In a divorce in Utah, all marital property is distributed equitably to the wife.
The equitable property distribution rule states that marital property should be distributed fairly instead of splitting it on a 50/50 basis. Though the rule of equitable marital property/debt distribution holds in Utah, division on a 50/50 basis happens in most cases. But, there are some exceptions to this rule.
A wife in a Utah divorce is entitled to a fair share in the marital property acquired during the marriage, plus a fair share in the non-marital property if it is co-mingled along with the marital property during the marriage. Specifically, she is entitled to get an equitable share in real property (land, house, buildings), personal property (movable assets like cars, jewelry, furniture, tools, dishes), and retirement/pension plan benefits. Aside from a share in the marital property, the wife may also get alimony and child support.
The Equitable Property Distribution Rule
Before distributing property equitably to the wife, the courts in Utah take into account the money contributed by each spouse towards the assets and consider whether it is fair to give a majority share of the assets to the spouse who has invested a larger or the entire sum. The courts also consider the income and earning capacity of both spouses, their age, education, and health, the non-monetary contribution of each spouse to the marriage, the number of years that the marriage lasted, and certain specific factors that depend on the circumstances in each case.
However, there are three exceptions to the equitable property distribution rule:
Three Exceptions to the Equitable Property Distribution Rule
1. Separate Marital Property
Separate property represents a property that originally belonged to a spouse before marriage and was kept separate throughout the marriage. It also includes gifts or inheritance received by either spouse during the marriage. Courts award separate marital property to the spouse who originally owned it, and had it in his/her name during the marriage (i.e., it was not mingled with the common marital assets).
2. Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements contain the rights of each spouse to separate and common marital property, the protection each spouse gets from the debts of the other spouse, property distribution in the event of death, separation, or divorce, and any other applicable issues.
A prenuptial agreement can take precedence over Utah’s equitable property distribution rule. If it says that an entire property should go to a spouse, then that property goes to the beneficiary spouse and is not subject to Utah’s equitable property distribution rule.
3. Length of the Marriage
If the marriage is very short, for example, less than a year or two, the court follows the equitable distribution rule by taking into account the individual monetary contribution of each spouse to the property, age, education, earning capacity, health, etc., of each spouse before distributing the property. With that said, the general rule, even for short-term marriages, is 50/50 division. However, in some very short-term marriages, the courts may put spouses back into the financial position they were in before the marriage – that is, each spouse gets the asset that belonged to him/her at the beginning of the marriage.
However, if the marriage lasted for a long time, the courts usually distribute property on a 50/50 basis.