Utah Divorce Process
Regardless of the instigating factors, divorce is a stressful and draining situation for all parties involved. With a divorce rate higher than the national average–3.6% for Utahns versus 3.4% for all Americans, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study–Utahns face this potentially complicated and often overwhelming process more than most. To help remove some of the confusion and anxiety surrounding getting divorced in Utah, here is a step-by-step overview of the divorce process in the state.
Because divorce can easily get messy and contentious, hiring a knowledgeable divorce attorney is often in your best interests to help protect your assets and child custody concerns. Utah divorce attorney Eric. M. Swinyard specializes in all aspects of family law, serving Utahns from his offices in Salt Lake City and Provo. To schedule a free consultation, please contact Eric M. Swinyard today.
Part 1: File for Divorce
As you begin the process of filing for divorce, be aware that Utah allows for divorce based both on fault and no-fault grounds. You should also know that Utah’s courts impose a residency requirement on divorce proceedings; this means that either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of three months prior to the filing date. When custody of minor children will be an issue in the divorce proceedings, your children generally must have resided in Utah for a minimum of six months before you can file.
Consult an Attorney
You aren’t required to use an attorney in order to file for divorce in Utah. However, the legal issues surrounding divorce are often complicated, and you may face obstacles representing yourself if there are any complex matters such as child custody or division of significant assets. A qualified divorce attorney can help you navigate the process and help safeguard against critical mistakes.
Prepare Your Divorce Documents
If you are using a lawyer, your attorney will prepare your documents for you. If not, you may use the state’s Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to prepare the divorce petition and related documents; there is a $20 fee for using this service. Completed forms must be notarized by a notary public before they can be filed.
File Your Divorce Documents
Your divorce case is only open once you’ve filed all forms in the office of the court clerk in your home county and paid the filing fee of $310.
Serve Your Spouse
After filing your divorce petition, you have 120 days to serve this petition, a summons and any other filed documents to your spouse. Service can be completed via certified mail or by the sheriff’s department or a private company. Proof of service is required to have the court act on your divorce petition.
Wait for Your Spouse’s Answer
After being served, your spouse will have 21 days–or 30 days if they are out of state–to respond. If they do respond, both parties will have to submit a Financial Declaration form to each other outlining all relevant financial items.
If your spouse does not respond, you can request that the court issue a default judgment which will grant you everything you requested in your petition.
If your spouse agrees with all issues as presented in your divorce petition, they can file a stipulation instead of a response. At this point, the OCAP Divorce Stipulation questions can be used to prepare the necessary documents and proceed to a final divorce decree.
Part 2: Complete Required Divorce Education Classes and Mediation
After your spouse has been given a chance to respond to your divorce petition, several steps must be taken before a trial will be scheduled. Many Utah divorce issues are resolved during this stage in the process, eliminating the need for a trial in front of a judge.
Complete a 90-Day Waiting Period
Utah law stipulates that judges must wait 90 days after the date that the divorce petition was initially filed to sign the final divorce order. This is true even if both spouses agree on all issues.
Attend Required Divorce Education Classes if Necessary
All divorcing couples in Utah who have minor children are required to take both a divorce education class and a divorce orientation class before the final divorce decree will be signed. Both classes can be taken online or in person; the orientation class covers alternatives to divorce, while the education class seeks to provide information on how divorce affects children and how parents can make the process easier.
Take Part in Mandatory Mediation for any Contested Issues
If your spouse responds to your divorce filing, Utah statute requires that both parties take part in a mediation session before a divorce will be granted. The parties are jointly responsible for locating and paying for a mediator.
Ask for Temporary Order if Necessary
Sometimes there are issues that must be addressed before the divorce order is final, such as who can use the marital home or who has custody of any minor children during the pending divorce. In these cases, either party can request that the judge issue a temporary order on the matter that will be effective through the final divorce decree.
Complete Name Restoration
If you had your name changed upon getting married, you can return to your pre-marriage legal name at this stage in the divorce process. To do so, simply include a statement along with your divorce petition to indicate the name change.
Part 3: Go to Trial (If Necessary)
If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement about any issues in your divorce decree, the next step in the Utah divorce process is going to trial.
Seek a Child Custody Evaluation
If you disagree with your spouse regarding child custody or child support issues, you can request that a professional evaluator conduct a custody evaluation. During this evaluation, the evaluator will observe both parties and the children; the evaluator will then submit a report to the court on all factors that pertain to the child’s best interests.
Appear at Pre-Trial Conferences
You will be required to attend a conference prior to your trial being scheduled to make a final attempt to settle the case. If this fails, the trial date will be set and the list of issues to be addressed at trial will be determined.
Attend Your Trial
If you have hired a divorce lawyer, they can help you prepare for the trial, including assembling any documents and necessary evidence to be presented to the court. Arrive at the courtroom early on the day of your trial, dressed professionally and with any witnesses that you intend to call upon. Remember to treat the judge respectfully and never interrupt your spouse when they are testifying.
Get Copies of Your Divorce Decree
Once the judge has signed the final decree following mediation or trial, you are legally divorced. At this point, you should obtain a copy of the finalized decree for your records. Note that you must file any appeals to the judge’s decision within 30 days.
Contact Utah Divorce Attorney Eric M. Swinyard Today
Divorce can be complicated. The best way to safeguard your interests throughout the process is to choose a qualified divorce attorney to represent you. Based in Salt Lake City, experienced divorce attorney Eric M. Swinyard has helped hundreds of Utahns navigate the divorce process. His broad range of experience allows him to provide personalized and high-quality legal support regarding all family law-related legal issues. To schedule your free 30-minute consultation, please contact Eric Swinyard at (801) 850-9740.