The decision to end a marriage is never a simple or an easy one. Not only is divorce complex on a deeply personal and emotional level – it can also be complicated from a legal and financial standpoint as well. There’s no question that filing for divorce in Utah is a major undertaking, but you can help make the process faster, smoother, and easier on everyone involved by taking some basic steps to prepare yourself. This step-by-step guide to getting ready for divorce can help you get started.
Step 1: Establish the Grounds
There are two types of divorce: fault divorce, and no-fault divorce. The difference lies in the nature of the “grounds,” or formal reasons for the divorce.
No-fault divorce is fairly self-explanatory, and simply means that neither spouse was at “fault” based on a specific behavior or action. For example, irreconcilable differences are well-known grounds for no-fault divorce. Neither spouse necessarily did anything wrong – there are simply fundamental differences that cannot be overcome. In addition to irreconcilable differences, other grounds for no-fault divorce include long-term separation, where the spouses are physically apart (not cohabitating) for at least three years. Some couples initially try a trial separation to determine whether divorce is truly the right step for their marriage.
By comparison, fault divorce involves identifying a specific issue within the marriage. The eight recognized fault grounds for divorce in Utah are:
- Alcoholism (Habitual Drunkenness)
- Cruel Treatment
- Felony Conviction
- Incurable Insanity
- Willful Desertion
- Willful Neglect (Failure to Provide)
There are two key reasons why you have to think about the grounds you will cite:
- You will eventually have to identify the grounds for divorce during the legal proceedings.
- Different grounds come with different waiting periods. For example, willful desertion must last for at least one year.
Step 2: Gather the Forms, Documents, and Paperwork
Put simply, divorce tends to involve a large amount of calculation and paperwork. By going through your records and gathering supporting documents in advance, you’ll be able to fill out your divorce forms that much faster when the time comes.
One of the most paperwork-intensive parts of the divorce process involves completing the Financial Declaration, an in-depth financial overview which is used for determining how property gets divided. The Financial Declaration will ask you (and your spouse) to supply detailed information about your personal income, debts, assets, and spending habits, which means you should prepare by gathering as many of the following documents as possible, where applicable:
- Bank and Financial Statements:
- Certificates of Deposit
- Checking Account Statements
- Money Market Funds
- Savings Account Statements
- Credit Card Statements
- Insurance Documents
- Lien Documents
- Loan Applications
- Major Purchase Receipts
- Mortgage Deeds
- Pay Stubs
- Property Leases
- Real Estate Appraisal Forms
- Social Security Documents
- Tax Documents:
- Federal Income Tax Returns
- Form 1040
- Form 1099
- Form W-2
- State Income Tax Returns
- Utility Bills
- Work History Reports
You should also be ready with basic documentation, such as your marriage certificate, your driver’s license and/or state ID card, and any relevant wills dealing with matters of inheritance.
Step 3: Contact a Divorce Attorney for Legal Help
It might seem biased for an attorney to advise getting legal help, but there are many important reasons why you should strongly consider seeking a lawyer to represent you in the divorce proceedings to come. For example, your attorney will be able to help:
- Prepare and file the numerous legal forms required for getting divorced.
- Prevent you from being unfairly taken advantage of by your spouse or your spouse’s attorney.
- Make sure you understand your legal rights throughout all stages of the divorce process.
- Make sure you comply with all of your legal responsibilities in a timely and accurate manner.
- Keep the proceedings as civil and neutral as possible.
- Advocate for a favorable alimony and/or child custody arrangement.
- Appeal a decision if you disagree with the judge’s findings.
- Handle special measures in cases involving actual or threatened domestic violence.
If you’re planning on getting divorced in Utah, or if you’ve already been served with divorce papers and don’t know what to do next, Darwin Overson can help. Darwin is an experienced divorce attorney well-versed in Utah family law, and offers free initial consultations. To start discussing your situation in a free and completely private legal consultation, call now (801) 758-2287.