What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Utah?

Grounds for divorce in Utah

The Utah code lists ten separate grounds for divorce – or legally acceptable reasons to end a marriage. Before 1987, all divorces in Utah had to be filed on the grounds of fault. Now, probably the most common and well-known grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences, which are frequently cited in no-fault divorces.

At times, filing for a divorce on the grounds of fault may be the right choice. This may involve citing grounds such as adultery, cruel treatment, or willful neglect.

Every marriage is unique, which is why it is a wise move to consult a divorce lawyer to explore your options. He or she will listen carefully and compassionately to you and will also take into account the best interests of your kids when advising you on the right grounds for divorce in your situation. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at each of the ten grounds for divorce open to people in Utah.

The Ten Grounds for Divorce in Utah

Each state has its own divorce laws. Utah law only applies if you fulfill the Utah residency requirement. You or your spouse must have lived in one Utah county for 3 months or more before filing for divorce.

  1. Impotency

In legal terms, impotence is the inability to perform sexual intercourse. The impotency may be caused by a mental or physical condition. For this to be a legitimate grounds for divorce, the inability must have been present at the time of the marriage and have prevented the consummation of the marriage. Impotence that develops after consummation of the marriage would not be considered grounds for divorce.

Although the term “impotence” is usually associated with men as grounds for divorce, it can also apply to women. Proving impotence usually requires medical evidence, such as medical records or the testimony of a medical expert.

  1. Adultery

Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse. Utah divorce laws require you to prove adultery when you file for divorce on these grounds.

While there is no obligation to provide direct evidence that a sexual act took place, the petitioner (the spouse making the accusation) may present strong circumstantial evidence, such as:

  • Phone records
  • Hotel receipts
  • Written communication, such as texts and emails
  • Photos
  • Evidence that he or she entered the home of the alleged lover in the evening and left the following morning

The respondent (the spouse alleged to have committed adultery) may try to argue that by remaining in the relationship after the adultery was committed, the petitioner condoned the adultery.

Whether you are the petitioner or respondent spouse, a Utah divorce attorney is well-placed to guide you through your legal options.

  1. Willful desertion

Under Utah law, there are two forms of willful desertion: physical abandonment and constructive abandonment.

Physical abandonment happens when one spouse leaves the other for more than 1 year. For this situation to qualify as desertion rather than separation, the decision must have been unilateral – that is, one spouse abandoned the other.

Constructive abandonment means that one spouse created an environment in which the other could not bear to live, forcing them to leave the marital home. Some grounds may include domestic violence, refusal to engage in sexual intercourse, or failing to provide financial support.

Notably, if one spouse leaves the marital home and entrusts the children to the care of the offending spouse, this could have an impact on child custody arrangements later.

  1. Willful neglect

Willful neglect occurs when one party fails to provide for the basic needs of the other spouse. This does not refer to providing a better standard of living but rather means failing to provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter.

To qualify as willful neglect, the offending spouse would likely have been providing these necessities for himself or herself but deliberately not for his or her spouse.

  1. Habitual drunkenness

Problem drinking can take a huge toll on a marriage. Habitual drunkenness does not refer to being continually intoxicated. However, he or she must frequently overindulge in alcohol to the point of being intoxicated for this to serve as valid grounds for divorce.

Some evidence of habitual drunkenness may include the following:

  • Eyewitness testimony
  • A police reports, if relevant
  • Rehab bills
  • Video footage

While it may be simpler to file a no-fault divorce, there can be benefits to filing on the grounds of habitual drunkenness. As your priority may be to protect your minor children, proving habitual drunkenness may help you gain primary child custody to keep them safe.

  1. Conviction for a felony

When either spouse commits a felony, the other spouse automatically has grounds for divorce in Utah.

  1. Cruel treatment

To qualify as cruel treatment under Utah law, the respondent must have caused “bodily injury or

great mental distress to the petitioner.”

This is a rather broad definition that could apply to many forms of domestic violence and other actions that cause mental harm, including:

  • Physical abuse: Incidents of hitting, punching, slapping, or other forms of violence causing physical injury
  • Psychological abuse: Verbal threats, abuse, intimidation, manipulation, and other forms of mistreatment that cause mental harm to the petitioner
  • Financial exploitation: Deliberately exploiting the petitioner for financial gain, including withholding financial support or highly controlling behavior

This is just a snapshot of the types of cruel treatment that could be valid grounds for divorce in Utah. While it is painful to discuss these personal matters, an experienced and compassionate divorce attorney has the experience and skills to provide the right advice and gently guide you through the divorce process.

