4 Important Things to Know If You’re Getting a Divorce in Utah
- Asset and debt division in Utah
- How alimony works in Utah
- Child custody in Utah
- Child support in Utah
Divorce laws vary by state. While Utah divorce doesn’t have as many requirements and regulations as some other states, there are laws you must know and follow in order to successfully complete the divorce process and get your final divorce decree. If you don’t follow Utah divorce laws, your divorce proceedings could be delayed, leading to additional headaches, expenses, and lost time.
Here are four of the most important Utah divorce laws to understand.
1. Asset and debt division in Utah
Utah law requires the distribution of assets in divorce to follow the equitable distribution standard. All but nine states follow this standard, so it is the most common. Equitable distribution does not mean a 50/50 division of property and debts. Instead, it means marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally.
Only marital property is subject to distribution in the Utah divorce process. “Marital property” refers to assets and debts acquired by the married couple. Separate property is property acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gifts that were received during the marriage but held separately by one spouse.
Separate property could become marital property
With that said, separate property could be documented as marital property in your divorce papers in certain situations. For example, if a spouse received an inheritance and immediately put that money in a joint bank account, the inheritance would become indistinguishable from marital property and therefore subject to equitable distribution in a divorce.
Deciding what’s fair and equitable
When it comes to the division of property, deciding what is fair and equitable can be done in one of two ways. The divorcing spouses could work together, independently or through their divorce attorneys, to divide their assets and debts. They must adhere to certain rules so one person doesn’t get an unfair share of assets, but they can potentially do this on their own. If spouses are amicable, this is often the best way to divide property and debt.
The other way to divide assets and debts is to allow a Utah court to do it for you. This is the less-preferred method, as courts often don’t consider individual wants and desires when drafting a divorce decree. They simply review your divorce case and your marital life and try to split things as fairly as possible.
Who’s responsible for marital debt?
Both spouses are equally responsible for the debts they incurred as a married couple. Think of a mortgage, for example. Let’s say you and your spouse purchased a home and took out a mortgage for part of the value of the property. At the time of your divorce, you still owe $100,000 on the mortgage. This amount should be divided fairly between the two of you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean each of you will owe $50,000.
At the same time, you might share an auto loan with a $20,000 balance. In this situation, you might assume the entirety of the car loan while your spouse assumes the entirety of the mortgage. However, because you’re taking less debt than your spouse, you may need to make an equalization payment to them or provide other valuable assets to make up the difference.
2. How alimony works in Utah
Under Utah law, alimony, also called spousal support, can be granted for several reasons. Either spouse can request alimony, which a court may grant temporarily or permanently as part of the final divorce decree.
Alimony can be granted for a short period of time. This is the case when alimony is awarded for divorce proceedings. For example, it may be granted when one spouse is unable to afford legal representation. Alimony may also be granted for longer periods to support a spouse who contributed to the marriage in non-financial ways.
According to Utah state laws, a court considering a spousal support request must weigh the following factors:
- The financial situation of each spouse
- The ability of one spouse to pay and the need for the other spouse to receive
- The current earning capacity and future earning capacity of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage
A court may also consider whether one spouse contributed to the end of the marriage, which may be cited in the grounds for divorce. For example, if a spouse committed adultery or knowingly used marital funds for personal gain, a court may consider that a reason to grant support to one spouse.
3. Child custody in Utah
Utah law specifies that child custody determinations must be made in the minor child’s best interest. Beyond that, courts also consider the following:
- The financial stability of each parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide the child with a safe and stable environment
- Each parent's desire and ability to take responsibility for the child
- The quality of each parent’s relationship with the child
- The moral character of each parent
The State of Utah also allows courts to consider the preferences of a child if they are at least 14 years old. A judge does not have to adhere to the child’s preference, but they may give it extra weight.
Two types of child custody
Legal custody is a parental situation in which a parent has the right to make decisions for their minor child regarding things like schooling, extracurricular activities, religious instruction, and medical decisions. Physical custody is a parental situation in which the child lives all the time, or the majority of the time, with one parent.
Legal custody is often joint custody: Both parents share rights and responsibilities for their child. However, if one parent has committed willful desertion or otherwise been absent from the child’s life, a Utah court may give one parent sole legal custody. The same is true if one parent has a history of domestic violence, willful neglect, or another factor that is not in the child’s best interest.
Generally, Utah courts prefer to give both parents legal custody and have both parents in the child’s life. However, that’s not always possible. Courts do allow parents to request a reconsideration of their circumstances as their lives change.
4. Child support in Utah
Under Utah law, when one parent has less than equal physical custody of their minor child, they may be required to pay child support. Both parents have a responsibility to support their child through high school or when they turn 18, whichever occurs later. In cases where a child has a disability, that responsibility may extend beyond these milestones.
The amount of child support required in Utah depends on the circumstances of the family. Utah courts look at general child care expenses, medical care expenses, and the base child support needed to maintain the child’s basic needs.
Courts must follow specific guidelines created by the Utah Code. This section of the Utah code provides a worksheet to help families and courts calculate child support. The calculations vary based on child custody arrangements. Note: Even though the State of Utah provides guidelines, courts can deviate from these guidelines for valid reasons.
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