It is not strictly necessary for a marital separation to lead to divorce. Sometimes spouses are unable to live together at present but hope to reconcile in the future. Or, perhaps, the spouses have no intention to ever live together but do not want a divorce. If the spouses are amicable or if there is nothing to fight about, such a separation could go for years without the need for legal help. But, sometimes, there are children. Or, disputed property or finances—particularly if one spouse needs support. If you are facing such a situation, Utah law provides a couple of options. It is possible to iron these things out in court without getting divorced. The two options are discussed below. Here at Christensen Law, our attorneys can counsel you regarding your options. Once you know how you would like to proceed, we can help you move forward.
Motion for Temporary Separation Order
For a small fee, either spouse may ask a Utah court for a temporary separation order. The court can then make orders regarding custody, visitation, support, property, etc. To qualify, the parties must be married to each other. Both must have lived in Utah for at least ninety days prior to filing for the temporary separation order. The order is temporary and, on its own, lasts for only one year. The year is basically long enough for the parties to either reconcile or move on to divorce. Indeed, temporary separation is treated as a half step toward divorce.
The parties must attend divorce education and divorce orientation. Either party has the option to file a divorce and consolidate with temporary separation order case. And, the fee for the temporary separation will count toward the divorce case fee. Temporary separation orders carry over into the divorce case until new orders or until the divorce trial. Temporary separation is best for when spouses hope to reconcile but intend to divorce if reconciliation does not happen.
Petition for Separate Maintenance
Separate maintenance is a something of a relic. It was an avenue for spouses who could not obtain a divorce but needed alimony and other support. Despite divorces now being easier to obtain, separate maintenance remains for those that desire it. Separate maintenance proceedings are similar to divorce proceedings in almost all respects but do not end in divorce. The court stops at the division of property and debt, alimony, custody, and child support. The responding party must be a resident of Utah. Separate maintenance is best for those who have no intention to live together but also have no intention of divorcing. It should be noted that one spouse filing for separate maintenance will not stop the other spouse from filing for divorce. Persons interested in separate maintenance should carefully consider their options and consider consulting an attorney.