  1. Irreconcilable differences

In 1987, “irreconcilable differences” were introduced in Utah as grounds for a no-fault divorce. This provision allows both parties to walk away from the marriage without making accusations of wrong conduct against the other. In essence, it states that the couple has serious marital problems, and there is no hope of this situation improving.

However, citing irreconcilable differences involves more than just ticking a box on a form. Before the judge signs the divorce decree, he or she may ask for more information. You should be ready to provide some details as to why you have decided that ending the marriage is the only way forward.

  1. Incurable insanity

When one spouse suffers a complete and irreversible mental breakdown, the grief of the other spouse may be overwhelming. Under Utah law, this forms grounds for divorce only when the respondent has been judged insane by the time the divorce process begins and competent witnesses testify that the insanity is incurable.

Clearly, someone who has been diagnosed as incurably insane requires someone to protect his or her interests. Under Utah divorce laws, the court will appoint a guardian to protect his or her interests, and the case will be investigated by the county attorney.

  1. 3 years of separation

Utah law requires more than simply being apart for 3 years. The couple must have lived apart “under a decree of separate maintenance.”

How Annulments Differ From Divorces

You may feel that none of the grounds above adequately describe the reason you want to end your marriage. It may be that you actually want to apply for an annulment.

An annulment can be requested on the following grounds:

  • Fraud: You entered into marriage on the basis of a substantial and material untruth.
  • Lack of disclosure: One party failed to reveal a substantial and material fact prior to marriage that would have affected your decision to marry. This could include previous marriages or a criminal history.
  • Lack of capacity: The person was incapable of marrying legally at the time of the marriage.

It can be very difficult to understand your rights without the help of Utah legal services. A divorce attorney will listen carefully to your experience and provide tailored divorce advice that is right for your situation.

Fault and No-Fault Divorce in Utah

In Utah, filing spouses are obliged to inform the court of the reason they want to end their marriage, and it must be one of the reasons explained above. However, depending on the grounds, the divorce may be considered to be a fault or no-fault divorce.

Fault divorce

In a fault divorce, one spouse proves that the other spouse’s wrong conduct caused their marriage to fail.

Some of the most common grounds cited in fault divorces are:

  • Infidelity
  • Cruelty, often stemming from domestic violence
  • Drug abuse
  • Abandonment

More complicated and potentially more costly than no-fault divorces, fault divorces may require more court visits which could last for many months. Additionally, these can cause great mental distress and be acrimonious.

Divorcing on the grounds of fault may be more likely to lead to a contested divorce. One spouse may object to the grounds for divorce put forward by the other. However, there are several reasons why a fault divorce may be the right option.

For example, under Utah law, fault can play a part in whether the court awards alimony and the terms of spousal support. Also, if you have concerns about your children’s safety due to the conduct of your spouse, filing a divorce petition on fault grounds may help you gain primary physical custody of your children.

No-fault divorce

Utah law allows for no-fault divorces on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. In other words, the couple feels the marriage is no longer working for them and will not be able to change that. Couples can also file for a no-fault divorce in Utah if they have been legally separated in any state for 3 years.

For many couples, a no-fault divorce is the quickest and simplest way to end their marriage. There is no requirement to gather evidence of fault, and the straightforward divorce process can help keep relations between former spouses more friendly.

Choosing the best option

Without legal knowledge, it is difficult to know the right grounds to choose when filing a divorce petition. However, when you schedule a consultation with a Utah divorce attorney, he or she will discuss the pros and cons of a fault divorce with you. This can help you to decide whether this is the right course to pursue in your situation.

Get Personal Attention at Brown Family Law

Navigating Utah divorce laws and choosing the right grounds for divorce can be tricky. You want the divorce process to be as uncomplicated as possible, but you may also want to ensure that you do not lose out on spousal support or your fair share of marital property.

At Brown Family Law, our Utah divorce lawyers are here to guide you every step of the way. We understand the strain that divorce can put on spouses and children. We deliberately limit the number of cases we take on to give our clients the personal attention and communication they need at every stage of the Utah divorce process.

Our compassionate yet determined divorce lawyers are waiting to discuss your case with you. Reach out today to schedule an initial consultation by calling 801-685-9999 or filling out our online form, and we will call you back soon.

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