Utah Family Law: 9 Things You Need to Know

Utah Family Law

Calm family life becomes a tornado when one party files for divorce. Suddenly you have questions about everything from the division of assets, whether you can collect alimony, who will receive legal custody of the children, and more.

Before you pick up the phone to call a Utah family law attorney, read on. We will put your mind at ease as we explain divorce procedures.

  1. Divorce Law

Utah Title 30 Husband and Wife, §§1-39 establishes all divorce requirements. To file, at least one of the parties must live in Utah for a minimum of three months before filing, and there is a 3-month waiting period before granting a divorce.

In a no-fault divorce, the complaint must state the parties have irreconcilable differences or have been living under a legal separation agreement for at least three years.

The petitioner (plaintiff) may file for an at-fault divorce stating one of the following:

  • Adultery by the respondent (defendant)
  • Impotence at the time of marriage
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Desertion of 12+ months
  • Domestic violence or cruelty
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Incurable insanity
  • Willful neglect or non-support in providing necessities of life

If there are minor children, the court will not grant a divorce until both parties attend a mandatory educational course for divorcing parents and present their certificate of completion to the court.

  1. Legal Separation v. Divorce

Legal separation is like a divorce, but you stay married. Legal separation orders sometimes enter because of religious opposition to divorce or to allow a spouse to stay on insurance.

Utah courts will grant legal separation for:

  • Desertion by a spouse
  • Spouse refuses to provide for necessities of life
  • Spouse has property in the state and neglects or deserts the other
  • Incarceration of a spouse over a year

If you seek a legal separation, a divorce attorney will ensure your separation papers meet legal requirements.

  1. Child Support

Utah family courts follow specific guidelines in calculating and enforcing child support. The Child Support Enforcement Amendment of 1984 (CSEA) requires garnishment of the delinquent payer's paychecks. It also allows the court to impose property liens and collect past-due support from income tax returns.

Guidelines require considering both parents' income, plus provisions for the child's health care costs, insurance costs, child care expenses, and more.

The Family Support Act of 1988 (FSA) mandates presumptive support guidelines. A judge may deviate from guidelines they determine are inappropriate or unfair by putting their findings in writing.

  1. Determining Custody

The custody portion of your divorce order specifies who the child(ren) will live with and a visitation schedule for the other parent.

Utah adheres to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and Utah Code §30-3-10.2 et seq. This allows parents to have joint physical and joint legal custody. The main factor the court considers in joint custody is whether the parents have a parenting plan on file that comports with Utah Code §30-3-10.8.

Other considerations include the following:

  • Each parent’s ability to prioritize the child’s welfare
  • Co-parenting skills
  • Ability to encourage love and affection toward the other parent
  • The geographical distance between the homes
  • Each parent’s involvement in caring for the child before the divorce

The court can consider any factor they believe relevant.

  1. Domestic Violence and Family Law

A parent's domestic violence conviction against their spouse or children may impact custody and visitation. Utah Code §30-3-10.10 Parenting Plan-Domestic Violence guides the court's creation of a parenting plan.

Stalking injunctions or protective orders impact a court's determination on whether visitation is appropriate and require special conditions. This may include exchanges by a third party or other requirements. The order will specify the exact day, time, location, and method of exchange.

  1. Division of Property

The division of property includes real property, personal property, and retirement accounts. An equitable division is fair but not necessarily equal. Having your name as the sole owner does not guarantee your ownership following divorce.

Equitable division determination is made by evaluating the parties' marriage length, health, and age. Other factors include each person's occupation and sources of income.

If a premarital agreement exists, and the court determines it is valid, property division will comport with that agreement. The division is usually equal in a long-term marriage. In a short-term marriage, the court may restore each party to their economic status before the wedding.

Property owned before the marriage, or property they inherit or receive as a gift during the marriage, may be restored to sole ownership as long as it is not commingled. For instance, if you inherit $100,000 following your grandmother’s death and deposit it into an account held jointly with your spouse, that money is commingled and subject to equal division.

  1. Alimony

Alimony in Utah is gender-neutral, meaning either spouse may receive or pay spousal support. There is no marital support formula. The court evaluates the financial situation of each party and makes a determination.

Consideration includes the standard of living immediately before the divorce and if the recipient is receiving child support. Utah Code §30-3-5(8) mandates a review of one spouse's contribution to the education of the other.

Alimony is usually for a specific period. Alimony may terminate if the recipient marries, dies, or cohabitates with a new partner before the alimony's term ends.

  1. Parenting Time

The minimum parenting time for children under age five is in Utah Code §30-3-35.5. Parenting time begins for children under five months old as three two-hour visits per week plus two hours each holiday granted in the non-custodial holiday parenting schedule.

The minimum time increases at nine months, 12 months, 18 months, three years, and five years. From five to 18 years, the standards are in Utah Code 30-3-35. The non-custodial parent has a minimum of:

Weekday Visits

  • One weekday evening from 5:30 to 8:30 pm or
  • One weekday beginning at the time the child’s school is dismissed until 8:30 pm or
  • If there is no school, a weekday from 9 am to 8:30 pm

Weekend Visits

  • Alternating weekends from 6 pm Friday to 7 pm Sunday or
  • Alternating weekends beginning at the time the child is dismissed from school on Friday to 7 pm Sunday or
  • If there is no school, Friday at 9 am to Sunday at 7 pm

Holiday and Extended Parenting Time

Noncustodial parents receive extended parenting time of up to four consecutive weeks during the summer.

The holiday parenting schedule grants parents specific holidays in alternating years. Holidays include the parent’s and child's birthdays, plus allowing the appropriate parent Mother’s or Father’s Day.

You may have a visitation schedule that deviates from the standard guidelines. A specific parenting time order takes precedence over standard guidelines.

  1. Following Divorce

Following a divorce, take these steps to protect your privacy:

  • Change passwords on bank accounts, social media, credit cards, etc.
  • If you change your name, notify all officials, including social security, licensing bureau, etc.
  • Remove spouse or close all joint financial accounts
  • Update your emergency contact on school, medical, and work records
  • Remove spouse from auto and house insurance
  • Transfer home and vehicle titles into your name
  • Remove your spouse from your medical insurance
  • Correct beneficiary on life insurance
  • Update your will and trust, removing spouse as beneficiary

Handle promptly to ensure your ex-spouse does not inherit or have legal rights to your estate or accounts in the event of an emergency.

Understanding Utah Family Law

Understanding Utah family law can be confusing. Don’t try to navigate the legal system alone.

Call Fair Price Lawyers at (801) 999-0104 or schedule a free 30-minute Zoom consultation with a family lawyer.

Categories: Family Law