Legal Separation vs. Divorce Utah

  • Legal separation vs. divorce in Utah
  • Reasons to choose one over the other
  • Legal requirements
  • Comparing costs
  • Comparing procedures
  • How long it takes

Utah offers two basic options to end marriages. Choose legal separation, and you’ll press pause on your legal relationship for a year. Choose divorce, and your union will be officially over once the process is complete.

Understanding the difference between legal separation and divorce can help you make a smart decision about your relationship and future. 

Legal separation vs. divorce Utah: What’s the difference?

A Utah marriage joins two people in a legal partnership. Legal separation and divorce offer two very different paths to break that partnership. 

Legal separation 

A legal separation in Utah is called a temporary separation. As the name implies, suspensions in this model expire. If you do nothing after a year, your marriage will legally resume. 

You can include provisions to split your property and care for your children during the separation. But you’re still technically married when the order expires. You can’t get married to someone else. 


A Utah divorce ends your legal partnership with your spouse. During this process, you split your estate, address child custody issues, craft spousal support plans (sometimes called alimony), and more. When you’re finished, you’re free to marry someone else. 

Reasons to choose one over the other 

Legal separation and divorce both allow you to split from your partner. The dual options exist because they are very different. Sometimes, one tool is better than another when a marriage isn’t working. 

Reasons to choose legal separation over divorce

A legal separation in Utah offers plenty of benefits, including the following:

  • Temporary nature: At the end of one year, the order expires. If you want a break from your marriage but aren’t quite ready for divorce, this option could be useful. 
  • Revisability: Either person could file for divorce during the separation process, and the filing fees transfer. You won’t waste money by starting with this method. 
  • Education opportunities: Utah law requires people to attend divorce courses after separation paperwork is filed. You’ll learn more about how divorce works, which can help you decide whether it’s right for you. 
  • Asset and child care protections: Legal separations come with temporary arrangements. You can create orders about where your children will live, who will pay your debts, who gets to live in the family home, and more.
  • Easy access: You must live in Utah for 90 days before filing, but a move from one county to another won’t block you from getting started. A divorce requires you to live in one specific county for 90 days. 

Reasons to choose divorce over legal separation

A Utah divorce also comes with benefits, including the following:

  • Permanent nature: At the end of the divorce process, you are legally severed from your spouse. If you’re certain that a split is right for you, divorce is a good choice. 
  • Automatic protections: As soon as one person files for divorce, the Utah courts issue a Domestic Relations Injunction. This paperwork ensures your spouse won’t harass you, transfer property, or otherwise retaliate. Dealing with an abusive spouse is easier in divorce than separation. 
  • Mandatory mediation: During a divorce, you trade paperwork with your spouse several times. If you disagree on a core issue, such as spousal support or child custody, you must enter mediation. A professional helps you work through the concerns for a smoother split. 
  • Name restoration: You can revert to your last used legal name as part of the divorce process without an additional piece of paperwork. 
  • Legal break: At the end of your divorce, you can marry someone else, buy property in your own name, and otherwise function as the independent legal individual you are. 

Comparing Utah requirements 

Utah courts must have legal jurisdiction to end your marriage. Residency rules ensure they don’t step in when they aren’t allowed to do so. The regulations for legal separation and divorce are similar. 

You can file for legal separation and divorce if these requirements apply:

  • You are legally married.
  • Both of you have lived in Utah for at least 90 days.

To file for divorce, you must meet these additional requirements:

  • Either you or your spouse lived in a single Utah county (not the state as a whole) for a 90-day minimum.
  • Minor children must reside with at least one parent in Utah for at least six months.

Comparing costs 

Significant price differences exist between a legal separation and a divorce in Utah. Understanding what they are is important, as one might be outside of your budget.

A temporary separation is the least expensive option in Utah. You’ll pay a filing fee of $35 for the paperwork, and that could end your financial obligation. However, if you want separate maintenance orders to ensure you’ll protect your estate and children, prepare for an additional $325 fee. You’ll also face fees for serving your spouse with papers and attending court-mandated classes. 

A divorce begins with a $325 filing fee, but many more expenses stand between you and the end of your marriage. You’ll have costs associated with the following:

  • Serving your spouse with paperwork 
  • Completing court-mandated educational classes
  • Working through mediation
  • Hiring a lawyer
  • Paying expert witnesses to represent you at trial 

It’s nearly impossible to know how much a divorce will cost when you get started. But know you’ll pay a lot more than you would for a simple separation. 

Suggested: How to File for a Divorce Fee Waiver in Utah

Comparing the separation vs. divorce procedures

A legal separation requires far fewer steps than a divorce. But since it only lasts for one year, you’ll do a lot of work for a short period of protection. 

Legal separation 

To obtain a temporary separation in Utah, take the following steps:

  • File the appropriate paperwork.
  • Ask an adult not connected to your case to deliver those forms to your spouse.
  • Attend a divorce orientation course.
  • Attend a hearing.


Obtaining a Utah divorce requires the following steps:

  • File the appropriate paperwork. 
  • Ask an adult not connected to your case to deliver those forms to your spouse. 
  • Exchange financial declarations and disclosures with your spouse. 
  • Attend court-mandated mediation sessions. 
  • Attend court-mandated education classes if you share minor children. 
  • File a document certifying that you’re ready for trial. 
  • Exchange updated financial declarations with your spouse. 
  • Attend a pre-trial conference. 
  • Go to trial. 
  • File final documents, including certificates of completion of your mandated classes.
  • Wait for the judge to review and sign your divorce decree. 

Your divorce could move faster if you collaborate with your spouse. For example, if your mediation sessions are successful, you could file stipulation documents and skip the trial portion of the process. 

Comparing the time commitment 

A typical temporary separation in Utah takes just a few weeks to finish. A Utah divorce takes much longer. 

Many required steps to divorce come with waiting periods. For example, your spouse has 21 days to respond to your original paperwork. Courtroom delays and backlogs could push your hearing back weeks. 

Prepare to spend months working on a divorce in Utah. Choose a separation, and you’ll only spend weeks on the process. 

Find the right path forward

Divorce and legal separation are valid options that can end your marriage in Utah. The version you choose depends on your very unique circumstances. Take your time choosing the option that’s right for your family. 


Temporary Separation. Utah State Courts. 
Divorce. Utah State Courts.
Divorce Specialists
After spending years in toxic and broken family law courts, and seeing that no one wins when “lawyer up,” we knew there was an opportunity to do and be better. We created Hello Divorce to the divorce process easier, affordable, and completely online. Our guiding principles are to make sure both spouses feel heard, supported, and set up for success as they move into their next chapter in life.