Matthew C. Brimley

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DIVORCE & CUSTODY
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Divorce & Custody Information Center

What Is Divorce And What Are The Rules About Divorce In Utah?
A divorce ends the marriage and all direct legal relationships between the couple, except those specifically written out in the divorce decree. These may include such things as spousal support, parenting arrangements and support of children, division of property and payment of debts. The Utah divorce laws allow for no-fault divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
What If One Spouse Wants A Divorce And The Other Doesn't?
There is no way to prevent a divorce in Utah if one spouse wants it and the other doesn't.
How Do I Get A Divorce?
Divorce is granted by a judge after the necessary paperwork has been submitted to the court and all required appearances before the judge are completed. In some cases it is not necessary to be physically present in the court to get a divorce.
Who Makes The Decisions About Child Custody And Support, Property Division, Spousal Maintenance And Other Matters?
Utah law encourages the couples to work out these decisions between themselves as much as possible and create a written agreement, often with the assistance of their lawyers. A growing number of people have been trained to act as mediators to assist couples in these negotiations. Whatever reasonable agreements a couple makes will be sanctioned by the court.
If the couple cannot agree on one or more of these issues, it will be necessary for the court to make the decision for them. In many courts, there are commissioners who specialize in divorce matters who will first hear the issues. If the matter goes to trial, the judge will make the final decision. There is no jury in divorce cases in Utah.
What Is A Legal Separation And What's The Difference Between That And Divorce?
In a legal separation, the parties live separately, but remain legally married to one another. The individuals' rights and duties to each other are determined in a Decree of Legal Separation which will cover matters such as custody and child support, spousal support, division of property, and payment of debts. The legal procedures are very similar to those for divorce, except the grounds for legal separation apply only to a situation where one spouse is deserted by the other spouse. If the couple later decides to divorce, they must file a separate action for divorce.
What Can A Lawyer Do For Me?
Even a simple divorce requires many documents and may require at least one appearance before the judge. The lawyer is responsible to help you through that process. It is the lawyer's role to give you up to date information on laws involving children, support and property division. The lawyer acts as your advocate and assists you in negotiating an agreement that is in your best interest and that will minimize problems in the future. If the agreement cannot be reached, the lawyer will help represent you at court appearances.
Can The Same Lawyer Represent Both Me And My Spouse?
No. There is always a conflict of interest between spouses. A lawyer cannot adequately represent both sides in a divorce.
If I "Settle" My Case, Who Decides What Settlement I Accept, Me or My Lawyer?
The client must always make the decision about settlement terms. The lawyer's role is to advise whether or not, in his or her view, the proposed terms are reasonable. The lawyer is required to submit every settlement proposal to the client for the client's review and decision. If you use the services of a mediator, the client must still approve all terms of the settlement.
Child Custody What Kinds Of Child Custody Are There And How Will Custody be Decided?
Utah recognizes several custodial arrangements for minor children. Either party can be awarded the "sole" custody of the children. That means one parent has physical custody of the children and makes the major decisions regarding the children's lives. "Joint" custody can be divided into two types, "legal" and "physical" custody. Joint "legal" custody can have several interpretations and, minimally, means that both parents make joint decisions regarding major issues affecting the children. Joint legal custody does not affect the physical residence of the children. Joint. "physical" custody means that the parties share physical time with the children and that the children live in both homes. Either form of joint custody usually works best when the parents are willing to work together to address the needs of the children. Joint physical custody normally requires that the parents live in the same town or general area. Sometimes, parents will agree to a joint custody arrangement that designates one parent as the "primary" parent. Parents can fashion any custodial or visitation arrangement that they believe is in their children's best interest, and the court will allow that arrangement to be part of the Decree of Divorce.
If sole custody is awarded, the non custodial parent is awarded "visitation" with the children. Utah has a "standard schedule of visitation" which allows weekly contact, alternating holidays, and on alternating weekends, overnight visits for children five and older. Parties can vary from the standard schedule and create any schedule of visitation that they deem appropriate for them and the children's needs. Schedules often have to vary depending on the ages of the children and bow far apart the parents live. Visitation to be exercised with children under five is dependent upon what is in the best interests of the children.
Custodial parents may not withhold rights of visitation if child support is not being paid. Likewise, child support is not to be withheld if visitation is being denied. There are sanctions that the court can impose on a custodial parent that prohibits visitation.
A mandatory two-hour course for divorcing parents with children instructs both parties about the divorce and its impact on their children, their family relationship, and their financial responsibilities for their child or children. This class must be attended prior to a divorce being granted.
Can I Relocate?
Utah law requires that if either parent decides to move from Utah or 150 miles or more from the residence, that parent must provide reasonable, advance, written notice. The right to relocate is an issue that probably should be decided at the time that custody and visitation are addressed. A custodial parent usually is not prohibited from leaving the state with the children if there is a good reason to move.
How Is Child Support Decided, How Long Does It Continue, And Can It Ever Be Changed?
Utah has enacted Child Support Guidelines that are used by the courts to calculate a parent's child support obligation. The guidelines consist of three components: base child support, medical care, and child care expenses. A table determines the combined support for the children. A support obligation is shared between the parents according to their incomes. The non custodial parent pays the custodial parent child support. In addition, the guidelines require parents to provide medical coverage for their minor children, if it is available, and to share the costs of the children's portion of the premium in addition to non covered expenses, including deductibles and copayments, for the children's medical care. Finally, the courts require the parties to share work related child care expenses. Child support continties until the child is 18 and has completed high school.
The courts, upon petition by either parent, may increase or decrease the child support obligation if significant changes in income or other circumstances have occurred since the entry of the Decree of Divorce.
Utah courts generally set child support in compliance with the guidelines, although in unusual circumstances the courts may order a higher or lower amount. Child support amounts can be agreed upon by the parties, but the courts must approve their agreement before it becomes an enforceable order of support.
An order requiring a non-custodial parent's employer to withhold the child support amount from the parent's earnings may be entered by the courts unless the parties agree to another method of payment.
Does Utah Allow Alimony, And Who Can Get It?
Either party may request and be granted alimony. Regardless of gender, alimony may be ordered on a temporary basis, pending trial, as well as for a longer period after entry of the Decree of Divorce. In determining alimony, the courts consider at least the following factors:

