The legal process of divorce in Utah comes with a complex web of intricacies. How to navigate through this web is not always clear. It is, therefore, not surprising that one of the most frequently asked questions besides, “how much will a Utah divorce cost?” is, "how long will it take to get divorced?"
The truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Each divorce is as unique as the relationships itself. That said, the amount of time needed to complete and make official a legal divorce in Utah depends largely on where you’re at with your spouse in terms of agreement on the legal issues of the divorce. In this blog post, we'll unravel the mysteries surrounding the time it takes to obtain an official decree of divorce and explore the factors that influence this timeline.
Where You Stand with Your Spouse Matters
The first crucial factor in determining the duration (and overall expense) of your Utah divorce is the nature of your relationship with your soon-to-be ex. Are you showing up with respect and kindness, or are you playing a contentious tug-of-war? The level of cooperation or discord between spouses significantly influences the timeline of the divorce proceedings
Have an Agreement in Principle? That is Just the Start
Picture this: you and your spouse have reached a harmonious agreement on the division of assets, alimony or spousal support, and child custody. It's all sunshine and rainbows, right? Well, not so fast.
While having an agreement in principle is a commendable start, you're not out of the woods yet. First, your in-principle agreement needs to be boiled down into a legal writing or a writing that will pass muster when submitted to the court. Ideally, you will have your lawyer draft your legal, written stipulation and property settlement agreement. If someone else drafted the agreement, such as a lawyer representing your spouse or your spouse as a pro se party, at a minimum you should have your own, independent lawyer review the document with you and provide you with a full evaluation and legal consultation.
To make your Utah divorce official, your agreement needs to be translated into legal language and put on paper. Both parties must sign this legal document, turning your verbal promises into legally binding obligations. This process can add a considerable amount of time to your Utah divorce proceedings. Remember, the devil is in the details, and getting those details right takes time and precision. It’s also something you won’t want to skimp on, rush, or be careless with. This is how mistakes happen and one way to ensure the need for additional legal proceedings to correct erroneous and defective divorce decrees.
Cue the lawyers. Once you've agreed in principle, it's time to enlist legal professionals to draft the official documents. A lawyer should not only read and review your agreement, one should provide you with a full legal consultation and evaluation of your case.
A lawyer will help make sure your agreement is not only comprehensive but also adheres to the legal standards of your jurisdiction. Rushing through this step or using an inexperienced professional can lead to costly mistakes and prolonged legal battles down the road.
No Agreement Means Uncertainty
Now, imagine a scenario where agreement is but a distant dream. No handshake, no nod of approval. In this realm, divorce can become a protracted and emotionally draining journey.
Without an agreement, the legal system steps in to untangle the web of marital assets, debts, and potential spousal and child support. Brace yourself; this can take anywhere from six months to a year or more.
Factors That Influence Utah Divorce Timelines
There are a number of factors that can influence a divorcing couple’s level of cooperation, or a spouse’s willingness to agree. If you are going through a Utah divorce, it’s worth reviewing and considering these factors.
1. High Conflict Can Prolong the Divorce Process
High levels of conflict and emotional distress can impede the progress of your Utah divorce. Unresolved emotions often spill into negotiations, often resulting in one or both parties unable to discuss the issues in meaningful ways. Mediation and counseling can be valuable tools to address these emotional roadblocks, potentially expediting the Utah divorce process.
Conversely, couples who manage to navigate the emotional terrain amicably often find themselves on the fast track to a Utah divorce. Open communication, cooperation, and a commitment to minimizing conflict can significantly reduce the emotional toll and, consequently, the time it takes to obtain a decree of divorce.
Divorce is not just a legal process; it's an emotional process. The emotional well-being of both parties and the level of conflict between them can have a profound impact on the timeline of Utah divorce proceedings.
2. Working with Everyone's Schedules can Add Delays
The divorce process often involves the assistance of numerous divorce professionals, such as mediators, coaches, therapists, and lawyers. Working with these professionals can help you reach durable agreements that support your interests and needs. However, flexibility and a realistic understanding of your timeline when using these professionals are essential.
Understanding that delays may occur as you work with your soon-to-be ex’s schedule and other individuals’ and their schedules is crucial to managing expectations during this tumultuous time.
3. Working with the Court's Caseload Can Add Delays
Once your paperwork is in order, it's time to face the reality of the legal system's timeline. Courts have their schedules, and the availability of judges can impact how quickly your Utah divorce proceeds. Additionally, the caseload in your jurisdiction plays a role.
Generally, if you have all of your paperwork in order that has been reviewed by an experienced Utah divorce lawyer, and you both have signed and approved all necessary paperwork, the court could take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to approve and enter your final Utah divorce decree. If the court is dealing with a backlog of cases, be prepared for a waiting game.
In the world of Utah divorce, one size does not fit all. The length of time it takes to obtain an official decree of divorce is primarily influenced by you and your spouse’s ability to communicate and negotiate an agreement. An agreement in-principle may seem like a shortcut, but the devil is in the details. Your in-principle agreement must be translated into legally binding documents that a district court judge would accept and approve.
The waiting game of court schedules, bottlenecks, and the emotional toll of the process all contribute to the unpredictable nature of Utah divorce proceedings.
In this intricate dance, the key is preparation, communication, and a realistic understanding of the variables at play. Whether you find yourself in the express lane or facing unexpected delays, knowledge is your compass. The more you understand about the factors influencing the length of your Utah divorce, the better equipped you'll be to navigate the twists and turns of this challenging journey. Remember, the road may be long, but with the right guidance, you can emerge on the other side ready to embrace a new chapter in your life.
