Deciding whether or not to end a marriage through a divorce is one of the hardest decisions a couple can make. However, married couples in Utah have another option to legally separate before ultimately deciding to file for divorce.
What is Separate Maintenance?
Separate maintenance, commonly known as legal separation in other states, is a court order that defines the duties and rights of a married couple who chooses to live apart while remaining legally married. Similar to a divorce, a couple must determine which spouse will have custody of the children, who will provide child support, how alimony payments are arranged, and how to properly divide assets and property.
The following are some of the main reasons why a married couple will enter a legal separation:
- Continued employer-sponsored health care and benefits
- Maintain valuable tax and federal benefits
- Overcome religious, moral, or social objections to divorce
- A trial run for divorce
The Legal Process of Separate Maintenance in Utah
The legal process starts when either spouse files a petition for separate maintenance with the local court. Either spouse must also live in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing the petition.
In addition, a legal reason for the separation must be established. Since Utah is a mixed divorce state, you can ask to legally separate based on a specific ground (e.g. abandonment, domestic violence, etc.) or request a no-fault separation (i.e. irreconcilable differences).
Next, both spouses must create a separation agreement that lists all the terms in writing. The court requires couples to attend at least one mediation session prior to the judge hearing the case. During this session, a mediator (a mutual third party) will help couples resolve any differences they have regarding each term of the agreement.
Once a judge signs the separation agreement, your marital status will be officially changed to “legally separated.” If both parties wish to divorce in the future, the separation agreement can later convert into a divorce decree.
If you are interested in legal separation in Salt Lake City, contact Lokken & Associates, P.C. at (801) 829-9783 today to discuss your legal options.