The courts may also consider the fault of the parties in determining alimony.
The courts, a ' s a general rule, look at the standard of living that existed at the time of separation in determining alimony. In marriages of short duration, with no children conceived or born, the court may consider the standard of living that existed at the time of the marriage. There are times when the courts will equalize income or attempt to equalize the party's respective standards of living.
Alimony may be reviewed and modified as conditions change and as warranted. Alimony terminates automatically upon remarriage or cohabitation by the recipient spouse. Alimony is not ordered for a duration longer than the length of the marriage, except in extenuating circumstances.
How Is Property Divided?
In Utah, the law recognizes that a spouse who works in the home as well as a spouse who works outside the home both contribute to the property acquired during the marriage, regardless of the income source. Utah requires an "equitable" though not necessarily equal, division of such property, which depends on how long the marriage lasted, the age and health of the parties, their occupations, amounts and sources of income, and related matters. The court has the power to apportion all property owned by either or both of the spouses, regardless of whose name it is in or where it is located, and there are special rules for apportioning property owned by the spouses prior to the marriage, or received by gift or inheritance. Usually, these properties are considered separate. If the parties divide their property by agreement, the judge must review the decision to be sure that it is equitable; however, the division of property cannot be reopened after it is final, except under a few very rigid circumstances.
Who Pays the Debts Incurred During The Marriage?
Usually, the parties agree which of them should pay each of their joint debts. If they cannot agree, then the court must decide. However, the party's agreement or the court's decree are binding only between the parties. Utah law allows for notice to be given to creditors as to which party is responsible for the debt; however, creditors are not required to honor the apportionment of joint debts in the Decree of Divorce or agreement. Thus, if the spouse who is supposed to pay fails to do so, the creditors may seek payment from the other spouse. Then he or she must try to collect the money from the one who was supposed to pay.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Divorce In Utah?
A Decree of Divorce can be granted immediately if the parties have children, have reached an agreement, and have both attended the Divorce Education Class. Otherwise, Utah law imposes a 90-day waiting period which may be waived for good cause.
If the parties do not reach agreement, then they must proceed to hearings and, potentially, a trial before the assigned judge. The divorce can pend for a matter of months or even a year. Prior to proceeding to a pretrial or trial, the parties to a divorce must either engage in mediation or arbitration, or view a video tape discussing participation in "Alternate Dispute Resolution" programs. Such programs are designed to afford parties an alternative to court proceedings and litigation.