divorce attorneys handle a wide range of legal services including but not limited to:
- Divorce law
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- Military divorce issues
- Dividing assets and debts
- Paternity issues
- Adoption proceedings
- Child support
- Child support modification
- Child custody issues
- Child custody modification
- Child custody psychological evaluations
- Parent – time/visitation
- Utah parent-time schedules
- Alimony modification
- Estate planning
- Wills and trusts
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