Thinking about divorce? Here are some interesting tidbits many people don’t know about Utah’s divorce laws.
1. You can point fingers, but you no longer need to.
In the past, Utah followed a system where you had to have a reason for your divorce. Usually, that reason put the blame squarely on one spouse’s shoulders, and that spouse received the short end of the stick during property division and other parts of the divorce. That is no longer the case. Today, divorcing spouses can claim irreconcilable differences as the grounds for their divorce, and most do.
Yet, what if you have a different reason for divorce? Utah law still lists out other statutory grounds for divorce, ranging from adultery and habitual drunkenness to mental/physical cruelty, neglect and incurable insanity. You can allege one of these grounds in the divorce filing, but you may have to prove it to the court.
2. Utah requires you to wait to get divorced.
There are two potential “waiting” periods. First, you or your spouse must have lived in your county in Utah for at least three months prior to filing for divorce in that county. If you have met that residency requirement, you can usually expect your divorce to take at least an additional three months. Under Utah’s family law, you typically must wait 90 days between filing your divorce petition and receiving a divorce decree. Spouses must show extraordinary circumstances to waive this 90-day waiting period.
3. If you have minor children, you’ll be going back to school.
Parents of minor children are required to attend two classes before they receive their divorce decree: a divorce education class and a divorce orientation class; however, they can both be completed during one three-hour block of time. In fact, you must attend the orientation course before the court will grant a motion you make for temporary orders.
4. If you and your spouse disagree about something in your divorce, get ready for mediation.
Utah courts require parties to attend at least one session of mediation if there are any contested issues in a divorce. You and your spouse will need to find and pay for a mediator to meet this requirement.
You can avoid this requirement if you and your spouse can come to an agreement on all of the issues of your divorce. You may also ask the court to waive mediation if you have good cause to do so. For example, courts often dismiss the mediation requirement if one party feels unsafe in the presence of the other party.
5. You may be able to convince a judge you are married (even though you never had that ceremony).
While Utah does not have common law marriage, you may be able to ask the court to declare your relationship a marriage in order to get a court-ordered divorce. You will need to show:
- You are both of legal age and capable of entering into a marriage
- You have acted as though you were married, including living together
- You present your relationship to the public in a way that makes them believe you are married
- You both consent to the marriage designation
The divorce process is complicated, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a nightmare. By working with an experienced lawyer, finding ways to minimize conflict and taking it one step at a time, you can set the stage for a better tomorrow.