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What You Need to Know About Filing for Divorce in Utah

— November 18, 2022

Pretrial conferences are required for divorcing parties before they can schedule a trial date.

There are many steps involved in filing for divorce in Utah. This overview will give you a general understanding of the process for a Utah divorce—from getting an attorney to child custody. Although the timeframe for divorce is different depending on many factors, this should give you some idea of what to expect before you enter the actual divorce trial proceedings.

You must have grounds to divorce in Utah. Divorcing couples often cite “irreconcilable issues” to justify their divorce. 

However, any of these reasons are acceptable for grounds in Utah: adultery, if one of the spouses left or deserted the other for more than one year, neglect to provide the common necessities of life for the other, habitual drunkenness, conviction for a felony crime, cruel treatment by one spouse to the other to the point of causing physical hard or emotional distress, irreconcilable differences, incurable insanity, and when the couple has been living separately under a “decree of separate maintenance” for three consecutive years.

Does it Matter Which Person Files For Divorce?

It doesn’t really matter which spouse files for divorce. Although there is no legal advantage in filing the divorce petition first, there might be strategic benefits.

One example is that the first person to file a divorce petition may be able to choose the location of the court hearing. If the parties live far apart, this can be a benefit. For example, let’s say the husband lives in Utah County and files the divorce petition there; however, the wife lives in Weber County. Thus, the wife must drive an hour to Utah County to complete all court proceedings. Furthermore, the petitioner who files it first can set the tone for the divorce proceedings.

Petition, Answer, & Counter

Also, after you file your divorce petition, you must have the petition and “summons” served on your spouse by a constable.

The spouse or the opposing party must reply to the petition within 21 days of being served the papers. If they live outside Utah, they have 30 days. This is known as the “answer.” In the answer, the opposing party can list their demands and any issues they want the court to address.

In Utah, if there is no response within 21 days of being served, the spouse that filed it can ask the court for everything they requested. This is known as “Default Judgment.” It occurs when the court enters judgment for one party after the other fails to act within the required time.

Waiting Period

A court in Utah cannot issue a final decree for divorce until 30 days after the original filing of the petition. However, in exceptional circumstances, this 30-day waiting period can be waived.

Despite this, both parties can ask the court to make temporary orders in their divorce proceedings. Temporary orders can address issues that cannot or should not be delayed until the final proceedings are completed. These include child custody, parent support, spousal/alimony support, property division, and money for attorney fees. A temporary order granted by the court will usually be in effect until the final decree of divorce or final orders are made.

Attorney Fees

Utah law states that if one spouse cannot pay the necessary costs to defend themselves in divorce proceedings, a court can order the other spouse to pay the attorney fees, witness fees, and court costs. This is only if the other spouse has the financial resources to afford paying for multiple Utah divorce attorneys.

Parenting-Plan & Child Custody Evaluation

A Parenting Plan must accompany the Petition for Divorce if either party seeks joint legal or physical custody. A parenting plan is a document that outlines how divorcing spouses will share parental responsibilities and care for minor children.

However, if the parties cannot agree on custody and parent time/visitation, the court may order the parties to complete a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation involves a meeting with a custody evaluator, often a child psychologist with Ph.D., who observes and speaks with the parent, children, and other people in their lives—like friends, teachers, etc.

They often conduct psychological testing on the parties and make a recommendation to the judge based on what they have observed and learned. Custody evaluations can be quite costly. The cost will vary depending on how many children and adults are involved, as well as the amount of information gathered from these tests.


Utah requires divorcing spouses to participate in mediation. Divorce mediation is a process where both sides of divorce try to resolve their differences without the involvement of a judge or the court.

Arguing couple; image by Afif Ramdhasuma, via
Arguing couple; image by Afif Ramdhasuma, via

The mediator is a neutral third party who meets with the parties and their attorneys. A mediator is an expert in divorce negotiations and well-informed about Utah child custody laws. They can help each party reach an agreement that addresses their most pressing concerns.

Mediation is best when the parties can resolve their cases easily.

Discovery Process

Discovery is a process of gathering evidence by parties and their lawyers to prove or disprove allegations.

Utah law requires divorce cases to disclose certain information to each other in divorce, custody cases, and other family law cases. Furthermore, each party must give the other a complete financial declaration with all attachments. 

There are several tools that each party has access to in order to obtain information from the other side. These tools can be used by one party to force the other to produce documents, answer open-ended questions about certain items, or admit to important facts.


A motion is filed by a party to ask the court to take action.

Temporary orders can be requested by a party to a case to make them accountable for violating court orders. They may also be used to provide additional protections for children or to protect their privacy. Although there is no limit on the number of motions that can be filed, a judge will ultimately decide whether or not your motion is granted.

Pretrial Conference

Pretrial conferences are required for divorcing parties before they can schedule a trial date.

Pretrial conferences are required for divorcing parties before they can schedule a trial date. Furthermore, a pretrial conference serves three purposes: to discuss the issues that need to be addressed in the trial, resolve any administrative or procedural concerns, and schedule a trial date. This can provide additional opportunities for parties to reach a settlement agreement.

After this, your official divorce trial begins!

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