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Grounds for Divorce in Utah

If you’re getting divorced in Utah, your divorce might be a no-fault one in which the grounds are “irreconcilable differences.” This is a fairly broad catch-all term often used in modern divorce law. Basically, it means the two of you are no longer compatible for marriage, but neither of you wants to legally pin fault on the other in your divorce case.

Your divorce might also be an at-fault divorce. In this type of divorce, one spouse alleges that the other brought the divorce on through their behavior.

Let’s take a closer look at the possible grounds for divorce in Utah.

What are the grounds for divorce in Utah?

Under Utah law, the following options are considered grounds for divorce:

Impotency

If a person is impotent at the time of marriage, Utah allows for divorce. This means that an individual is unable to engage in sexual intercourse.

Adultery

Utah law notes that adultery committed by the respondent (the person receiving divorce papers) is grounds for divorce. It specifically lists “adultery committed by the respondent subsequent to marriage” as grounds for divorce.

Willful desertion

Willful desertion of one’s partner for a period of more than a year is considered legal grounds for divorce. This means a person must have the ability to return to their partner but chooses not to and that they specifically deserted them. 

It would likely not qualify as desertion if a party went away for a year but invited their partner to come on that year-long trip only for that person to choose to stay home (although this also doesn’t necessarily mean there are no grounds for divorce).

Willful neglect

Willful neglect qualifies as grounds for divorce if one party fails to provide the petitioner with “the common necessaries of life.” For example, actively failing to help provide one’s partner with food, water, and shelter would likely qualify as willful neglect, especially if the individual was providing themselves with these things at the same time. 

Habitual drunkenness 

Utah law specifically lists “habitual drunkenness” as grounds for divorce. If a person cannot control their consumption of alcohol (or chooses to drink excessively on a regular basis despite having control), that would qualify.

Felony conviction

If a person’s spouse is convicted of a felony, it is considered grounds for divorce. 

Cruel treatment

If one party’s treatment of another causes “bodily injury or great mental distress to the petitioner,” it is considered grounds for divorce. This is a fairly broad grounds for divorce compared to the other items on this list so far. It is meant to cover behavior that is considered abusive or dangerous.

Incurable insanity

Divorce can be granted on the grounds of insanity, albeit with some special rules in place. Essentially, the respondent would have to first be judged insane by the appropriate authorities. They would also be appointed a legal guardian to advocate for their interests. 

Living separately

Generally, living separately for “three consecutive years without cohabitation” is grounds for divorce in Utah.

Irreconcilable differences

Arguably the broadest grounds for divorce, irreconcilable differences can be thought of as a comprehensive category for divorce when a marriage has some issue that makes maintaining the marriage essentially impossible despite not qualifying for any other grounds for divorce.

Common examples include disagreements on how to spend money, extreme differences in beliefs about how children should be raised, regular arguing, or religious differences that make marriage impossible. 

What about irreconcilable differences?

As mentioned, you do not have to allege fault in a Utah divorce. Instead, you can simply say the marriage has broken down due to irreconcilable differences.

What you need to prove before filing

Before filing for an at-fault divorce in Utah, make sure you have evidence backing the claims you intend to make. Some claims may be easy to prove, such as a felony conviction or incurable insanity. Others may be harder. 

For example, if you have been physically abused, you might get records from your doctor of the injuries sustained and the doctor’s opinions on how those injuries may have occurred. This will make the process more straightforward. 

Alternate divorce options

In Utah, there are a few alternate divorce options to consider that generally don’t require a lawyer.

No-fault divorce

A no-fault divorce is a divorce where neither party takes blame for the divorce. Not all states offer no-fault divorce, but many do, including Utah. 

In a no-fault divorce, as mentioned, irreconcilable differences is the category normally cited as the grounds. Neither party admits to serious wrongdoing. Rather, they simply admit the marriage cannot continue due to strong differences between the two parties.

Uncontested divorce

Utah allows for uncontested divorce in which both parties agree on the way a divorce should be resolved. If you and your spouse agree that a divorce is necessary and agree on what should happen during that divorce, such as how your assets should be split, this option can save you a significant amount of time over the traditional divorce process. 

Uncontested divorce is generally much cheaper and less stressful than contested divorce. 

Divorce mediation

Divorce mediation is a process by which divorcing parties work with a third-party mediator to help negotiate their divorce settlement. They do this rather than follow the standard court process with divorce attorneys. 

A mediator is a neutral professional who helps to facilitate a healthy discussion between divorcing parties about what they think needs to happen in order for the divorce settlement to be fair. The goal is for the divorcing parties to reach an agreement on things like spousal support (alimony) and how assets should be split.

A mediator doesn’t fill the role of a lawyer (although some mediators may also be able to provide legal services), and they can’t force any of the parties involved to lock into an agreement. The goal of the mediator is to help the parties find a resolution they both accept. 

In most cases, mediators can help divorcing spouses reach an amicable solution. No one gets everything they want in a divorce, so the mediator helps each party to compromise and find a fair end result. 

If this is found to simply be impossible, some spouses may need one-time legal help from a lawyer. In this scenario, costs can still be kept low since the assistance is limited. However, if the parties can’t reach an agreeable solution with legal coaching, a more traditional type of divorce may need to occur. This option is the most expensive and time-consuming one, and it involves added stress. As such, mediation is often the easiest and most practical solution for both parties, if they can temporarily set aside their differences.

References

Utah Code Section 30-3-1. (1997). Utah State Legislature.