DIVORCE LAWS- UTAH
The divorce law in the State of Utah is governed by Title 30 of the Utah Code. As per the code either spouse must have been resident of Utah (or a member of the Armed Forces stationed in Utah ) and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for more than 3 months immediately prior to filing. In addition, there is a 90-day waiting period after filing before a divorce will be granted. As per the provisions of the Code the Complaint for divorce may be made to the family Division of the District court for the county of residence.
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
No-Fault: (1) irreconcilable differences of the marriage; or (2) living separate and apart without cohabitation for 3 years under a judicial decree of separation.
General: (1) impotence; (2) adultery; (3) conviction of a felony; (4) willful desertion for 1 year; (5) cruel and inhuman treatment; (6) willful neglect; (7) incurable insanity; and (8) habitual intemperance (drunkenness).
The grounds for legal separation are:
- willful desertion;
- living separate and apart without cohabitation; and
- gross neglect.
The deserting spouse must be a resident of Utah , or own property in the state which the deserted spouse lives in.
SIMPLIFIED OR SPECIAL DIVORCE PROCEDURES
Uncontested divorce hearings may be held before a court commissioner. However, a divorce can not be granted upon default, and legal evidence and testimony must be taken in every divorce case. However, in a default case, the evidence may be contained in an affidavit of the petitioner. In addition, a sample Petition for Divorce is contained in Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Appendix of Forms, Form #18. Finally, a financial verification form is also required in child support cases.
MEDIATION OR COUNSELING REQUIREMENTS
There is a 90-day waiting period after filing for divorce before any hearing may be held. Upon the request of either or both of the spouses (shown by filing a Petition for Conciliation with the court), the court may refer both of the spouses to a domestic relations counselor. If child custody is involved, both parents must attend a course in the effects of divorce on children. This requirement may be waived if the court determines that it is unnecessary.
Utah is an "equitable distribution" state. All of the spouse's property, including gifts, inheritances, and any property acquired prior to or during the marriage, will be divided equitably by the court. There are no factors for consideration specified in the statute.
Either spouse may be ordered to pay an equitable amount of alimony to the other. The following factors are to be considered:
- the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse;
- the recipient's earning capacity and ability to produce income;
- the ability of the paying spouse to provide support;
- the length of the marriage;
- the standard of living at the time of separation;
- any marital fault of the spouses;
- if the marriage has been of long duration and the marriage dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses;
- if one spouse's earning capacity has been greatly enhanced by the other's efforts; and
- any other relevant factors. In general, the court will not award alimony for a period longer than the marriage existed. Alimony terminates upon remarriage or cohabitation with another person.
Joint or sole child custody is determined according to the best interests of the child, and after a consideration of the following factors:
- the past conduct and moral standards of the parents;
- the welfare of the child;
- the child's preference if the child is at least 12 years of age;
- which parent is likely to act in the best interests of the child; and
- which parent is likely to allow frequent and continuing contact with the other parent.
There is a presumption that a spouse who has been abandoned by the other spouse is entitled to custody of the children. If there is an allegation of child abuse by either spouse, the court must order an investigation by the Division of Family Services or the Utah Department of Human Services. Joint custody may be ordered if
- it will be in the best interests of the child; and
- both parents agree to joint custody; or
- both parents appear capable of implementing joint custody; and
- based upon a consideration of the following factors:
- whether the physical, psychological, or emotional needs and development of the child will benefit;
- the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child's best interests;
- whether each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent;
- whether both parents participated in child rearing before the filing of the divorce;
- the geographical proximity of the homes of the parents;
- if the child is of sufficient age and maturity, the preference of the child;
- the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents; and
- any other factor that the court finds relevant.
The court may not discriminate against a parent with a disability when considering custody issues. The court may order that dispute resolution be attempted prior to any enforcement or modification of custody terms. There are also advisory visitation guidelines in the statutes.
Either or both parents may be ordered to provide child support, including medical and dental expenses and health insurance. The court may also order the non-custodial parent to provide day care and child care expenses while the custodial parent is at work or undergoing training. Income withholding may be ordered by a court to guarantee any child support payments. There are official Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines are presumed to be correct unless there is a showing that the amount would be unjust or inappropriate under the particular circumstances in a case. Factors for consideration in awarding support amounts outside the guidelines are:
- the standard of living and situation of the parties;
- the relative wealth and income of the parties;
- the earning abilities of the parents;
- the needs of the parents and the child;
- the ages of the parents and the child;
- the responsibilities of the parents for the support of others.
The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties and is enforceable without consideration. The agreement is not enforceable if it is proven that
- the agreement was not executed voluntarily;
- the agreement was fraudulent and that before the execution the party was not provided a reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations, did not voluntarily waive the right to the disclosure of this information, and did not have adequate knowledge of these obligations.
If a provision of the agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support and that causes one party to be eligible for public assistance at the time of separation or dissolution, a court may require that the other party provide support so as to avoid the eligibility. If a marriage is determined to be void, the agreement is enforceable only to the extent necessary to avoid an inequitable result.