Explaining The Difference Between Divorce and Temporary Separation in Salt Lake City

Filing for divorce or separating from your spouse is never an easy decision to make. If you’re here, that means that an event or series of events has led you down this path, and you might need to consider your legal options seriously. What you need is a reassuring voice and knowledgeable legal advocate to help you understand your rights, the process, and how you can achieve a positive, successful outcome from a stressful and emotionally-charged process.

We know how difficult it can be to take this step. Our attorneys have also seen firsthand how unhealthy it is to dwell on the past if this situation is not the right fit for you, your spouse, your children, and others in your family circle. When you reach out to the Salt Lake City divorce attorneys at Christensen Law, we will help you understand the options available to you and help you focus on the future.

Divorce vs Temporary Separation

It’s crucial to understand that legal separation and divorce are not the same things. Utah law allows spouses to temporarily separate, whether permanently or as a precursor to divorce. If you ultimately decide to file for a divorce, it is important to note that Utah is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that you do not have to state a reason other than “irreconcilable differences” to dissolve the marriage permanently. Whichever party has the judge sign the decree will have to sign an affidavit to that effect.

Here, we’ll discuss the differences between divorce and legal separation:

Temporary Separation

Utah allows a married couple to temporarily separate, which is an optional step that may be taken when they are considering but are unsure of whether to officially file for divorce.

This is different from a divorce in that the marriage or domestic partnership is not dissolved. Instead, the court will establish the rights and responsibilities of each spouse through enforceable court orders. These orders will outline critical issues and benefits, including:

  • The separation of finances
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Marital benefits like health insurance and life insurance

In Utah, a temporary separation can only last for one year. If you’d like the separation to last longer, you must petition the court for an extension.

Once a petition for temporary separation has been filed and served, both spouses are required to attend a divorce orientation course if they have minor children. The respondent should attend the course within 30 days of being served, and the petitioner should attend the course within 60 days of filing their petition. There is a discount if you do it quicker and in-person. You can find out more information about the courses, forms for waiving this requirement, and other information on Utah’s court system website.


As mentioned above, Utah is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that neither party needs to prove that the other was “at fault” for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, you can file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity, and have the court issue a decree dissolving the union. There are specific requirements that apply, however, including:

  • Residency restrictions – One of the spouses has to have been an actual and bona fide resident of a specific county in Utah for at least three months immediately prior to the filing of the action. It can be either the person filing or the other person involved. If you have moved to Utah but have not settled in a specific county, this could complicate matters.
  • Waiting period – Utah requires divorcing couples to observe a 30-day waiting period between your initial filing and the granting of a divorce decree. This mandatory waiting period could be waived under extraordinary circumstances but must be approved by a judge.

Because divorce can be particularly emotional and distressing for everyone involved, it is crucial to hire an experienced Utah family lawyer to guide you through the process. When working with divorcing spouses, we work hard to put things in perspective and provide wisdom and clarity wherever possible. Because children are often the voiceless victims in this process, we will also place a heavy focus on considering their needs and what is best for them when making crucial decisions about the future.

No-Fault Divorce in Utah

Most divorces in Utah are granted on a no-fault basis. According to Utah Code §30-3-1(3), there are two acceptable grounds for no-fault divorce:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • If you or your spouse have lived apart for three consecutive years

Fault Divorce In Utah

In some instances, it may be helpful for you to pursue a fault-based divorce. We can discuss that option and your specific circumstances with you. There are seven acceptable grounds for a fault divorce established by Utah Code §30-3-1(3):

  • Impotency of the respondent at the time of the marriage. This applies to both men and women if their spouse cannot produce children.
  • Adultery
  • Abandonment (if your spouse has left you and it has been 12 consecutive months or more)
  • Neglect of basic needs, like food or shelter
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Previous felony conviction
  • Cruel treatment, including physical injuries or emotional distress

Considering Temporary Separation or Divorce? Choose the Right Attorney

If you are considering divorce or if your spouse has served you divorce papers, be sure to choose the right attorney for you. You’ll want a lawyer who understands your situation and who is committed to helping you protect your rights and retain what is most important to you.

Don’t choose just any lawyer to represent you. Choose someone who you can trust, who you feel you can work with, and who you believe will be able to help you get the best outcome for you and your family.

Contact Us Today

If you are considering divorce or legal separation in Salt Lake City, know that you’re not alone. We’ll be here to help you through this challenging time and will guide you to make the best decisions for yourself and your children. To get started, contact us online or by phone at (801) 303-5800 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation with us today.