Divorce FAQ

I want to get a divorce.  What are my options?

Most people hire a lawyer and litigate their divorce in the courts.  At Primary Dispute Resolution, we know there is a better way.  When you mediate at Primary Dispute Resolution, we help you get divorced faster and cheaper than litigating in court.

What if one spouse wants a divorce and the other does not want a divorce?

If one spouse wants a divorce, that spouse will get a divorce.  A judge cannot order that spouse to remain married to the objecting spouse.

How do family courts divide property when a couple divorce?

Courts in Utah employ a two-step process to divide property.  First, the courts determine what is marital property and what is non-marital property.  Second, the courts will divide marital property among the parties by way of “equitable distribution.”  “Equitable” means “fair” and does not necessarily mean equal.  What is fair to one person may be very different than what is fair to another, and the trial judges have extremely broad discretion to decide what is equitable.

How do family courts determine who gets custody of children when a couple divorces?

Family court’s decide make custody decisions based upon what is in the best interest of the children.  Factors that guide the Court in making this determination include: (1) the past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each of the parties; (2) which parent is most likely to act in the best interest of the child, including allowing the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent; (3) the extent of bonding between the parent and child, meaning the depth, quality, and nature of the relationship between a parent and child; (4) whether the physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from joint legal or physical custody; (5) the ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest; (6) whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, including the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent; (7) whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce; (8) the geographical proximity of the homes of the parents; (9) the preference of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to joint legal or physical custody; (10) the maturity of the parents and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents; (11) the past and present ability of the parents to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly; (12) any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping; and (13) any other factors the court finds relevant.

What is the difference between sole and joint custody, and physical and legal custody?

Physical custody deals with time.  Parties with joint physical custody of a child each have at least 111 overnights per year with the child.  Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean the parent-time is equal.  If a parent has sole physical custody of a child, the other parent has fewer than 111 overnights with that child per year.

Legal custody deals with decision-making.  Parties with joint legal custody of a child must make important decisions like schooling, religion, and medical care together.  If a parent has sole legal custody of a child, he or she does not need to consult the other parent when making these important decisions.

How do family courts determine who pays child support and how much child support will be when a couple divorces?

Child support is determined by inputting the incomes of the parents into a “calculator” designed to compute child support based upon whatever physical custody situation the parties have.  The calculator can be found online at http://www.utcourts.gov/childsupport/calculator.

When do courts order alimony?

A court will order alimony on the basis of one spouse’s need or entitlement and the other spouse’s ability to pay.  Although most alimony payments are made from men to women, it is possible that a well-off woman could be required to pay support to her economically dependent husband.  Utah courts look to the following factors when determining alimony: (1) the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse; (2) the recipient’s earning capacity or ability to produce income; (3) the ability of the payor spouse to provide support; (4) the length of the marriage; (5) whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support; (6) whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse; and (7) whether the recipient spouse directly contributed to any increase in the payor spouse’s skill by paying for education received by the payor spouse or allowing the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage; and (8) the fault of the parties.

How long does a divorce case take?

From the initial filing of a divorce petition to the end of a trial, a divorce case may take one to two years, though some take longer.  If the case is appealed, it may take a year or more to complete the appeal.

How much does a divorce case cost?

It depends.  To hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce through trial, it often costs more than $10,000, and can cost significantly more if the case is contentious and the issues are complex.

I think my spouse and I can agree on how to settle our divorce.  What do we do?

Contact us.  We can help you identify your options in light of all of your risks and opportunities, and communicate with the other party to your dispute to try and resolve the matter without going to court.

My spouse and I will never be able to settle.  What do we do?

Try us!  You’d be surprised what mediation can do.  In many cases, just having frank discussions with a neutral party present will yield results you never would have expected.