Frequently Asked Questions about Family Law in Utah
Huntsman | Lofgran provides exceptional family law services that combine large-firm capabilities in a personalized and supportive small-firm environment. If you are going through a divorce, you can expect to receive reliable advice from attentive counsel and proven courtroom representation. Our team has more than 50 years of combined legal experience, which we put to work pursuing the best outcomes for our clients in divorce litigation.
Our family law attorneys are committed to helping people understand every aspect of the divorce process. We offer the following information for your guidance:
- Do I need an attorney to file for divorce in Utah?
- What is “no-fault” divorce in Utah?
- Is it possible to have a marriage annulled in Utah?
- What is the 90-day waiting period in Utah divorce?
- How long does it take to get a divorce in Utah?
- Do I have to take an education course to get divorced?
- How long does the duty to pay child support last?
- How do divorced parents share their children’s medical expenses?
- How does Utah enforce child support orders?
- How long does an obligor spouse have to pay alimony?
- The court assigned a substantial debt to my spouse, but the creditor is coming after me. Is this legal?
- Can I still share in my spouse’s 401(k) if I have my own?
Contact a knowledgeable family law attorney in Utah for answers about your divorce
The family law attorneys at Huntsman | Lofgran have successfully helped hundreds of Utah residents navigate complex divorce proceedings. Put our knowledge and experience to work for you by calling us at 801.838.8900 or contacting us online to schedule an appointment.
You are not required to have an attorney to file for divorce. You can file for divorce using the Utah Court’s Online Court Assistance program by visiting www.utcourt.gov. However, this program was intended for uncontested divorces. If you use this option you should consult with an attorney once you have completed the documents before filing. Filing for divorce is only the first step in what can be an extremely complex process. An experienced attorney can guide you through your divorce with reliable advice that relieves your stress, avoids wasteful errors, speeds the process through the court and saves you a great deal of money. People who file on their own often need to “fix” problems with their Decree of Divorce later once unforeseen problems arise.
“No-fault” divorce means that the petitioner is not alleging grounds to dissolve the marriage but is simply asking the court to recognize “irreconcilable differences” between the spouses. Most divorces are filed under “irreconcilable differences.” A legal separation can be converted into a divorce.
The court may annul a marriage if it meets one of these conditions:
- A spouse being married to someone else, including in a marriage for which divorce was not final
- A spouse being under 18 years old and not having parental consent
- A spouse being under 16 years old or, for marriages before May 3, 1999, under 14 years old
- Fraud or misrepresentation at the formation of the marriage
- Refusal to consummate the marriage
Under Utah state law, a court may not schedule a hearing for divorce until 90 days have passed from the filing of the petition, unless a party can show there are extraordinary circumstances that warrant a waiver. Most people use this period to fulfill the divorce education/orientation class requirements and negotiate the terms of the divorce so they are ready to resolve their case once the waiting period has run.
There is no “average” or “normal” length of time to obtain a divorce. The length of the proceedings depends on many factors, such as the number of children and their ages, the size of the marital estate and the degree to which the spouses are capable of cooperating.
Utah requires parents with minor children to take divorce education and orientation courses to learn about the possible effects of the divorce on their children. The court will not enter a final divorce decree until at least one parent has completed the training. If one party refuses to take the courses, the court will discontinue parent-time for the non-compliant party until he/she takes the course. It is easiest for both parties to take the courses. There is no requirement for people without minor children.
Unless a minor becomes emancipated or a parent’s rights are terminated, a parent has the duty of support until the child reaches the age of 18 and/or graduates from high school with his/her normal matriculating class, whichever is later. The court may order child support for a longer period if the individual has special needs or a disability that keeps the child dependent.
When parents have access to reasonably priced health insurance, they share equally in the expense of maintaining coverage for their children. They are both also responsible for splitting medical expenses that insurance does not cover, such as deductibles and copayments.
If an obligor parent fails to pay child support as ordered, the recipient parent may move the court to hold the obligor in contempt. If the court finds the person in contempt for delinquent child support, it may order back payment and award attorney’s fees, issue a fine or order jail time. The Office of Recovery Services can collect ongoing support for the recipient parent, but one must first obtain a judgment for unpaid amounts from the court before the Office of Recovery Services can collect on past due amounts.
A court cannot order alimony for a longer period than the length of the marriage unless special circumstances exist. These payments automatically terminate upon the death of either spouse or if the recipient remarries. In addition, the obligor can provide proof to the court that the recipient spouse is cohabiting with another person to get the order changed.
Unfortunately, the court’s order is only binding on you and your spouse. If your spouse fails to pay a joint debt, the creditor has the right to come after you for payment. Your remedy is to pay the debt and then attempt to enforce the court’s order against your spouse.
Generally, any funds that go into a retirement account during the marriage are considered marital property. The fact that you have a 401(k) does not disqualify you from sharing in your spouse’s, or your spouse from sharing in yours. Recent case law may require you to show that you have contributed in some way to the increase in the account to be able to receive an equitable portion of those fund. Once the disposition of those funds is determined, either by the parties or via trial, your attorney can assist in the preparation of a qualified domestic relation orders (QDROs) with instructions for the plan managers about how to effectuate the order of the court.