Step By Step Process For Divorce

Understanding the divorce process can relieve a lot of anxiety. Not knowing what to expect can be both scary and confusing. It’s important to know from the outset that virtually every divorce case will be assigned a judge and a commissioner. A commissioner is a quasi-judge that handles only domestic relations cases. Usually these individuals were practicing family law attorneys before they were commissioners, so they have a robust understanding of the divorce process. These commissioners will make decisions in your case the same way a judge would, and their decisions become court orders. Judges and commissioners are human and come with their own preferences, biases, and peculiarities. While they do their best to set aside those things and make decisions entirely based on law, family law attorneys understand that outcomes on key issues in the case (i.e. issues regarding custody, alimony, parent-time, etc.) may vary from judge to judge or commissioner to commissioner. So, just because you’re getting a divorce under the same circumstances as your friend doesn’t mean you’re going to have the same results.  

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce means the spouses have worked out an agreement and their divorce attorneys file the proper paperwork with the court to finalize the divorce. This generally plays out like this:

  1. One spouse files a petition for divorce with the court and serves the paperwork upon their spouse. 
  2. The other spouse hires an attorney to help negotiate the terms of divorce.  
  3. The two attorneys work together to draft up a “Stipulation” with the agreed upon terms, and everyone signs it.
  4. The documents are filed with the court. 
  5. The parties wait out the mandatory 30-day waiting period in Utah divorces.
  6. The judge reviews the documents and, if everything is in order, signs a Decree of Divorce terminating the marriage.  

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce means the spouses do not agree on some or all of the issues in the divorce. This could mean anything from custody to child support, alimony to property division. There are a dozen or more pathways through a contested divorce, but here’s an example of what one may look like:

  1. One spouse files a petition for divorce with the court and serves the paperwork upon their spouse. 
  2. The other spouse hires an attorney to draft and file an answer and their own petition for divorce.  
  3. Both parties take the mandatory divorce orientation and education courses.  
  4. Both parties must provide all of their financial information to the other (income, expenses, debts, and a list of major assets). 
  5. The parties attend mediation (which is required in a Utah divorce), but they still cannot resolve the issues. 
  6. The parties begin discovery (the process of gathering information to support their case and attack the other spouse’s case). 
  7. One or both spouses file motions (a request) to have the court address certain issues while the divorce is pending (i.e. set a parent-time schedule, award child support or alimony on a temporary basis, allow access to vehicles or property, etc.).  
  8. Both spouses attend a pre-trial conference, where the judge sets the date of trial. 
  9. A trial is held where the judge decides all the issues. 

Less than 5% of cases go to trial. The rest settle at mediation or after the parties have a few court hearings and they can see the direction the court is heading on big issues like custody and alimony. We have also seen many cases resolve in the weeks or days before trial. It’s also worth noting that the process outlined above can take more than a year; it takes more emotional stamina and mental energy than most people realize to litigate a divorce for such a long period of time and many find themselves just wanting to be done with it all and move on with their lives.  

Call Red Law Today

No one wants to have to go through divorce proceedings, but should you find yourself needing to, know you can rely on Red Law attorneys to aggressively work for you to make the process as smooth as possible. Schedule a consultation with us to begin.

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