Filing for divorce can seem scary and difficult, but we’re here to make it easier. Let’s walk through the process of an uncontested divorce in Utah, from start to finish.
As well, please note that there are some differences if you and/or your spouse are military service members.
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Either you or your spouse must have lived in a single Utah county for a period of at least 3 months before filing your divorce petition. This also applies to members of the military and their spouses, wherein the Petitioner (the one initiating the divorce process) must have resided in Utah for at least 3 months before bringing an action, even though they may only be stationed there and are not legal residents.
Filing a Divorce Petition
There are many grounds for divorce that are acceptable, including irreconcilable differences. Utah does not require the assignment of fault–if your marriage is not working out, that’s a good enough reason to file for divorce. The filing fee is $325, and if you cannot afford it, there is a fee waiver form you can submit. If you are filing the petition, you become known as the petitioner, and your spouse is known as the respondent.
Just as an FYI, divorce records in Utah are private records; however, orders and decrees are public. An example would be if one of the parties files for a waiver of the mandatory 30-day waiting period for granting a divorce decree. As that is an order, it would become a public document.
If you and your spouse are working together through the process and agree to the terms of the petition, you can do the easier uncontested petition process together. Additionally, the respondent can sign a stipulation stating they agree to all the terms set in the petition, which will all you to skip the work and hassle of serving the Petition and Summons, the respondent filing an answer and paying the filing fee, and both of you submitting financial disclosures.
Domestic Relations Injunction
As soon as a divorce petition is filed, the Court automatically issues a Domestic Relations Injunction. This essentially stops either party from making any major changes in response to the divorce. Elements of the injunction include requiring both spouses not to harass each other, not allowing for changes to be made to insurance policies or property ownership, and non-essential travel with the parties’ minor children, amongst other things. The petitioner is bound by the injunction once they file, and the respondent is bound by it only once the petitioner provides them with a copy. It’s important to provide this copy to the respondent as soon as possible to ensure they are bound by it and can’t make certain changes that might affect you later on in the process.
Serving the Petition
Once you file your petition for divorce with the Court, you have to serve (deliver to) your spouse with the petition, summons, and any other relevant documents within 120 days of filing. There are several options for service.
For more info: How Do I “Serve” My Spouse with a Divorce?
You must also provide the Court with a Proof of Service form once you have done so. The respondent then has 21 days to respond if they were served in the state of Utah, 30 days to respond if they were served outside of Utah. Utah law does not allow you to formally serve documents upon your spouse yourself unless they have signed an Acceptance of Service form, which provides an exception from the otherwise strict requirements of service. Otherwise, someone over the age of 18, who is not involved in the case, or a hired process server can serve the documents to your spouse.
Related: Should I File a Response?
A respondent has some options in terms of answering. In the case of an uncontested divorce, the easiest option is for the respondent to file a stipulation in response to the petition for divorce, which states in writing that they agree with the petition and whatever is contained in it. In a contested divorce, the respondent could contest certain aspects of the petition for divorce, and would thus file an answer, not a stipulation.
Within an answer, the respondent communicates to the court their position on each of the statements or requests made in the petition. The respondent can agree or disagree with a statement, or choose to neither agree nor disagree because they don’t have enough information to formulate an answer on that point. In the case of stating they disagree with a point, the respondent must explain why. They can also file a counterclaim, which is a document that not only opposes but makes different claims based on the subject of divorce (known formally as a “permissive” counterclaim).
Once an answer is submitted by the respondent, both parties must complete disclosures, including a Financial Declaration, and provide these documents to each other. As well, a respondent can choose or decide not to respond to the petition. In that case, they are essentially waiving their right to disagree with what has been written in the petition or state what they want, and the petitioner can ask the Court to enter a default judgment. A default judgment simply means that the Court will default to what is in the petition and make orders based on that. Of note, default judgments don’t apply in cases where the respondent spouse is on active military duty.
Minor Children Involved
If you have children under the age of 18, both parties are required to attend both a divorce orientation class and divorce education class before the divorce decree can be granted. There is a fee of between $30-$35 for each course, but fee waivers are available. During COVID-19, these classes are offered online as well. Additionally, a motion can be filed by the parties to waive these education requirements at the discretion of the Court.
Mediation is only mandatory in cases of contested divorces. In these cases, at least one mediation session is required to attempt to come to a resolution on the issues before the Court permits the case to move ahead. Either party can file a motion to ask for the mediation requirement to be waived, but it’s up to the Court’s discretion.
These orders apply to the parties during the process of the divorce. Once a divorce is granted, permanent orders apply, and they can be quite different from what the temporary orders were. Generally speaking, temporary orders are meant to apply in the short-term, to allow the parties to adjust to their new lives outside of what they had in the marriage. These orders can include spousal support, child support, and use of the marital home, amongst other things. You must file for any temporary orders you wish to have considered and can file them at the same time as your petition for divorce or afterward. As well, the respondent has a chance to respond to the temporary order, either agreeing or not, and can file their own temporary orders to address matters not included in yours.
There is a mandatory 30-day waiting period between when a petition for divorce is filed and when the decree granting the divorce is signed. Either party can ask the Court to waive this requirement, which can be considered in special circumstances.
Once the decree is signed, congratulations, you’re officially divorced!
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