When you’re going through a divorce, you probably have many questions on your mind. Ending a marriage can be a very complex legal process, and involves issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and property division. Let attorney Darwin Overson help you navigate these matters so you can feel confident that your legal rights are being protected, that your paperwork is timely and accurate, and that you’re in compliance with all of Utah’s divorce laws and procedures.
How Long Will it Take for My Divorce to Be Finalized?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question, as some cases are simply more complex than others. Some divorcing couples may be able to resolve their issues in a matter of months, while others require several years to arrive at a formal finalization. Under Utah law, the absolute minimum amount of time permissible between filing the petition and signing off on the decree is 90 days, meaning the entire process will take at least three months. Factors which can influence the duration of a case include:
- Whether there are any minor children involved. If there are children under 18 years old, not only must parents attend mandatory divorce education classes, they must also create a valid and enforceable child custody plan to address how parent time will be divided. While Utah permits and even encourages parents to try and create their own custody arrangements, the courts will intervene to impose their own plan if a couple is unwilling or unable to agree on the details. While the courts will consider your child’s personal preference (provided he or she is old enough to make informed decisions), their ultimate concern is protecting your child’s welfare. Custody plans may be sole or joint. If you have more than one child, the courts may order split custody, which means each parent gets sole custody of one or more siblings.
- Whether the spouse receiving the divorce complaint decides to contest the petition. If there are any contested issues which the recipient wants to debate, the parties will typically be required to attend mediation under the guidance of a neutral, qualified mediator. It may be possible to waive this mediation requirement in some cases. Conversely, if the recipient party simply fails to respond to the complaint, the courts may enter something called a default judgment. If a default judgment is granted, the recipient spouse will not have the opportunity to contest any issues from the original petition.
- Whether there are any significant assets or property considerations requiring complex financial calculations. On a related note, parties who do not have prenuptial agreements in place may take longer to resolve their disputes than parties who do have prenuptial agreements, which can serve as helpful guidelines in the event of divorce.
How Are Child Support and Alimony Decided?
Alimony is sometimes called spousal or domestic support. Contrary to popular belief, alimony is not decided by gender, and may be paid or received by either spouse. Under Utah’s laws, alimony is usually not ordered to last any longer than the length of the marriage itself, so for example, a twelve-year marriage would typically be capped at twelve years of alimony. However, extended alimony may be ordered if there are any special extenuating circumstances, such as a sudden change in income or serious decline in health. Similarly, alimony plans may also be terminated if extenuating circumstances arise. Factors which influence alimony include:
- The duration of the marriage.
- How much money each spouse makes.
- Whether either spouse is caring for children.
Like alimony, child support is a complex calculation which takes many different variables into account. To determine precisely how much child support a non-custodial parent should pay, the courts will look at three basic factors:
- The base child support, which is outlined in detail at Section 78B-12-301 of the Utah Code.
- Any special medical expenses the child may have.
- Any child care expenses, which fluctuate with age. (For example, a baby has very different expenses than a 12-year-old.)
If you disagree with the court’s assessment, you may request that the court modifies your original support order. Your specific circumstances will determine whether you need to file a motion, or a petition. In either case, attorney Darwin Overson can guide you through the appropriate procedures to help you meet deadlines and comply with Utah’s laws.
West Valley City divorce lawyer Darwin Overson offers free initial consultations to all new clients, and will always keep your information confidential. To set up a private case evaluation, call (801) 758-2287 today.