There are some unique requirements when filing for Divorce in Utah. While this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive in any way, it will give you a few things to think about as you prepare to file your divorce.
(1) Know the Three Month Residency Rule
According to Utah law, the Petitioner (the one filing the divorce) or the Respondent (the spouse that must respond to the filing for divorce) must be residents of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months prior to the actual filing. So, if you live in Ogden and you want to file a divorce in the Weber County court, you (or your soon-to-be-ex-spouse) must have lived in Weber County for at least three months before you file your divorce. While this doesn’t initially seem like a big deal, it certainly can be. We have litigated divorces before where getting the case dismissed because the three month residency rule wasn’t met turned out to be hugely advantageous to our client.
(2) Consider an Acceptance of Service
Having someone show up at your door–or even your place of work–and throw divorce papers at you saying, “You’ve been served,” is a pretty decent way to start a war. If that’s what you’re going for then keep at it (and we understand, sometimes war is necessary), but if you’re wanting to get through a divorce as amicably as possible then try an acceptance of service. An acceptance of service is a document that you or your attorney delivers with the divorce papers that essentially says, “I acknowledge that I have received a copy of the Petition for Divorce and that I have a limited time in which to respond to them.”
(3) Take the Divorce Orientation and Education Classes Early
If you have minor children between you and the spouse you’re divorcing then you will need to take the divorce orientation and education courses. It used to be that you could only take them in person, but the court has now provided options for people to take these courses online. There is a fee for both of these classes. The Divorce Education course is $35 and the Divorce Orientation course is $30, but you can get a discount if you attend the course soon after the divorce was filed. More importantly, however, is the fact that some courts will not allow you to pursue certain remedies or won’t schedule certain hearings unless you’ve completed these courses.
(4) Don’t be Too Nice in Your Initial Petition for Divorce
The first document you file with the court will be your Petition for Divorce. This document will set forth everything you’re asking for: legal and physical custody, child support, alimony, your favorite dishes, that kitchen table your parents gave you, and money out of the joint savings account. Occasionally we have clients that don’t want to come across too harsh in this initial filing, so they ask us to draft up a document that they hope won’t offend their spouse. We remind our clients of two main things:
- Anything you ask for in your initial papers can be bargained away in negotiation. So, if as you move through the divorce process you find your spouse being surprisingly agreeable and fair, you can return the favor and discard some of those terms that were in your initial filing.
- Chances are, your spouse is going to file a harsh counter-petition for divorce. It can be a disconcerting thing to file what you feel is a fair Petition for Divorce only to have your spouse turn around and file a counter-petition that seems to be anything but fair, but that’s probably what’s going to happen.
(5) Don’t Forget a Parenting Plan
If you’re asking for any kind of joint custody (joint legal or joint physical) then you must file a parenting plan. A parenting plan is exactly what it sounds like: a plan for parenting children. These plans may include provisions about how both parties should maintain a stable, loving, and consistent relationship with the child; how healthcare and daycare should be managed; how certain decisions should be made regarding the child’s various activities, etc. Forgetting to include a parenting plan can prohibit you from getting what you’re asking for in the early stages of your divorce, like in a temporary orders hearing.
(6) File a Military Service Affidavit
Whenever you file for divorce you must file a “military service affidavit,” or proper documentation showing that the spouse you’re divorcing isn’t away on military duties and has the ability to answer the divorce. If you do have a spouse serving in the military, make sure you time your filing appropriately. Having a spouse get deployed in the middle of a custody battle can complicate things, as you can imagine.