5 Important Things to Know If You’re Getting a Divorce 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 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 five of the most important Utah divorce laws to understand:

1. Asset and debt division in Utah

Items you purchase together after your marriage are marital property, as are the debts you acquire. Utah law requires the distribution of assets and debts 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.

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.

Mediation is an excellent solution for couples who need help agreeing how to separate their property and settle their divorce terms but don't want to hire lawyers or go to court.

What is separate property?

Only marital property is subject to distribution in the Utah divorce process. You may also have separate property.

Separate property can be assets and debts you brought into the marriage. Dishes, appliances, furniture, cars, houses, and loans could all be part of this category.

Separate property can also involve assets that you acquired after your wedding day. For example, an inheritance in your name or a gift just for you could be separate property, even if you got them after your wedding day.

Separate property could become marital property

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.

Who’s responsible for marital debt?

Both spouses are equally responsible for the debt 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

Alimony, also called spousal support, involves payments from one person to another while they’re separated, getting divorced, or after the divorce. Either person can ask for payments.

Some types of alimony are temporary and last as long as the divorce case is pending. Other types of alimony last longer and persist after the divorce has been granted.

When deciding whether to award alimony, courts can consider the following factors:

  • Financial health of the receiving party: The recipient’s monthly debts and obligations could factor in here. The person’s ability to earn money could also play a role.
  • Financial health of the paying party: The payer’s ability to cover the alimony payments while handling all other obligations could factor into the ruling.
  • Length of the marriage: The longer the union lasted, the more likely it is that payments will be approved.
  • Shared children: If the recipient has custody of minor children who need support, alimony is more likely.
  • Career history: If the recipient worked in a business owned or operated by the other party, or the recipient helped to pay for the other’s education and training, alimony payments might be approved.
  • Behavior: If one party engaged in behavior like having extramarital sex, physical abuse, or harming a shared child, the other party might be more likely to get alimony.

3. Child custody in Utah

If you share children who are younger than 18, you must make child custody arrangements as part of your divorce.

Per Utah laws, child custody can come in two forms:

  • 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 issues.
  • Physical custody is a parental situation in which the child lives all the time, or the majority of the time, with one parent.

How is custody determined?

Utah law specifies that child custody determinations must be made in the minor child’s best interest. This remains true even when parents agree. In general, courts assume that joint legal custody is in a child’s best interest. The following factors might change that assumption:

  • One or more of the children have special needs.
  • The parents live far apart.
  • There is evidence of domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, or emotional abuse.

The courts have leeway to consider another factor that’s deemed relevant. For example, 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 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.

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, parents are required to support their children until they are 18 or have completed high school, whichever is later. If the child is disabled, payments may last longer.

The amount of child support required in Utah depends on the circumstances of the family. Utah courts look at the gross monthly income of both parents and the number of overnight visits a child spends in each household.

Utah courts use approved tables to set how much child support payments should be. The base amount shown in the tables could be modified by factors like the following:

  • Medical expenses incurred by the children
  • Child care expenses
  • Requests from one or both parents

5. Initial steps and residency requirements

To file for divorce in Utah, you or your spouse must have lived in one single county within the state for the continuous three months before you filed.

You must give reasons (or grounds) for filing, which can include the following:

  •   Impotence at the time of the marriage
  •   Adultery
  •   One party moving away from the other for more than a year
  •   Neglect to provide one party with the common necessaries of life
  •   Drunkenness
  •   Felony conviction
  •   Cruel treatment that causes mental distress
  •   Insanity
  •   Living separately for three years
  •   Irreconcilable differences

Hello Divorce can help you get through this challenging time so you can get your decree of divorce and move on with your life. We offer affordable online divorce plans that do not require you to hire an expensive divorce lawyer. We also offer legal advice, legal services, and financial counseling at predictable, flat-rate fees. We’re committed to helping you make it through the divorce process and obtain your divorce decree with as little stress and expense as possible.

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Divorce. Utah State Courts.
Utah Code Title 30, Husband and Wife. Utah State Legislature.
Alimony. Utah State Courts.
Child Custody and Parent Time. Utah State Courts.
Child Support. Utah State Courts.
Utah Code Title 78B. Utah State Legislature.


Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.