Read LawJuly 28, 2021
The Divorce Process in Utah: A Complete Guide
Going through a divorce can be one of the most challenging periods in a person’s life. If you are considering filing for divorce, or you have been served with a divorce petition, learning more about the divorce process can help you best prepare for the road ahead. The experienced Utah divorce lawyers at Read & Read have written this step-by-step guide to getting divorced in Utah to help remove some of the anxiety and confusion surrounding divorce. If you have questions about your divorce, or you would like to know more about how we can represent your best interests, contact our Salt Lake City divorce law firm today to schedule an initial consultation.
Step 1: Consult a Utah Divorce Lawyer
The first step in becoming divorced in Utah involves filing a petition for the dissolution of your marriage, also known as filing for divorce. We recommend discussing your case with one of our divorce lawyers before you file your petition. Utah divorce laws prohibit people from filing for divorce unless they meet the residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in Utah for at least three months before you file for divorce.
Additionally, if there are minor children involved and custody will be an issue in the divorce, your children must have resided in Utah for at least six months before you can file for divorce. When you meet with one of our experienced divorce lawyers, we will help you understand whether or not you meet the residency requirements and advise you on how to begin the process.
Step 2: File for Divorce
One of our lawyers can help you draft an effective petition, discuss your goals, and create a legal strategy for your divorce. Utah recognizes no-fault divorce and divorce based on fault. If you would like to seek a no-fault divorce, you will claim that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. You will not need to blame the divorce on one spouse. If you file a fault-based divorce, you will need to cite one of the recognized grounds for divorce, such as adultery or abandonment.
Step 3: Prepare Your Divorce Documents
If you are working with a lawyer, your lawyer will be able to prepare your divorce documents for you. If you were petitioning for divorce on your own, you could use Utah’s Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to prepare your divorce petition and related documents. You will need to have your completed forms notarized by a notary public before you file them. While it is possible to file for divorce by yourself, you may make a mistake or forget to file required documents, putting you at a disadvantage and delaying your divorce. Working with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes that could jeopardize your rights.
Step 4: Serve Your Spouse
After you file your divorce petition with a Utah court, you must serve the petition for divorce, a summons, and any other documents to file to your spouse within 120 days. You can serve your spouse through certified mail, by the sheriff’s department, or by a private company. You will need to have proof of service of the divorce petition before the court will act on your divorce petition.
Step 5: Wait for Your Spouse’s Answer
After being served with the divorce petition, your spouse will have 21 days to respond. If your spouse lives outside of Utah, they will have 30 days to respond. If your spouse does respond, both of you will have to submit a Financial Declaration form to each other’s lawyers. In this form, you will outline all of your relevant financial items. If your spouse does not respond, you can request that the court enter a default judgment. In a default judgment, the court will automatically grant you everything you asked for in your petition. Should your spouse agree with all the issues you presented in your divorce petition, they can file a stipulation instead of an answer. Then you can prepare the necessary documents and proceed with the final divorce decree.
Step 6: Compete Required Divorce Education Classes and Mediation
Once your spouse responds, you will need to take several steps before the court schedules your trial. You will need to complete a required divorce education class and mediation. Under Utah law, all parties must pay for the mediation. In many cases, you will be able to resolve remaining issues during this process, and you will not need to go before a judge and have a trial. Under Utah law, you must wait 30 days after filing the divorce petition before you sign the final divorce order, even if you and your spouse agree on all of the remaining issues.
There may be an issue that you need to address before the divorce order becomes final. For example, you may not have agreed on who can use the marital home or custody of minor children while the divorce is pending. In these cases, you can request that the judge issue a temporary order on the specific matter that will be effective until the final divorce decree is signed.
Step 7: Go to Trial (if Necessary)
If you cannot reach an agreement on the issues involved in your divorce, you will proceed to trial. If you disagree with your spouse regarding child support or child custody issues, you can request a professional evaluator to conduct a custody evaluation. The evaluator will observe the children and the parties and submit a report to the court regarding the child’s best interest. You will need to appear at pre-trial conferences and attend your trial. During the trial, your lawyer will be able to call witnesses to interview them and cross-examine your spouse’s Witnesses. At the end of the trial, the court will enter a divorce decree.