A Guide to Divorce in Utah
This is a complete guide to divorce in Utah.
In this guide, you’ll get educated on exactly how divorce works in Utah .
Specifically, we’ll cover the differences between divorce and legal separation, types of divorce, overview of the process, how much it costs, and a whole lot more.
So if you want to make sure you have a lay of the land (and steer clear of the landmines), we’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Utah?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Utah without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Utah?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Utah?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources
The differences between legal separation, annulment, and divorce
In Utah, married couples can end their marriages by getting a divorce or by annulment. Legal separation is also permitted, but a couple is still married after a legal separation takes place.
In a legal separation, spouses live separately but are still married to each other. The terms of their separation are bound by a Decree of Legal Separation that covers several legal and financial issues such as alimony, child support, custody, a division of property and other relevant issues.
The grounds for legal separation are as follows:
- A party who has sufficient ability to provide support, neglects or refuses to properly provide for and suitably maintain his/her spouse
- A party deserts his/her spouse without good and sufficient cause
- A party who has property in the state and his/her spouse is a resident of the state, deserts or neglects or refuses to provide support
- A party, without fault, lives separate and apart from his/her spouse
Legal separation can provide a much-needed time out and stepping away can often bring added perspective about what a couple will lose in a marriage and possibly give them time to heal from the issues that caused their marriage to come under stress.
Spouses may also choose legal separation for religious reasons. Some religions do not look favorably upon divorce and staying married though legally separated puts less pressure on a couple who might otherwise be in conflict with their church and religious beliefs.
There are financial benefits as well, such as being able to keep health insurance, or by continuing to file as a married couple on tax returns.
Annulments can be granted in Utah. This basically means that a marriage is considered null, as if it never happened.
According to Utah laws, the following are prohibited and void marriages and they may be annulled for these causes:
- Marriages between parents and children
- Marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree
- Marriages between brothers and sisters (half or whole)
- Marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews
- Marriages between first cousins (unless both parties are 65 years of age or older, or if both parties are 55 years of age or older, upon a finding by the court that either party is unable to reproduce)
- Marriages between any persons related to each other within and not including fifth degree of consanguinity
- When there is a husband or wife living, from whom the person marrying has not been divorced
- Either party is at least 16, but under 18 years of age and has not obtained parental consent
- Either party is under 16 years of age at the time the parties attempt to enter into the marriage, unless the party is 15 years of age and has obtained judicial consent
- Marriage between persons of the same sex
- Re-marriage to a different spouse before the divorce decree becomes absolute, or in the case of an appeal, before the affirmance of the decree
Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage in Utah. All ties are severed, assets are divided, custody and alimony issues are resolved, and each spouse goes their separate way after a final decree is issued.
What are the grounds for divorce in Utah?
Utah allows both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. With a no-fault divorce, only one spouse needs to testify that the marriage has irreconcilable differences. You can also seek a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have lived separate and apart from each other for at least three years.
But with a fault-based divorce, you will need to present evidence to prove your case. Utah allows several fault-based reasons for divorce. They include:
- Impotency at the time of the marriage
- Willful desertion for more than one year
- Habitual drunkenness
- Conviction of a felony
- Cruel treatment that causes bodily injury or great mental distress
- Willful neglect to provide the standard necessities of life
- A spouse’s incurable insanity.
Before a spouse can file for divorce, they must also meet residency requirements of living in a single county in the state for a minimum of at least three months. If custody of a minor child is an issue, usually the child must reside with at least one of the parents in Utah for at least six months, but there are exceptions.
What are your options for divorce?
It is in your best interests to fully understand all of your options when you are thinking about getting a divorce. The path that you ultimately take will be determined by the relationship you have with your spouse.
Deciding whether to pursue an uncontested divorce in Utah or attempting to negotiate a settlement through a cooperative effort of some sort could save you a lot time and money, making it easier for you to transition to life as a single person.
The process you choose sets the tone and shapes the outcome of your divorce by setting the framework for how you get to a final resolution.
Before we get into the details, there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind.
One type of divorce is not “better” than another. Divorce is not one size fits all.
Remember this as you consider your options for divorce, and make sure you understand that what’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily what is best for you.
Okay, here are the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes, however, it’s the only viable option. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions. That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist.
Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn More: For a more specific overview of what you can expect with the various paths to divorce, check out our article What are the Types of Divorce. This will help you to reach a decision about what divorce option will work best for you.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Utah?
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow when filing for a divorce in Utah:
Gather important information. Save time, money and stress in your divorce by approaching this step in a timely and thorough way. It will take time to pull together your information, but it is vital that you do this without cutting corners. It’s the best way to make sure your rights are protected and to give yourself the possibility of achieving the best possible financial settlement with your spouse.
Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.
This will not only ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process, but also save you much needed time, unnecessary anxiety, and a fair amount of money.
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
If you’re in the dark about your finances, that’s okay. You and your spouse will be required to complete financial affidavits as part of the divorce process. The goal at this point is simply to begin identifying the puzzle pieces.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
Complete the initial paperwork. People filing for divorce in Utah are generally directed to the state’s Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP). This will provide the necessary help to prepare the petition and other documents that are needed to file for divorce.
The other two alternatives are to visit the court house in the county where you want to file your case to find what documents you will need to complete, or to have a lawyer prepare the documents on your behalf.
File your forms. In Utah, paperwork must be filed with the district court in the county in which at least one of the parties has lived for at least three months immediately before filing the divorce petition. For more details on filing, go here.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of your intention to divorce them.
Completing Proof of Service in Utah
Service of process must be completed before a divorce case can proceed in Utah.
