When all the arguments end and an apology is not enough to repair your marriage, messy divorce proceedings may seem like the only option. However, many people do not realize how simple an amicable uncontested divorce process can be. Not every state has an uncontested divorce option, but many states, such as Utah do allow couples to seek an uncontested divorce.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Utah uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Utah Defined
Like many states, Utah recognizes that many couples would like to seek a quick and painless divorce. Therefore, it has provided a mechanism for couples to seek an uncontested divorce called a divorce by stipulation.
In a divorce by stipulation, one spouse files a divorce petition, and the other spouse responds by stipulating (agreeing) to the terms of the divorce expressed in the divorce petition. In a divorce by stipulation, the key element is agreement. To file for an uncontested divorce in Utah, the spouses must agree on everything regarding the divorce.
Requirements for Seeking a Utah Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Utah, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Utah divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The jurisdictional requirement for seeking a divorce in Utah is the residency requirement. No Utah court can lawfully consider a divorce petition unless at least one of the spouses has lived within a single county in Utah for at least three months. Additionally, if the marriage produced children and at least one child is still a minor, the minor must have resided with at least one of the parents for six months prior to the filing of the divorce.
The next requirement are proof of the grounds for divorce. Utah contains ten different grounds for divorce, but eight of those grounds are at-fault grounds for divorce (such as adultery). Filing for an at-fault divorce is not considered a truly “uncontested” divorce, however, and so spouses seeking an uncontested divorce should file under one of Utah’s two no-fault grounds.
Of Utah’s two no-fault grounds for divorce irreconcilable differences is the most convenient and the simplest to prove. To get an uncontested divorce for irreconcilable differences, the parties simply need to prove that the marriage has broken down and there is no possibility for reconciliation.
Finally, the spouses must agree to a stipulation. The stipulation is the non-filing party’s agreement to the terms of the divorce contained within the divorce petition. The most common form of a divorce stipulation is a divorce settlement agreement.
On Spousal Support and Settlement Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A settlement agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed settlement agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any settlement agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
Aside from agreeing that the divorce should occur, a settlement agreement should also contain agreement on the following terms of the divorce:
- Alimony (also known as spousal support);
- Child custody, visitation, and a parenting plan;
- Child support;
- Division of the marital property; and
- Division of the marital debts
Without agreement on each of those issues, the divorce will be considered contested, and a judge will need to rule on those issues at a divorce trial.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Utah
Once you have determined which court is the proper court for filing, the general flow of the process is follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly;
- Next, you should compile all of the necessary divorce paperwork. For spouses who do not want to undertake the expense of hiring a lawyer, Utah’s Courts website has an Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) that will help guide you through filing the proper paperwork.1
- Once you have the paperwork, you and your spouse should sit down and discuss the terms of your divorce and come to an agreement. As described above, this will normally take the form of a divorce settlement agreement. Like the forms for divorce filings, model forms for settlement agreements can be found on the Utah Court’s website.2
- The next step is to file the divorce paperwork. Decide which spouse will file as the petitioner, and then file in the appropriate Utah District Court. You will need to file the divorce paperwork with the Utah court that is located in the county where you have met the Utah residency requirement.
- Once filed, the petitioner must serve the responding spouse with the divorce paperwork no later than 120 days after the divorce paperwork is filed.
- The responding spouse must then file the divorce stipulation. At this point, the Utah court will categorize the divorce filing as an uncontested divorce.
- Next, you wait. Under Utah law, 90 days must pass before any court may rule on a divorce decree. During those 90 days, couples with minor children may be required to attend a mandatory divorce education course.
- After 90 days, the judge may sign your divorce decree.
If you have any additional questions about divorce in Utah in general, visit the Utah Court’s website. On the Utah Court’s website is an extremely useful summary of divorce litigation designed to help make the process transparent for couples seeking self-help divorces.3
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.