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Legal Information: Utah

Utah Divorce

Laws current as of
November 19, 2020

Basic information about divorce in Utah. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.

What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Utah?

A judge may grant a divorce in Utah if you or your spouse has been a resident of Utah and a resident of the county where you filed for at least three months before filing your complaint for divorce.1 The judge may also grant you a divorce in Utah if you are a member of the U.S. armed forces, but are not a legal resident of Utah, and have been stationed in Utah for three months before filing for divorce.2

1 Utah Code § 30-3-1(2); “Divorce,” Utah Courts website
2 Utah Code § 30-3-1(2)

What are the grounds for divorce in Utah?

Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for divorce. The judge may grant you a “no-fault” divorce:

  • based on irreconcilable differences;1 or
  • when you and your spouse have lived separately with a court order of separate maintenance (alimony) for three years in a row.2

A judge may also grant you a fault-based divorce if you can prove that your spouse:

  • is a man who is unable to have sex (is naturally impotent);
  • had sex with someone else (committed adultery) after you got married;
  • stopped living with you as your spouse (committed “willful desertion”) for more than one year;
  • stopped providing for your common needs (committed “willful neglect”);
  • is habitually drunk;
  • was convicted of a felony after you got married;
  • is so cruel to you that s/he causes you physical injury or great mental distress; or
  • is incurably insane.3

1 Utah Code § 30-3-1(3)(h)
2 Utah Code § 30-3-1(3)(j)
3 Utah Code § 30-3-1(3)(a)-(g),(i)

Can I get alimony?

Alimony is financial support paid by one spouse to the other.

A judge in Utah may order alimony after considering certain factors and under certain conditions. Usually, alimony can only be ordered for as many years as the marriage lasted. However, if the judge believes that there are extreme facts (extenuating circumstances) to allow alimony to be continued for longer, the judge can order it.1 If you are asking for alimony, the judge must first consider:

  • your financial needs and current financial condition;
  • your ability to earn your own income, including whether you have less work experience because you have been raising children;
  • whether your spouse can afford to pay alimony;
  • how long the marriage was;
  • whether you have custody of any minor children who need support;
  • whether you worked in a business owned and operated by the other spouse;
  • whether you helped to increase the other spouse’s skills by paying for his/her education or helping him/her attend school during the marriage;2
  • the way you and your spouse lived (standard of living) during the marriage and at the time you separated;3
  • whether, due to both of your efforts, a major change in income was going to happen right before you and your spouse separated;4
  • fault of one of the spouses; and
  • any other relevant factors.3

The judge may, under appropriate circumstances, grant an amount of alimony that would bring you and your spouse to an equal standard of living.5 If your marriage was short and no children were born or conceived during the marriage, the judge may consider ordering alimony in an amount that would bring you and your spouse back (restore) to your financial condition at the time when you got married.6

1 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(j)
2 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(a)(i)-(vii)
3 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(e)
4 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(g)
5 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(f)
6 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(h)

Will a judge consider who is at fault for the end of the marriage when making a decision about alimony?

Possibly. A judge may consider the fault of the parties in the marriage’s end when deciding whether or not to order alimony and how much to order. A spouse can be considered at fault when s/he behaves in a certain way that contributes to the breakup of the marriage. A spouse could be at fault if s/he:

  • had sex with someone else;
  • caused or tried to cause physical harm to the other spouse or to a minor child on purpose (knowingly and intentionally);
  • caused the other spouse or a minor child to reasonably fear life-threatening harm on purpose (knowingly and intentionally); or
  • damaged (undermined) the financial stability of the other spouse or a minor child.1

Note: If a judge finds fault, s/he may close the court to the public and seal the court records.2

1 Utah Code § 30-3-5(8)(b),(c)
2 Utah Code § 30-3-5(8)(d)

Can a judge change or end my alimony order?

A judge can change an alimony order although it may be difficult to accomplish. A Utah court will have continuing power (jurisdiction) to change the alimony order or make new alimony orders if there is a “substantial material change in circumstances” that the judge could not have thought of or expected during the divorce case. The judge can also change the order if the party retires, unless the divorce decree states otherwise. However, the judge cannot change an alimony order or issue a new alimony order to address a new need that you (the person receiving alimony) may have if it did not exist during the divorce, unless the judge believes there are extreme facts (extenuating circumstances).1

Also, the judge cannot consider the income of the paying spouse’s new spouse to be a substantial change in circumstances in order to increase the amount of alimony that s/he pays in determining alimony, except to consider:

  • the new spouse’s ability to share living expenses; or
  • if the paying spouse’s bad behavior (improper conduct) justifies that consideration.2

A judge can also end (terminate) your alimony order under certain conditions. In Utah, you would stop receiving alimony when:

  • you die;
  • you get married again, and the marriage is not annulled; or
  • your spouse files to end alimony because you are living with another person as though you’re a married couple (cohabiting). Your spouse must file to end alimony within one year of when s/he knew or should have known that you were cohabiting with someone else.3

1 Utah Code § 30-3-5(10)
2 Utah Code § 30-3-5(8)(i)(i)-(iii)
3 Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)-(10)(b)

What are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.

  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.

  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse. (To learn more about filing a summons, preparing a petition, and service of process, go to the Starting the Court Case page in our Preparing for Court - By Yourself section.)

  • Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.

  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Where can I find additional information about divorce?

We hope the following links to outside sources may provide helpful information.

The Utah Courts website has the following divorce resources:

Utah Legal Services provides answers to some frequently asked questions about divorce, including questions about grounds for divorce.

WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.