DIY Divorce, also known as “do-it-yourself divorce” and “pro se divorce” refers to the process of handling your own divorce, without the assistance of an attorney, mediator, or other divorce professional. In Utah, it is possible for couples to pursue a DIY divorce and there are a number of resources available to Utahns looking to handle their own divorce, one of which is Utah’s Online Court Assistance Program, also known as “OCAP.”
OCAP is Utah’s primary online self-help tool that helps individuals access and complete legal forms and documents. It is a valuable resource with numerous benefits. Here are a few of these benefits:
While Utah’s OCAP tool can be a helpful resource for divorcing couples, it’s important to be aware of its drawbacks when relying solely on this program as your only divorce resource.
It’s important to understand only a lawyer can give you legal advice--and everyone should get personalized legal advice from a lawyer. Period. This begs the question: how can a thrifty but clever DIYer successfully use OCAP while legally protecting themself? There are a two primary options:
With Divorce Like a Pro, you’ll learn how to determine what property of yours may be “marital” and, thus, subject to equitable division in divorce, and what property may be “separate” and, thus, not subject to division in divorce. You’ll also learn about the legal issues of child custody, child support, and alimony. You’ll learn how to allocate debt in divorce, how to divide assets such as retirement, your home or other real property, and much more.
Divorce Like a Pro walks you through our tried and true dispute resolution process, which is designed to save you the most timem and money, leaving litigation as a last resort. Enrollees will learn what a “fair” settlement may look like for them while getting access to the workshop’s many worksheets and checklists, our alimony calculator, and settlement division analyzer.
Then, at the end of the course you’ll be given an opportunity to receive a reduced-rate legal evaluation, document review, and settlement review with a seasoned divorce lawyer. This will help you to “lawyer up” without the full, frontal attack that often comes with lawyering up. Sometimes, just the involvement of lawyers on the surface can escalate a conflict and contribute to a breakdown in cooperation or communication.
By using Divorce Like a Pro, you can have a lawyer in your back pocket—to help you, coach you, and support you along the way without threatening the other side with litigation, court, and other legal woes.
Divorce lawyers are ethically restricted to provide only one side to a dispute with advice. So, your spouse will have to hire his/her/their own consulting lawyer for their own personalized legal advice. But when you each hire your own consulting attorney before signing on the dotted line, you can have peace of mind knowing you have had a professional oversee your divorce process, provide you with valuable advice, and safeguard your interests as well as the interests of your child.
One frequently asked question I get from time to time is whether there is any requirement, benefit, or advantage to filing for a legal separation before one files for divorce. Due to the frequency of this question and the nuances of each unique couple, it's worth dedicating a blog post exploring this question.
Let’s dive right in. First, in Utah there is no requirement that a person file for or receive a legal separation before one can file for divorce. Legal separations in Utah are purely elective. When it comes to “legal separations,” Utah residents have two options from which to choose: First, one can file for a temporary separation (in accordance with Utah Code 30-3-4.5). Alternatively, one can file an action for separate maintenance (in accordance with Utah Code 30-4-1).
To understand these actions and what they do, it’s a good idea to review what divorce is. Essentially, divorce is more than the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court. It is the process of terminating a marital union, canceling or reorganizing legal duties and responsibilities among the two parties, and dissolving the bonds of matrimony under rule of law.
Below, I will explore the two types of legal separation in Utah and discuss some advantages and disadvantages of each.
A. Separate Maintenance
An action for Separate Maintenance under Utah Code Ann. 30-4-1 provides one spouse the ability to seek alimony, property, and debt management, health care insurance, housing, child support, child custody, and parent-time, without initiating a divorce proceeding.
To file an action for separation maintenance, your spouse must be a resident of Utah and you must have grounds for such an action. Grounds for separate maintenance include the following:
The legal proceedings involved in a separate maintenance case are similar to those of a divorce; however, the petition for separate maintenance can be filed in any county where either spouse is present.
Separate Maintenance orders are not temporary, but either party can file a motion to convert a separate maintenance order into a divorce at any time. Furthermore, a separate maintenance order will cease upon the death of either spouse. Any obligations outlined in the order will be terminated if both parties can demonstrate voluntary and permanent reconciliation.
Advantages of a separate maintenance order include the following:
There are a number of disadvantages of a separate maintenance order:
B. Temporary Separation
A temporary separation is elective action a spouse may take prior to initiating a divorce. See Utah Code 30-3-4.5. This may be the case if they need a court order that establishes temporary arrangements for alimony, property, and debt management, health care insurance, housing, child support, child custody, and parent-time, but feel uncertain about proceeding with a divorce.
Temporary separation orders are only valid for a period of one year (from the date of the hearing), unless the case is dismissed earlier. If one of the spouses files a petition for divorce while the temporary separation order is in effect, the temporary separation order will remain in force until the divorce proceedings are finalized.
Once a petition for temporary separation is filed and served, both spouses are required to attend a divorce orientation course if there are minor children involved. To seek a temporary separation order, both spouses must be lawfully married and have resided in Utah for at least 90 days.
I see little advantage to temporary separation orders. Indeed, they don’t seem to be sought after or commonly used. But, there are some advantages:
There are a number of disadvantages:
Occasionally legal separations help divorcing couples achieve specific goals. But, they are not required in Utah and, all in all, getting one may create more challenges than divorce alone. If you are exploring divorce but you hope to minimize trauma and conflict, protect your children, while utilizing a fair and transparent process, consider a non-court divorce or a Collaborative divorce. To learn more about Non-Court divorce or Collaborative divorce, visit Utah Divorce Coaching & Consulting, LLC.
When faced with divorce in Utah, there are several reasons why a person would choose the “uncontested” method to get divorced.
Staying amicable during the Utah divorce process can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are a few tips to help keep things calm and civil throughout the divorce process in Utah:
Jennifer L. Neeley
Jennifer has helped thousands of people get divorced without fighting in court.
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