How Long Does Divorce Take in Utah?
Divorce has a nasty reputation for being a slow and lengthy process. But is that reputation justified? From start to finish, how long do Utah divorces usually take to be finalized? What are some the factors that influence the timeline?
How Long Until My Divorce Can Be Finalized?
There is no single, concrete answer to this question, for one very simple reason: no two families are exactly alike, which means no two divorces are exactly alike. The length and complexity of your divorce will depend heavily on factors such as:
- Whether you are able to waive the minimum waiting period.
- Whether you are able to obtain a default judgment.
- Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested
- Whether you have any minor children.
- Whether your spouse files an appeal after the divorce.
Let’s explore how each of these variables can affect your timeline.
Waiving the Minimum Waiting Period
In Utah, there is usually a minimum 90-day waiting period before a divorce may be granted. However, this delay may be waived if you can prove the waiver is warranted by extenuating circumstances. To waive the waiting period, you will need to file a Motion to Waive the 90-Day Waiting Period with the help of a divorce attorney. If your spouse objects by filing a Statement Opposing Motion to Waive 90-day Waiting Period in response, you must then file a Reply. Additionally, the judge will not decide anything until either you or your spouse files a Request to Submit for Decision. You may also request a hearing on the matter.
While 90 days is the minimum duration of most Utah divorce cases, cases which need litigation to settle strong disagreements can take several years.
What if Your Spouse Doesn’t Answer Your Complaint?
The first step in the divorce process is serving a complaint on your spouse. As the party serving the complaint, you are known as the petitioner, while the recipient spouse is referred to as the respondent. Once the respondent is served, he or she has 21 days to answer the complaint (or 30 days if located outside of Utah). If the respondent simply never files an answer, the courts may enter a default judgment. However, that does not mean your divorce will be automatically granted after 21 days — it simply means the respondent loses the opportunity to contest the claims contained within the original petition. As noted above, there is a 90-day waiting period in all but exceptional circumstances.
Is Your Divorce Contested or Uncontested?
If your spouse does not contest or challenge any of the matters addressed by your petition, your divorce will be smoother and will conclude more rapidly than a contested divorce, where disputes arise — and need to be resolved. If you do have a dispute over alimony, child support, child custody, or other aspects of your marriage dissolution, you will be required to participate in mediation. Mediation is a form of conflict resolution which involves a qualified mediator guiding you and your spouse toward a mutually created, mutually acceptable solution. This is very different from litigation, where a judge hands down a decision which you must comply with.
The courts or your mediator may grant your request to waive mediation in extraordinary circumstances.
Do You Have Children Who Are Under 18 Years Old?
If you have minor children, the process automatically becomes longer. This is because all divorcing parents in Utah are required to attend a divorce orientation class, as well as a divorce education class. For greater convenience, you can “attend” the orientation class online for a fee of $30 (per person, not per couple). However, you must still attend the education class live and in-person. The fee for the education course is $35 per person, meaning your total cost would be $65. However, there are several discounts which may be available to you depending on the time elapsed between filing your petition and attending the courses.
If you’re concerned about your child adjusting, you can enroll him or her in an optional divorce education class designed specially for children. This class is available for children aged nine to 12.
What if Your Spouse Files an Appeal?
Just because the judge signed your divorce decree doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done with the process yet. While most divorces remain closed once they’ve been finalized, you should be aware that your spouse does have the option to appeal if he or she disagrees with the judge’s ruling. However, there is a firm deadline to do so: he or she needs to file their appeal within 30 days of the final entry of the decree.
Furthermore, if you or your spouse’s circumstances change dramatically after your divorce is granted, both of you have the right to request a modification to your original child support or child custody plan.
If you’ve been served with divorce papers or are planning on filing for divorce, an attorney can help keep the process as efficient as possible while protecting your legal rights. To set up a free and confidential case evaluation with our family law attorneys, call Utah divorce lawyer Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287 today.