Utah Community Property
In a community property state, people split assets acquired during marriage 50/50 upon getting divorced. Utah is a little different. Courts in Utah split things equitably in divorce, which doesn’t necessarily mean dividing everything in half.
What is property?
Per Utah law, you must divide the property you acquired during marriage when you split.
That property could include items like the following:
- Money made during a real estate transaction
- Retirement accounts
- Pension plans
Property, per these laws, typically doesn’t include items you had before you were married, though there are a few exceptions. For example, if you inherited a home before your wedding day and kept the residence in your name alone during the marriage, it’s just yours. But if you inherited money and put it in a shared account when you married, it could be considered shared.
Understanding equitable distribution in Utah
In some states, splitting items in divorce is fairly straightforward in that each person gets half. Utah prioritizes fairness instead. You will get something in your divorce, but it may be more or less than your ex-partner’s portion.
“Equitable,” per Utah law, means “fair.” But it doesn’t always mean equal. Determining what is and isn’t fair can involve factors like income, age, occupation, and length of marriage. If one of you emerges from divorce with few resources, that person might get more assets and fewer debts than the other.
In community property states, each divorcing party gets roughly half of everything regardless of their financial health. A split like this can seem easier, as there are fewer issues to fight over. However, a divorce in Utah could be beneficial if big discrepancies in income and earning power separate you and your spouse.
How does marital property get split in Utah?
Utah allows two paths to divorce: agreed and adjudicated. If you work out details with your partner, you will divide your estate yourselves. If you don’t collaborate, a judge will make those decisions during your court case.
If your marriage lasted for a long period, it’s possible that the court would split your estate in half. However, if one side can provide compelling financial details, the court might also give one side more assets and fewer debts than the other.
If your marriage was short, the court may offer rulings that put you in the financial position you were in before your wedding. In such a situation, what you had when you said “I do” remains yours when you exit the marriage.
Regardless of your circumstance, courts have significant leeway in Utah divorces. Even if you make arrangements with your spouse, the courts could throw them out if they seem unfair.
What information do you provide?
Financial information plays a key role in any divorce, including those in Utah. You will provide ample documents to your spouse and the court to ensure your split is fair.
When you begin your Utah divorce, you’ll offer financial declarations. This form requires multiple attachments, including the following:
- Tax returns
- Pay stubs
- Loan applications
- Financial statements used to apply for loans
- Real estate documents
- Three months of financial statements, including those from banks, credit unions, brokerage companies, and credit card companies
- W-2 or 1099 forms
- Rent payments
- Real estate taxes or insurance
- Car payments
- Car insurance
- Utility payments
- Healthcare payments
Your partner will complete the same form (with similar attachments) and send it to you. These documents become part of your Utah divorce record, offering your judge key information on what you owe and own.
If you don’t collaborate with your partner and your case goes to court, you’ll fill these documents out again. A judge could use the two snapshots of your financial health to understand whether your shared estate is more or less valuable over time.
Though it may be tempting to hide or fudge numbers when you’re completing financial disclosures, honesty is the best policy. Suggesting you owe a little more and own a little less could reduce your burden, but if your spouse can prove your dishonesty, you could get punished with a smaller settlement.
Documents you completed in advance
Some people enter marriage with a prenuptial agreement. This type of agreement specifies how the estate would be split if the pair were to divorce. In Utah, those documents are binding until they’re amended via signatures from both people.
If you have a prenuptial agreement, it could reduce your conflicts in divorce. Per your agreement, you would already understand, or at least have a good idea, of what you owe and own after your split. However, if your agreement contained deeply unfair provisions, a judge could still rule against the prenup.
For example, if your prenuptial agreement is so strict that your partner needs Utah financial assistance after the split, the judge could deem that unfair. You could get less than you agreed on in the prenup.
What do Utah judges do?
Per state law, a Utah judge must review financial plans before approving your divorce. They will review your documents and make sure your agreements are in compliance.
If you collaborate with your spouse and file a stipulation, your divorce won’t go to court. You’ll fill out financial declarations and final paperwork and submit it. A judge will review those documents. If your plans align with state law, the judge will sign your divorce decree.
If you do not collaborate with your spouse and go to court, you will argue your case in front of a judge. Your financial documents are part of the evidence you’ll submit. You may also ask financial experts to testify on your behalf.
The judge will review the evidence at trial and decide the case. Then, you (or your spouse) will be directed to prepare and file final documents. The judge will review those forms once more and sign your final divorce decree.
Tips to help your divorce run smoothly
Dividing your estate can be one of the hardest parts of your divorce. Utah’s laws should ensure that the split is fair, but every decision can be difficult.
These practical tips may help:
- Be honest. Don’t hide anything from your spouse or downplay how much your estate is worth. Deception could cost you during the judge’s review.
- Offer proof. Attach receipts, statements, and other key documents to your financial disclosures. The judge needs all the information to make the right decision.
- Trade when you can. Collaborate with your partner. If you want a key item in the split, offer another of equal value. You may not get everything you want, but you’ll protect what’s most important to you.
- Care for your mental health. Divorce involves plenty of facts and figures. Don’t forget to exercise, eat right, and sleep well. You will get through this.
If you can’t agree with your spouse, consider divorce mediation. A trained professional could help you find common ground on your settlement agreement. With a mediator’s help, you both could emerge from the split with something you want and fewer hard feelings.
Suggested: What Is Marital Property in Utah?
ReferencesWhat Is Community Property? The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
Property Division. Utah State Courts.