Once the plaintiff or petitioner has filed paperwork with the court, he or she has 120 days to serve the defendant.
If the plaintiff serves paperwork on the opposing party first, the complaint and the summons must be filed with the court within 10 days of service.
Proof of Service must be attached to all paperwork submitted with the court, whether it was handled by the defendant, a sheriff, constable or a private process server. The proof of service tells the court when and how the parties were served, and the names and addresses of those served. The person who served the document must complete the Proof of Service document.
Service can be completed by a sheriff, a constable, a U.S. Marshal, or by any person 18 or older who is:
- Not a party in the case or an attorney for a party in the case,
- Not been convicted of a felony violation of a sex offense listed in Utah Code section 77-41-102(16), or
- Not a respondent in a protective order proceeding
Service can also be completed by mail using USPS or a commercial carrier like FedEx or UPS. Documents must be sent by a method that requires the respondent to sign for the delivery. The document is not properly served if someone other than the respondent signs for the delivery.
Can you file for divorce online in Utah?
A petitioner may use the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to prepare the petition and other documents to file for divorce. If either party has a lawyer, the lawyer will prepare the documents required of that party.
Some websites offer forms that might not be legally sufficient in the Utah courts and could be rejected by the judge. Before using forms from another website, check with OCAP to see if free and appropriate forms are available.
After the forms are completed, the petitioner must file for divorce with the district court in the county in which at least one of the parties has lived for at least three months immediately before filing the divorce petition.
Filing for divorce in Utah without using a lawyer
You can choose to represent yourself in a divorce in Utah
If you want to pursue an uncontested divorce and you and your spouse agree on all terms, you can complete the required paperwork, cite a no-fault ground, and as long as you meet residency requirements, you can proceed on your own.
The Utah courts also have an online document preparation tool called the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) you can use to prepare divorce paperwork as well.
Another option is the Utah State Bar’s Modest Means Lawyer Referral Program which provides access to legal representation for people whose income is too high to qualify for free legal services, but too low to pay a lawyer’s standard rate.
How much will it cost to file?
You pay a $318 filing fee for a divorce in Utah.
There may also be additional fees as well, depending on your situation. You may be responsible for paying:
- Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) fees
- Fee for the Office of Vital Records and Statistics
- Fees to serve the petition and summons
- Attorney fees
- Copying costs
- Fees for the Divorce Education class and the Divorce Orientation class if there are minor children.
You may be able to have some fees waived if you can prove that you cannot afford to pay them. To do so, you will need to file a Motion to Waive Fees and supporting documents with the court
In the statement supporting the motion you must provide a detailed description of your income, expenses, property, credit and debts. A judge will review your financial information and decide whether waive none, some or all of the fees.
There are some fees associated with a divorce case that can’t be waived:
- The fee to have a non-Utah sheriff or constable or a private process server serve the documents.
- The fee to serve someone by mail.
- The fee to publish a legal notice in a newspaper.
- The fee to have the county recorder record a judgment.
- The witness fee to have someone appear at a trial.
- The cost of any postage or copies.
- The fee for transcripts in an appeal.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Utah?
After you file your paperwork, the respondent has 21 days to file an answer, or 30 days if they were served outside of the state. When an answer is filed, both parties must provide initial disclosures to each other. This will include a Financial Disclosure among other documents.
Utah law requires that there is a minimum 90-day waiting period from the date that the petition is submitted to the date that the decree is signed. This will generally be the shortest time frame in an uncontested divorce or if the respondent does not file a response. A spouse can ask the court to waive the waiting period for extraordinary circumstances.
A divorce will generally take longer when minor children are involved because parents must attend a divorce orientation class and a divorce education class. Although it is not mandatory there is also a Divorce Education Class for Children, designed to help children through their parents’ divorce.
If a divorce is contested, it could take several additional months to resolve issues before a final judgment is entered. The parties usually must attend at least one mediation session to try to resolve the issues before the case can move forward.
Working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Every divorce in Utah has financial issues that need to be addressed. In some cases, a family law attorney can provide all the information you need.
But if you have a degree of financial complexity, you should consider working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA).
A CDFA can help you understand the long-term impact of your decisions so you can weigh the pros and cons. In fact, working with a CDFA can actually lower the cost of your divorce (by giving you more clarity to make decisions which cuts down on the back-and-forth negotiations).
Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Utah?
No. If someone wants to move forward with a divorce in Utah, you can’t stop them.
But if you and your spouse reconcile and decide to stop a divorce action before it is finalized, then you can file a Motion for Dismissal that will effectively end the divorce case. However, once a divorce is finalized, it cannot be undone.
What is a divorce decree?
When all issues have been agreed upon, a Utah court will issue a divorce decree. This is a binding and legal document that spells out the details of the divorce, including a division of assets, alimony, child custody and support and other important issues that have been decided.
If one party does not obey the directives of the decree, a party may ask the court to enforce the decree by going back to court.
What is a divorce certificate?
After a divorce decree has been granted, a divorce certificate will be filed with the Utah Department of Health, Utah Vital Records and Statistics. Divorce records are kept for the period of 1978 through 2010. After that period, records are found at the district court where the divorce took place.
A divorce certificate has much less information than a divorce decree, showing only basic information about a divorce.
Changing Your Name
When preparing your divorce forms, you will be presented either an option to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or else have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Either of these documents are accepted with all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Your name change will not take effect just because you have a court order. You need to contact all your organizations to request your records are updated.
It takes a long time to reach out to each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a lot of divorce resources that make big claims. We’ve tested a bunch of them. Most fall short. A few stand above the rest.
These are the tools and resources we’re excited to share with you because we know they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Online dating (post-divorce)
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more