- Filing a Utah divorce petition
- Serving the documents
- Spousal response
- What happens next
- Contested vs. uncontested
Getting a divorce in Utah doesn't have to be a stressful and complex process. Here's what you need to know.
Divorce in Utah: Before filing the petition
One of the first things to consider is whether you or your spouse meet the residency requirements to file for divorce in Utah. One of you must have been a resident of Utah for, at minimum, the three months prior to filing a petition for divorce The residency requirement is significant because it determines the jurisdiction of the divorce proceedings.
Utah is a no-fault state, so you don't need to prove any wrongdoing by either party to get a divorce. You can file for a no-fault divorce by stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation.
However, if you want to assert fault-based grounds for divorce such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment, you must provide evidence to support your allegations. Fault-based divorce may impact the outcome of the proceedings, such as asset division and spousal support. It is also a longer and often more expensive path to divorce. In some cases, however, fault-based divorce in Utah can be worth the additional steps.
Filing your Utah divorce petition
Once you have established that you meet the residency requirements and understand the no-fault nature of the state, the next step is to file the divorce petition. To file for divorce in Utah, you need to obtain the Utah divorce petition form. You can get it from your local District Court or download the form from the Utah State Courts website.
Along with the petition form, you will need to complete an Income and Expense Declaration form and a Summons. The Income and Expense Declaration form, also called a Financial Disclosure, details your finances, including income, expenses, assets, and debts. The Summons notifies your spouse that you have filed for divorce and informs them of how and when to respond.
Once you have completed and filed the paperwork, you will need to serve copies of the divorce papers to your spouse. The serving process allows your spouse to respond to the divorce petition and participate in the proceedings.
If you are not using an online service like Hello Divorce to help you with your paperwork and other divorce-related issues, you may be able to find what you need online.
Utah's Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) is a free tool provided by the Utah State Courts to help individuals complete and prepare divorce documents online. The OCAP program guides users through a series of questions related to their specific case to generate complete and accurate forms for filing. The program includes Utah-specific forms, and the services offered by the program include preparing financial declarations, parenting plans, and other legal documents.
Utah has a mandatory 90-day waiting period for all divorces. This waiting period begins when you file the divorce petition and serve copies on your spouse. The purpose of the waiting period is to give the parties a chance to reconcile or resolve any issues outside of court. Once the waiting period is over, the court may finalize the divorce.
Domestic Relations Injunction
A Domestic Relations Injunction (DRI) is a court order issued in a Utah divorce to protect one or both parties of the divorce. This could include restraining orders, ordering one party to turn over certain property, restraining either party from taking certain actions regarding money or assets, and even restraining either party from contacting each other or their children.
A DRI might be needed when one spouse fears that the other will take assets or dispose of them during the waiting period. If one spouse is concerned about violence toward themselves or their children, they can file for a DRI to protect them during the divorce proceedings.
Serving your documents
You can serve divorce papers on your spouse by personal service. This involves hiring someone over 18 to physically hand the divorce paperwork to your spouse or leaving it with someone who lives in the same household and is at least 18 years old. You cannot serve your spouse yourself, but you can use a neutral person over the age of 18, including a sheriff, constable, or professional process server.
Hiring a professional process server has its advantages. This professional knows how to properly serve legal documents and prove that they were served correctly. It’s essential that you can prove your spouse was served divorce papers properly.
You can also conduct service by mail. You must do this in a way that requires your spouse to sign for the papers, like certified mail.
Spouse responds to petition (or fails to respond)
After the divorce petition has been filed and served, the non-filing spouse has 21 days to respond to the petition if they are personally served within the state of Utah. If they are served by mail or outside of Utah, they have 30 days to respond.
The responding spouse has two options: They can contest the divorce or not contest it. If the spouse contests the divorce, they can file an answer or counterclaim to the petitioner's divorce complaint. In their response, they can deny some or all of the petitioner's allegations and state their version of the facts. They can also request that the court make decisions on issues such as child custody, child support, and division of property.
If the spouse declines to contest the divorce, they can file an Acceptance of Service and Consent to Jurisdiction form. Signing this form acknowledges that they have received the divorce petition and do not intend to contest it.
When a spouse responds to the divorce petition, the case will move forward according to the response. The court may decide on issues of child custody, child support, and property division based on the parties' agreements or after hearing evidence on the issues.
In most instances, the court will order mediation so the parties can attempt to resolve any disputes outside of court.
Spouse fails to respond
If the responding spouse fails to respond to the divorce petition, the court may enter a default judgment in favor of the petitioner. This judgment is based on the petitioner's divorce complaint, and the court may grant the requested relief, including child custody, child support, and property division.
What happens next
The first step involves negotiations between the parties (and sometimes their lawyers) to sort out the various issues related to the divorce.
In Utah, the court divides marital property equitably. This means that property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Property division includes assets and debts accumulated during the marriage.
Other issues that must be decided during negotiation include child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and any other issues related to the marriage's dissolution.
Case management conference
If the divorce is contested, the second step is a case management conference, which provides an opportunity for divorce attorneys to meet with the judge to discuss the status of the case, hear preliminary motions related to the case, establish timelines for discovery, and set a trial schedule.
The case management conference also sets the schedule for the divorce proceedings and is when the judge may require mediation.
Parental education class
In Utah, if there are minor children involved in the divorce case, both parties are required to attend a parental education class to learn about the impact of divorce on children and effective ways to deal with the children's negative effects.
Contested vs. uncontested divorce process
When both spouses agree on all issues related to the divorce – asset division, child custody, spousal support, or whatever the case may be – the divorce is uncontested. If the couple can reach an agreement on all issues, the divorce will be relatively straightforward, with the court making sure all legal requirements have been met and then granting the divorce.
A contested divorce occurs when one or both parties cannot agree on one or more divorce issues. This may involve disputes over child custody, asset distribution, or other issues related to the divorce. In this case, the parties may need to go to mediation or even a trial to resolve their disputes.
During the contested divorce process, the parties engage in discovery to gather information about the disputed issues. This may involve written or oral questioning of both parties or other individuals involved in the case. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement during the case, the judge may order both parties to participate in mediation to reach an agreement. If the parties still cannot reach an agreement, the case will go to trial, where the judge will make a ruling on the contested issues.
In contested cases, if the parties cannot settle the issues through negotiation, the case may proceed to trial. At trial, the judge will hear testimony and review evidence to make a ruling on the issues.
Utah divorce process FAQ
Is mediation required for my Utah divorce?
In contested divorces, Utah courts require parties to attend at least one session of mediation and make a good-faith effort to resolve their issues.
Can I change my name in the divorce process?
If you are looking to resume your maiden name, yes. However, if you're going to request a name change, make sure you make the request in your initial petition. When the divorce is granted, the final order will provide for your new name.
How can I avoid a trial?
Very few divorces actually go to trial. In most cases, parties can negotiate suitable resolutions. But finding the right mediator to help can be a challenge.
Hello Divorce offers support and guidance for Utah residents throughout the divorce process. We provide access to certified divorce mediators as well as qualified attorneys, divorce coaches, and other professionals you may need to help complete your divorce.