In divorce and family law cases involving children, the court must ascertain whether it has custody jurisdiction. In other words, the court must make a determination about whether it has authority to decide custody and visitation issues.

Custody jurisdiction is not a big issue in the average family law case. The other parent in the case often lives in the same state, as do the children. But sometimes, the courts of another state have jurisdiction. Sometimes, this is because the other parent lives out-of-state and is pursuing an out-of-state divorce.

Custody jurisdiction is governed in most states by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Utah is one of the states that has adopted the UCCJEA as part of its child custody law. This blog post speaks as to Utah’s version of UCCJEA.

Generally speaking, in new cases, UCCJEA provides that the home state of the child has custody jurisdiction. The home state is where the child has lived (with a parent figure) for the six months before the case begins. For children younger than six months, it is the state in which they have resided since birth with a parent. If the child moves to a new state with one parent, and the other remains, the original state retains jurisdiction for six months. The jurisdiction question becomes more complicated under different circumstances. For instance, both parents might move to different states at the same time.

Once a court has made a custody decision in a case, it has exclusive continuing jurisdiction over custody. This can be problematic if parents need to modify custody, but have moved since the last court order. Unless jurisdiction is changed, parents seeking to modify custody will need to come to the court with jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction can be changed. And there are certain circumstances where it may be desirable for the parents to make that change, transferring child custody to another state. For example, if both parents have left the state, they want a court closer to them to have jurisdiction.

In Utah, the jurisdiction change process typically begins with registering the original custody order with the court. This will get Utah to acknowledge the existence of the order. But it does not give Utah jurisdiction. From there, there are then some different avenues to get jurisdiction changed to Utah. If the Utah court can ascertain that neither parent lives in the original state and that the child is in Utah, it might be able to take jurisdiction. With the cooperation of the original court, a Utah court can also decide to take jurisdiction.

The process for changing jurisdiction can be complicated for even attorneys and judges. The answers and procedures often depend on facts unique to each family’s situation. The attorneys at Christensen Law have experience with UCCJEA and with parental rights in Utah. They can help you evaluate your specific factual situation and explain how UCCJEA applies to your case. They can then help you navigate the process for registering your custody order and asking for a change in jurisdiction.

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How Do You Get an Annulment in Utah?

In Utah, and in the United States as a whole, the most common way to end a marriage is through a divorce. However, in some very specific circumstances, it is actually possible to get an annulment instead. While annulments are less common, they may be a better option for your specific situation and may save you some time and money if you meet the qualifications. Here are the details on how to get an annulment in Utah.

What is an annulment and why get one?

So what is an annulment, and how is it different from a divorce? The difference is that, where a divorce is ending a marriage, an annulment declares that your marriage was not valid. So with the annulment definition, in the eyes of the law, you were never officially married in the first place, and thus the marriage never legally existed.

The various benefits of an annulment are that there is typically no waiting period, or it is shorter, meaning you can both move on with your lives much quicker. In most instances, there is also no division of property, and it can release you from the terms of a prenuptial agreement. However, the Court may make orders regarding child support and custody, if applicable, and they may even divide property and debts if necessary.  Many people also prefer to move forward without the perceived stigma of being officially “divorced.”

How do you get an annulment in Utah?

Now that you know that an annulment is an option, you might be wondering how you can obtain one for you and your spouse. To know if you qualify for an annulment, it is first necessary to make yourself aware of the various grounds for annulment in Utah.

In the state of Utah, a marriage can be annulled only for one of the following reasons:

  • One spouse was married to someone else, or their divorce was not yet final.
  • One person was under the legal age for marriage, and (if between the ages of 16–18) the parents did not consent.
  • The spouses were related — first cousins or closer.
  • One partner lied about or hid something that affects the marriage relationship, or misrepresented the other spouse; that is to say, fraud or misrepresentation, as recognized by the court.
  • One spouse refused or was unable to have sexual intercourse.

It is important to note that the length of marriages is not considered grounds for annulment in Utah, and any cases of fraud or misrepresentation may be difficult to prove and are quite rare. Overall, annulments can be difficult to obtain in Utah, and thus in the annulment vs divorce debate, many people simply opt for the latter.

What is the process for getting an annulment in Utah?

To request an annulment, you will file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the district court of your county (where either you or your spouse has lived for at least 90 days). After the complaint has been filed, the court will schedule a hearing, where you will bring any evidence or witnesses to help prove your grounds for annulment. If the judge believes you have proven your case, you will be granted an annulment.

While this process may seem relatively simple, it can still be difficult, and annulments in Utah are rare. It is worth consulting with an attorney first to make sure you have a good case. At Christensen Law, we have handled both divorces and annulments. Feel free to contact us at 801-303-5800 for a free consultation by phone or in-person.

How Do You Get an Annulment in Utah?
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