Talk to an attorney
You are not required to hire an attorney, but getting a divorce can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. You might also hire an attorney for just part of your case or to do one particular thing, rather than represent you for the whole case. For more information, see our page on Finding Legal Help.
Divorce is the proceeding that ends a marriage and all legal relationships between a husband and wife, except those specified in the divorce decree. There are many issues that may need to be resolved in the divorce, including:
- child custody, child support, parent-time;
- alimony (sometimes called spousal support or maintenance); and
- division of debt, property, and pension and retirement benefits.
This and other pages discuss these issues in more detail.
Before filing for divorce
To get divorced in Utah you or your spouse must reside in a single county in Utah for at least three months immediately before filing the divorce petition. Utah Code Section 30-3-1. If custody of a minor child is an issue, usually the child must reside with at least one of the parents in Utah for at least six months, but there are exceptions.
Grounds for divorce
The grounds for divorce, including irreconcilable differences, are listed in Utah Code Section 30-3-1(3).
Costs of a divorce
Costs and fees for a divorce can vary greatly, but they can include:
- Fee to file the petition
- Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) fees
- Fee for the Office of Vital Records and Statistics
- Fees to serve the petition and summons
- Attorney fees
- Copying costs
- Fees for the Divorce Education class and the Divorce Orientation class if there are minor children.
If you cannot afford the fees, you can ask the judge to waive them. To have fees waived, you must prove to the court that you are unable to pay them. You must file a detailed description of your income, property, and debts. For more information, see our page on Fee Waiver.
Divorce records are private records
Most court records are public. This means that anyone can view and copy the documents filed with the court. However, starting April 1, 2012, divorce records are not public. They can be viewed and copied by the parties, their lawyers and a few others, but not by the public. The orders and decrees in the case remain public. So, for example if a motion to waive the 90-day waiting period is granted, the order is a public document. When filing a private document, the filer must identify the document as private. For more information, see our page on Public and Non-public Records.
Certain information such as social security numbers, and dates of birth and identifying information about minors are not public, and you must take special care not to include private information in a public document, particularly in a court order.
The divorce process
Rules of procedure
The spouse starting the divorce case is the petitioner. The other spouse is the respondent.
Petitioner completes the documents
The petitioner may use the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to prepare the petition and other documents to file for divorce. Follow the OCAP instructions. If either party has a lawyer, the lawyer will prepare the documents required of that party.
Some websites offer forms that might not be legally sufficient in the Utah courts and might be rejected by the judge. And you may have to pay a fee for the forms. Before using forms from another website, check this website to see whether a low-cost or free, court-approved form is available. If not, you might want to consider hiring a Utah lawyer (utahbar.org) to prepare documents for you rather than paying for a form that might be rejected.
Petitioner files the documents
The petitioner must file for divorce with the district court in the county in which at least one of the parties has resided for at least three months immediately before filing the divorce petition. For more information about how to file documents, see our page on Filing Procedures.
Petitioner serves the documents
The petitioner must serve the respondent with the petition for divorce, summons and other documents no later than 120 days after the petition is filed. The petitioner must file a Proof of Service form once service has been completed. For more information about service, see our page on Serving Papers.
Respondent files an answer
The respondent has 20 days (if they were served in Utah) or 30 days (if they were served outside of Utah) to respond to or "answer" the divorce petition. For more information, see our page on Answering a Complaint or Petition.
If an answer is filed, then both parties must disclose to each other a Financial Declaration. For more information, see our page on Financial Declarations.
The respondent may also stipulate—or agree—in writing to the petition and the divorce decree. If the parties are able to agree to the terms of the decree, the parties can use the OCAP Divorce Stipulation interview to prepare the appropriate documents, but only after a petition has been filed. Follow the directions in the OCAP interview.
If Respondent does not file an answer
If the respondent does not file an answer within the time specified in the Summons, the petitioner may ask for a default judgment. This means the petitioner gets what they have asked for, and the respondent won't have a chance to tell their side of the story. For more information and forms, see our page on Default Judgments. The default judgment forms are also available through the OCAP divorce program.
If the respondent has signed an Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent and Waiver form found in the OCAP divorce program, the petitioner can ask for a judgment in accordance with what was asked for in the petition. The judgment form is available through the OCAP divorce program.
Ninety-day waiting period
Utah law requires that there be 90 days between the date the petition is filed and the date the decree is signed. A party can ask the court to waive the waiting period for extraordinary circumstances. For more information and forms to request that the 90-day waiting period be waived, see our page on Ninety-day Waiting Period in Divorce Cases.
Mandatory divorce education classes (if there are minor children)
If the parties have minor children together, they must attend a divorce orientation class and a divorce education class before the divorce will be granted. For more information about course locations and schedules and for information and forms for waiving the requirement, see our page on Mandatory Education in Divorce and Temporary Separation.
There is also a Divorce Education Class for Children, designed to help children through their parents' divorce. The class is available in Logan and Salt Lake City. The class is not mandatory.
Mandatory mediation (if there are contested issues)
If the respondent files an answer, the parties usually must attend at least one mediation session to try to resolve the issues before the case can move forward. Either party may ask that the mediation requirement be waived. The director of dispute resolution programs for the courts, the court, or the mediator may waive the requirement. For more information about mandatory mediation, see our page on Divorce Mediation.
If the respondent files an answer and the parties are able to agree to the terms of the divorce, with or without mediation, the parties can use the OCAP Divorce Stipulation interview to prepare the appropriate documents.
