How to File for Divorce in Utah

How to File for Divorce in Utah

Much of Utah’s history has been shaped by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, often called Mormons. 

The religion was founded in New York in the early 1800s, but they moved to Utah in the 1840s in part because they wanted a place where they could openly practice polygamy and they are still the majority religion in the state today. 

The church has abandoned polygamy but some groups still practice it.  Despite this unusual history of marriage, Utah has relatively straightforward divorce laws. 

Residency requirements

You or your spouse must live in a single county in Utah for at least three months before filing for divorce, and for child custody issues the child must usually live in Utah for six months before the court will act. 

Grounds for divorce

Utah has traditional “fault” grounds for divorce.  These are a bit of a historical artifact.  In the past, one spouse had to prove the other one did something wrong before a divorce could be granted.  Today there is not much point in getting a fault divorce, but the option is still available in Utah.

The fault grounds include impotency, adultery, desertion, neglect, habitual drunkenness, conviction of a felony, cruel treatment, or incurable insanity. 

Most divorces are going to be granted on a no-fault basis.  This just means that neither spouse did anything wrong. The no-fault grounds in Utah include “irreconcilable differences of the marriage” and living separately for three years. 

There is no real reason to wait for three years, so irreconcilable differences will be the basis for most divorces. That simply means the couple wants to end their marriage. They do not have to explain why. 

Privacy

Unlike most states, Utah goes out of their way to keep divorce records private

Court records in America are generally public, and in most states that includes divorce records.  Utah keeps these private, meaning only the lawyers for the parties or a few other involved individuals can ever see the divorce filings. 

Property division

Utah is an “equitable division” state, which means the courts will seek to “fairly” divide up the assets of a couple. 

Courts will look at issues like the length of the marriage, the age of the spouses, and their earning capacity.  Ultimately most couples will come to an agreement on their property division rather than leave it in the hands of a judge. 

Child custody and support

The law in Utah favors joint legal custody

That means that both parents are involved in making major decisions about the child’s life, such as what school or church the child will attend. Physical custody is often shared as well, and in Utah, that means the child is spending at least 111 nights per year with each parent. 

Child support in Utah is set by a formula established by law.  The formula accounts for things like how much each parent makes and how many children each parent has. A judge can deviate from the guidelines, but they have to explain why.  Reasons for deviation can include excessive debt or lack of need.

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