Divorce Prevention Resources

Utah Marriage Handbook cover
You deserve nothing less than careful consideration of whether divorce is the right thing to do and make that decision based on the best information possible.

En Español

requently Asked Questions about the Divorce Process

What is divorce?

Divorce is a legal process that ends a marriage, allowing both “parties” (the legal term for divorcing spouses) to end their marriage and typically involving the division of assets, responsibilities, and deciding custody and parenting responsibilities of any children.

Do I have to get an attorney to divorce?

In Utah, you are not legally required to hire an attorney to get a divorce, but it's highly recommended. Even if you choose to represent yourself (called “pro se”), it's wise to at least consult with a lawyer to understand your rights, obligations, and the complexities of the legal process. An attorney can help ensure your interests are protected and that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly. There are law firms that can assist in mediating an agreement and help with filing the paperwork for a less adversarial process. In some cases, the court will require working with a divorce mediator before proceeding with a divorce petition.

How long does it take?

For parties that are amicable and are able to come to a full agreement of all of the terms of divorce, it can take 30-60 days. For higher conflict cases, divorce can take several months and even years. In Utah, there is a required 30-day waiting period after filing the divorce before a judge can grant a divorce.

How will divorce affect parenting time with my children?

In most cases, each parent is entitled to have parent time with their children. The minimum parent time schedule (Utah Code 30-3-35) awards one midweek visit and every other weekend. It’s more common, however, for courts to award 40-60% (Utah Code 30-3-35.1) or 50-50% (Utah Code 30-3-35.2) parent-time schedules. If you have minor children, they will spend some amount of time with the other parent, in most cases. (Exceptions can be made for cases of physical abuse, substance abuse, etc.)

How much does a divorce cost?

The cost of divorce varies greatly depending on each case. Spouses, or “parties,” that are friendly or amicable can generally divorce for a couple thousand dollars while high-conflict and complex cases can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Divorce is a process that divides all the monies and investments in the marriage, and legal fees are one of the many costs of the divorce. Divorcing spouses are encouraged to try to reach an agreement on dividing family assets. When agreements cannot be reached, the court makes determinations regarding the division of financial assets. Of course, there also are significant costs to establishing two separate residences after a divorce.

What are some other financial considerations with divorce?

- You may need to get a job (or work more hours) to support yourself and your children. The court will impute income even if you are not working. This means that your income is based on what you could earn, not what you actually earn. (Parties that currently are not working are imputed to their earning ability as if they were to work full time.)

- Child support can change over time depending on increases/decreases of income.

- You may need to sell your home to split the equity.

- You may need to divide retirement accounts that have accrued during the marriage.

How much child support will I receive or be required to pay?

Child support is calculated based on the number of minor children, the income of the parties, and the number of overnight stays each parent has with the children. The legislature has a specific formula that is used to find the amount of child support that should be awarded. (Here is a link to the online calculator of this formula in Utah.)

How much alimony will I receive or be required to pay?

Alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other after a divorce to support the recipient spouse financially. (This is in addition to any child-support payments.) It is need-based, and is based on a number of factors including:

- the financial needs of the recipient spouse.

- the recipient spouse's ability to earn income.

- the paying spouse's ability to provide support.

- the length of the marriage.

- the standard of living during the marriage.

- each spouse's age and health.

- each spouse's contributions to the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, and career sacrifices.

Note: when spouses are given alimony, the spouse has an income imputed as an average full-time wage according to their educational degree or work history (even if they don’t work or work only part-time). Sometimes, alimony payments are “rehabilitative” so it lasts only a few years until the recipient spouse can get better established financially.

Do I need to attend a divorcing parents education class before I can get divorced?

In Utah and many states, if you have minor children, you will be required to attend a divorcing parents education class before you can finalize a divorce petition. Among other things, these classes are designed to help divorcing parents understand the divorce process and learn good parenting skills – what to do and what not to do – to help children adjust better to a divorce. There is usually a modest fee for these classes, which may be offered in person and/or online.

I’ve been thinking seriously about divorce. Where can I get good information to help me make this important decision?

The Utah Marriage Commission has an in-depth guidebook for people who are thinking about divorce that provides research-based wisdom on the many questions people have when they are thinking about divorce. You can download this free guidebook here.

Note: these answers to frequently asked questions about the divorce process are provided as a courtesy to users. They are not official legal advice. Those seeking a divorce should consult with an attorney about their questions.