The parties may need to ask for a temporary order governing the parties while the divorce case is moving forward. A temporary order can include provisions for child support and custody, parent time, use of the marital home, payment of debts, and other matters. For more information and forms, see our page on How to get a Temporary Order.
Divorcing spouses may restore the legal name they used before the marriage by including a statement in the petition and decree indicating that their name is being changed. The party should include the complete legal name that is being restored and that will be used again after the divorce.
There are other issues that may need to be resolved in the divorce. For more information, please see our pages on:
Going to trial
The following procedures apply only if the parties are not able to reach an agreement about what the divorce decree should say.
Child custody evaluation
The parties may request a custody evaluation prepared by a professional evaluator. The judge can order a custody evaluation even without a motion from a party. A custody evaluation may be expensive and the cost is often split between the parties. For more information, see Rule 4-903 and our pages on Custody Evaluation and Child Custody and Parent Time.
Before scheduling a trial, the court will require the parties to attend a pretrial conference to make a final attempt to settle the case and, if necessary, to order which issues will go to trial. The pretrial conference may be with a court commissioner in the counties that have a court commissioner.
After a pretrial conference, the court may schedule a trial to hear from both parties and make a final decision. Preparing for and appearing in a trial can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to help you. For more information, see our page on Going to Court.
The parties are not divorced until the judge signs the decree.
After the divorce
A party who disagrees with the judge's decisions and thinks the judge has made a legal mistake may file an appeal, but must do so within 30 days after final entry of the divorce decree. For more information, see our page on Appeals.
Setting aside a judgment
A judgment, including a default judgment, can be set aside if there are good enough reasons for doing so. If a judgment is set aside, the case is reopened for further litigation. A military service member has special rights to set aside a default judgment. To help prepare a motion to set aside a default or other judgment, see our page on Motions. For more information about default judgments, see our page on Default Judgments.
Correcting a clerical error in the decree
If there is a clerical error in the decree, either party may ask the court to enter a corrected decree. A clerical error may be, for example, if the monthly child support payment amount is supposed to be $300 but is mistakenly listed as $30. To help prepare a motion to correct a clerical error in the decree, see our page on Motions.
Modifying a divorce decree
If there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the divorce decree was issued, either party can ask the court to modify the decree. For more information, see our pages on:
Enforcing a divorce decree
A party may ask the court to enforce the divorce decree if the other party is not obeying it. And, a party may ask the court to enforce temporary orders if the other party is not obeying the temporary orders while a divorce is pending. For more information, see our page on Motion to Enforce Domestic Order (Order to Show Cause).
Getting copies of court records
The court provides copies of its records for a fee. There are situations where you may need the court to provide a certified or exemplified copy of a record. There are additional fees for these special copies.
A certified copy of a court record is dated, signed, and stamped by the Clerk of Court certifying that the copy is a true copy of the original court record.
An exemplified court record is an authenticated copy of a certified copy. To authenticate a copy, the judge certifies that the court is a court of record and that the clerk's signature appearing on the certification is original. The Clerk of Court then certifies that the judge is a judge and has control over the court records. The Clerk of Court also states that the judge's signature is genuine. An exemplified record may be required in order to record a judgment or decree in another state.
Some foreign countries will require that a document be authenticated by Apostille. In Utah, the Lieutenant Governor is responsible for providing this kind of authentication by affixing the seal of the State of Utah to the document. The Apostille Request Form (www.authentications.utah.gov) is available on the Lt. Governor's website.
Judicial recognition of a relationship as a marriage
If you are not married, you may be able to obtain a divorce decree to settle child custody, child support, parent time, alimony, and property and debt division, if you first obtain a court order recognizing the relationship as a marriage (what is often referred to as common law marriage). For more information, see our page on Judicial Recognition of a Relationship as a Marriage.
Temporary separation is an optional step spouses may take before filing for divorce, especially if they are not sure they want to divorce, but they need court orders to establish temporary provisions concerning alimony, property and debt management and division, health care insurance, housing, child support, child custody and parent time. For more information, see our page on Temporary Separation.
Separate maintenance allows married couples to legally separate their affairs without obtaining a divorce under limited circumstances. A separate maintenance order governs child custody, child support, parent time, alimony, and property and debt division, but the parties remain married. For more information, see our page on Separate Maintenance.
Annulment makes a marriage null and void—as though it never existed. For more information, see our page on Annulment.
- To complete forms for divorce or divorce stipulation, please see our Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) page.
- Certificate of Divorce, Dissolution of Marriage, or Annulment. This Utah Department of Health form must be filed with the Petition for Divorce or Petition for Annulment.
- Answering a Complaint or Petition
- Child Custody and Parent Time
- Child Support
- Debt Division
- Default Judgments
- Divorce Mediation
- Fee Waiver
- Filing Procedures
- Finding Legal Help
- Going to Court
- How to get a Temporary Order
- Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time
- Judicial Recognition of a Relationship as a Marriage
- Mandatory Education in Divorce and Temporary Separation
- Modifying Child Custody
- Modifying Child Support
- Modifying Parent-time
- Motion to Enforce Domestic Order (Order to Show Cause)
- Ninety-Day Waiting Period in Divorce Cases
- Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP)
- Parenting Plans
- Property Division
- Public and Non-public Records
- Separate Maintenance
- Serving Papers
- Temporary Separation
- Utah Statutes, Title 30, Husband and Wife
- Utah Statutes, Title 78B, Chapter 12, Utah Child Support Act
- Utah Statutes, Title 78B, Chapter 13, Utah Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
- Utah Statutes, Title 78B, Chapter 14, Uniform Interstate Family Support Act