Legal Separation in Salt Lake City
Christensen Law has 30 years of experience representing Salt Lake City residents in family-related cases involving legal separation. The law firm understands clients’ needs and will do their best to keep your and your family’s best interests in mind as they guide you through the separate maintenance process in Utah. The lawyers at Christensen Law are responsive and accessible attorneys you can rely on who will fight tenaciously for your rights and take a client-oriented approach to their litigation methods.
What Is Legal Separation?
In Utah, legal separation is referred to as “separate maintenance.” Separate maintenance is similar to a divorce in that it could settle arrangements for child support, custody, alimony, property settlement, etc., but the main distinction is that a separated couple remains legally married. There are a number of reasons couples may elect to pursue legal separation instead of divorce, such as using separation:
- as a dry-run for divorce;
- to preserve valuable tax or federal benefits (e.g., employer-sponsored health care);
- to promote stability for minor children while giving each spouse freedom to move away from the relationship; or
- to overcome religious, social, or moral objections to divorce.
Filing for Separate Maintenance in Utah
Legal separation is accomplished in a similar manner as a divorce. The filing process begins when either spouse files a petition for separate maintenance with the local court, and they will need to demonstrate that they and their spouse meet the state’s residency requirement that at least one party must have lived in Utah for at least 90 days before filing.
A couple can agree on terms of separation or ask a court to make a determination. Note that unlike divorce, which in Utah can happen on grounds of irreconcilable differences, a party seeking separate maintenance must provide grounds, or a legal reason, for separation, such as one spouse:
- deserting the other without good and sufficient cause;
- being sufficiently able to provide support and neglects or refuses to properly provide for and suitably maintain that spouse; or
- living separate and apart from that spouse for a certain amount of time.
Utah law requires the judge to wait for a minimum of 30 days before acting on the case. The court may waive the waiting period if a judge finds that there are extraordinary circumstances, though this is a rare occurrence. In the meantime, it might be useful to use the waiting period to negotiate the terms of the separation, such as determining a parenting plan for the children, handling property and debt division, and resolving any issues about child or spousal support.
If there are outstanding issues in the case, the court may require both parties to attend at least one mediation session before the judge hears their case. Mediation is a way for both spouses to discuss their concerns with a trained, neutral third-party in a safe and controlled environment who can help facilitate a negotiation.
If either spouse wishes to convert the separation into divorce later, that spouse can file a motion with the court at that time and demonstrate that they meet the guidelines for divorce. Note that regardless of whether a couple pursues separate maintenance or goes into divorce, the court will require the separation terms to be in writing. The agreement should address custody and visitation, child support, property division, healthcare, and spousal support. A separation agreement is legally-binding on both spouses, and the court will use this contract to protect both parties from frivolous lawsuits in the future.
Contact Christensen Law for Legal Guidance
If you seek to file for legal separation or separate maintenance in Utah, speak with an experienced separation lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled lawyer can help streamline the legal process and help you file for separate maintenance, draft a separation agreement, and ensure that your rights as a spouse and/or parent are being protected by the contract. Christensen Law comprises a team of experienced legal separation lawyers who have your and your family’s best interests in mind; trust the lawyers at the firm to manage your legal separation in Salt Lake City.
(801) 303 5800
261 East Broadway, Suite 150 Salt Lake City, UT 84111