In Utah, separation from your spouse before filing for divorce is not mandatory. However, you need to be aware of the following:
The Mandatory Waiting Period in a Utah Divorce
According to Utah Code Section 30-3-18, once a divorce petition is filed, there will be a mandatory waiting period of 30 days before a judge will sign and finalize a divorce. This period is also referred to as the “cooling off” period, and it is set as such because it gives the spouses a chance to reconcile or rethink any hasty divorce decision they may have made.
If either spouse wants the waiting period to be waived, he/she must prove to the Utah courts that the waiver is justified by extraordinary circumstances.
Optional Temporary Separation in Utah
Sometimes, a spouse may need a pause in the marriage, and he/she may decide to live separately for some time (perhaps to shed the negativity that has built up in the marriage or to contemplate some problems and resolve them). After this period of separation, or even during this period, he/she may decide either to file for divorce or reconcile with the spouse – whatever he/she does, the fact is that the couple stays legally married during this period of separation. All the marital property the spouses have accumulated during the marriage remains jointly owned until the divorce.
In Utah, if a spouse wants to stay separately for some time but is not sure whether divorce is the solution to the marital problems, then he/she has the option to petition the district courts for a temporary separation order (Utah Code Section 30-3-4.5). The only requirements are that the spouses should be lawfully married and should have lived in Utah for at least 90 days.
The temporary separation order covers terms of temporary provisions regarding spousal support, property division, debt division, insurance, child support, parenting time, and child custody during the separation period.
Temporary separation gives adequate time and space to both the spouses to identify and resolve problems in the marriage, understand each other’s points of view, shed negativity, self-improve, discuss the sticking points, and perhaps, reconcile. On the flipside, a temporary separation may motivate either spouse to separate every time there is an argument or fight, and all the resulting negativity may trigger a divorce.
Before filing for a temporary separation order, both spouses should think through marital property distribution, living arrangements, expenses, child custody, parenting time, alimony, and sexual relations during the separation period.
A temporary separation order is valid for 12 months from the date of hearing. If either spouse files for divorce during this period, then the order’s validity gets extended until the divorce is complete. Also, if the couple has a minor child, both spouses are required to attend a divorce education course.