Divorce in Utah is referred to as Dissolution of Marriage and is conducted as a civil action, with one party, the Petitioner, filing a Petition for divorce, and the other party being named as a Respondent.
To file for divorce in Utah, either spouse must be a bona fide resident of the state and must have lived in the county of filing for the three months immediately preceding commencement of the action.
The Petition may be filed in the district court of the county where either spouse resides. If the Petitioner is a member of the armed forces of the U.S. who are not legal residents of this state, he/she may file for divorce if he has been stationed in the state for the three months immediately preceding the commencement of the action.
No hearing for decree of divorce may generally be held until 90 days have elapsed from the filing of the complaint, provided the court may make interim orders that are just and equitable. The 90-day period shall not apply, however, in any case where both parties have completed the mandatory education course for divorcing parents.
Although there are no statutory provisions for the restoration of a spouse's name when divorcing, either spouse may request that his/her former name be restored on the Petition and the judge will honor the request.
The court may decree a dissolution of marriage for any of the following grounds:
To grant a divorce on the ground of insanity, the Respondent must have been adjudged insane by the appropriate authorities of Utah or another state prior to the commencement of the action and the court must find by the testimony of competent witnesses that the Respondent's insanity is incurable.
The following are prohibited and void marriages and they may be annulled for these causes:
When there is doubt regarding the validity of a marriage, either party may demand its avoidance or affirmance in a court where either party is domiciled. However, when one of the parties was under the age of consent at the time of the marriage, the other party of proper age may not have cause against the party under age. The court shall either declare the marriage valid or annulled.
A marriage may also be annulled for any of the annulment grounds existing at common law.
In all dissolution and separate maintenance actions, the court and judge have jurisdiction over the distribution of property. Utah is an equitable distribution state. Therefore, marital property shall be distributed fairly and equitably.
The court shall include the following in every decree of divorce:
When a marriage of long duration dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both, that change shall be considered in dividing the marital property. If one spouse's earning capacity has been greatly enhanced through the efforts of both spouses during the marriage, the court may make a compensating adjustment in dividing the marital property.
In all dissolution and separate maintenance actions, the court and judge have jurisdiction over the payment of alimony.
When determining alimony, the court shall consider, at a minimum, the following factors:
The court may consider the fault of the parties when making its determination regarding alimony. When a marriage of long duration dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both, that change shall be considered in determining the amount of alimony. If one spouse's earning capacity has been greatly enhanced through the efforts of both spouses during the marriage, the court may make a compensating adjustment in awarding alimony.
In determining alimony when a marriage of short duration dissolves, and no children have been conceived or born during the marriage, the court may consider restoring each party to the condition which existed at the time of the marriage.
Alimony may not be ordered for a duration longer than the number of years that the marriage existed unless, at any time prior to termination of alimony, the court finds extenuating circumstances that justify the payment of alimony for a longer period of time.
Unless otherwise stated in the divorce decree, any order for payment of alimony to a former spouse automatically ends upon the remarriage or death of that former spouse, unless the remarriage is annulled and found to be void. In that case, alimony shall resume, provided that the paying spouse was made a party to the action of annulment and his/her rights have been determined.
Any order for payment of alimony to a former spouse terminates upon establishment by the paying party that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person.
In all dissolution and separate maintenance actions, the court and judge have jurisdiction over the custody and maintenance of minor children.
The court shall consider joint custody in every case, but may award any form of custody which is determined to be in the best interest of the child. If the court finds that one parent does not desire custody of the child, it shall take that evidence into consideration in determining whether to award custody to the other parent.
In determining whether the best interest of a child will be served by ordering joint legal or physical custody, the court shall consider the following factors:
When determining any form of custody, in addition to the aforementioned criteria, the court shall consider the best interests of the child, the following factors, and any others the court finds relevant:
The court may inquire of the children and take into consideration the children's desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules but the expressed desires are not controlling and the court may determine the children's custody or parent-time otherwise. The desires of a child 16 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single controlling factor.
Courses for Parents of Minor Children:
If the Petitioner and the Respondent have a child or children, a decree of divorce generally may not be granted until both parties have attended the mandatory educational course for divorcing parents. This course is designed to educate and sensitize divorcing parties to their children's needs both during and after the divorce process.
The course shall instruct both parties about the following:
This requirement may be waived if the court determines course attendance and completion are not necessary, appropriate, feasible, or in the best interest of the parties.
There is also a mandatory divorce orientation course for all parties with minor children who file a Petition for Temporary Separation or for a Divorce. The purpose of the course is to educate parties about the divorce process and reasonable alternatives.
A Petitioner shall attend a divorce orientation course no more than 60 days after filing a Petition for Divorce. A Respondent shall attend no more than 30 days after being served with the Petition. The divorce orientation course shall be neutral, unbiased, at least one hour in duration and include the following:
The court shall include the following in every decree of divorce:
In an order determining child support, the court may include an order assigning financial responsibility for all or a portion of child care expenses incurred on behalf of the dependent children, needed because of the employment or training of the custodial parent.
If the court determines that the circumstances are appropriate and that the dependent children would be adequately cared for, it may include an order allowing the non-custodial parent to provide child care for the dependent children, needed because of the employment or training of the custodial parent.
Utah uses the Income Shares Model to calculate child support obligations. The child support obligation table uses the combined adjusted gross incomes of both parents and the number of children for whom support is to be ordered. The type of custody arrangement ordered (split, sole, or joint physical) is also taken into account.
A Petitioner may file an action for a temporary separation order without filing a Petition for Divorce, by filing a Petition for Temporary Separation and a Motion for Temporary Orders if the spouses are lawfully married and both have been residents of the state for at least 90 days prior to the date of filing.
The temporary orders are valid for one year from the date of the hearing, or until either a Petition for Divorce is filed and consolidated with the temporary separation Petition, or the case is dismissed.
In a legal separation, the parties live separately, but remain spouses legally married to one another. The couple's rights and duties to one another are set forth in a Decree of Legal Separation, which covers such matters as custody and child support, spousal support, division of property and payment of debts. In Utah, this is referred to as separate maintenance.
The grounds for legal separation are as follows:
If a married resident of Utah files a Complaint for Separate Maintenance, the district court may allot, assign, set apart and decree as alimony the use of the real and personal estate or earnings of a deserting spouse as the court may determine appropriate.
Practice and proceeding for actions for separate maintenance shall be the same as near as may be as in actions for divorce; but the action may be brought in any county where the wife or husband may be found.
In all actions for separate maintenance, the court may order the following by order or decree:
If the separated couple later decides to divorce after they have been legally separated, they must file a separate action for divorce.
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