How Long Do You Have to be Separated Before Divorce in Utah?

Utah’s divorce laws do not specify a minimum period for which spouses need to be separated before filing for divorce. However, spouses do need to understand the state’s residency requirements because they are directly linked to the divorce-filing timeline.

How Long Do You Have to be Separated Before Divorce in Utah?
  1. Residency requirements when the custody of minor children IS NOT AN ISSUE
  2. Residency requirements when the custody of minor children IS AN ISSUE
  3. Special residency rules for members of the U.S. armed forces

Residency Requirements When the Custody of Minor Children IS NOT AN ISSUE

Utah’s Code Section 30-3-1 states that before filing for a divorce petition, you or your spouse should have been residing in a single county of Utah for at least three months. If the custody of minor children is not an issue, then either spouse fulfilling this condition can file for a divorce.

For example, suppose you and your spouse were residents of Salt Lake County for a few years. After separation, you moved to Morgan County while your spouse continued to reside in Salt Lake County. In case both you and your spouse are in agreement about the custody of your minor children, or if you do not have any minor children, you are allowed to file a petition for divorce in Salt Lake County because you have resided there for a few years. But if you want to file for divorce in Morgan County, you need to wait for 3 months before petitioning for divorce in its district court.

The reason behind the residency requirements is to ensure that either spouse is not inconvenienced and that the rights of both spouses to access the divorce system are balanced. If the residency requirement was not specified, either spouse could have filed for divorce in a state in which laws favored him/her.

Residency Requirements When the Custody of Minor Children IS AN ISSUE

If there is an issue connected to the custody of minor children, then the law requires that the minor child must reside with at least one of the parents in Utah for a minimum of six months before either spouse files for divorce. However, there is an exception:

Utah’s laws can waive this 6-month waiting period for parents with minor children so long both the parents attend the “Mandatory Education in Divorce and Temporary Separation” course conducted by an approved provider. Or, the parents can simply agree that Utah will take home-state jurisdiction over the children so Utah courts can have authority to make decisions regarding the children.

In this educational course, parents learn about the various stages of grief in a divorce. They also learn about how children experience divorce based on their age group and understanding of the things going on in their lives, what help children need in adjusting to the divorce, how to communicate with the children, what children should and shouldn’t know, how to promote the child’s self-esteem and boost his morale, how to decrease conflict, how to have a meaningful relationship with children post-divorce, and the monetary and legal implications of divorce.

The course also educates parents about how they can strengthen the marriage, resolve custody or child support issues without petitioning for divorce, the pros and cons of divorce, and the procedures involved in divorce litigation, collaborative divorce, and mediation processes.

Special Residency Rules for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces

If a member of the U.S. armed forces, who is not a legal resident of Utah, wants to file a divorce petition, then the law requires that he/she should be stationed, under military orders, in Utah for three months after filing the divorce petition.

In general, after a spouse files a divorce petition, the soonest a Utah court could grant the divorce, is 30 days after the filing date in cases in which both the spouses mutually agree to each other’s terms. Courts wait for 30 days in the hope that both spouses cool down and reconcile. High-conflict cases or cases in which fault has to be proven can take much longer.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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