Saturday, July 4, 2009

Utah Divorce Laws

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Utah
The spouse filing for divorce must have been a resident of Utah (or a member of the Armed Forces stationed in Utah) and a resident for more than 3 months immediately prior to filing of the county where the divorce is filed. In addition, there is a 90-day waiting period after filing before a divorce will be granted.

Legal Grounds for Divorce in Utah
  1. No Fault Divorce:
    1. Irreconcilable differences of the marriage or
    2. living separate and apart without cohabitation for 3 years under a judicial decree of separation
  2. General Divorce:
    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
    8. habitual intemperance (drunkenness)

Legal Separation in Utah
The grounds for legal separation are:

  1. willful desertion
  2. living separate and apart without cohabitation
  3. gross neglect
The deserting spouse must be a resident of Utah, or own property in the state in which the deserted spouse lives.

Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures in Utah
Uncontested divorce hearings may be held before a court commissioner. However, a divorce cannot 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.

Divorce Mediation in Utah
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.

Divorce Property Distribution
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.

Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be ordered to pay an equitable amount of alimony to the other. The following factors are to be considered:

  1. the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse
  2. the recipient's earning capacity and ability to produce income
  3. the ability of the paying spouse to provide support
  4. the length of the marriage
  5. the standard of living at the time of separation
  6. any marital fault of the spouses
  7. if the marriage has been of long duration and the marriage dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of 1 of the spouses
  8. if 1 spouse's earning capacity has been greatly enhanced by the other's efforts
  9. 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.

Spouse's Name After Divorce
There is no statutory provision in Utah for restoration of a wife's maiden name upon divorce. However, there is a general statutory provision for changing a name upon petition to the court.

Child Custody After Divorce
Joint or sole child custody is determined according to the best interests of the child and after a consideration of the following factors:

  1. the past conduct and moral standards of the parents
  2. the welfare of the child
  3. the child's preference if the child is at least 12 years of age
  4. which parent is likely to act in the best interests of the child
  5. 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:
  1. it will be in the best interests of the child and
  2. both parents agree to joint custody; or
  3. both parents appear capable of implementing joint custody
and it is based upon a consideration of the following factors:
  1. whether the physical, psychological, or emotional needs and development of the child will benefit
  2. 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
  3. whether each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
  4. whether both parents participated in child-rearing before the filing of the divorce
  5. the geographical proximity of the homes of the parents
  6. if the child is of sufficient age and maturity, the preference of the child
  7. the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents
  8. 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.

Child Support After Divorce
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 daycare and childcare 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:

  1. the standard of living and situation of the parties
  2. the relative wealth and income of the parties
  3. the earning abilities of the parents
  4. the needs of the parents and the child
  5. the ages of the parents and the child
  6. the responsibilities of the parents for the support of others
A child support worksheet is contained in the statute. In addition, a financial verification form is also required.

No comments: