An Overview of Legal Separation in Utah

If you are experiencing trouble in your marriage, you have options other than rushing to a divorce. You could get a legal separation instead.

Separations offer both spouses certain protections while allowing them to live separate lives. In this article, we offer a broad explanation of Utah’s legal separation laws.

The Legal Difference Between Separation and Divorce

Legal separation is a formal agreement between spouses to live apart and lead separate lives. By law, the couple is still legally married. Depending on the circumstances, a separation may include decisions associated with a divorce, such as asset division, child custody, and support arrangements.

By contrast, a divorce completely dissolves the marriage and ends all legal ties between the couple.

Which Is Right for You?

Both divorce and legal separation have advantages and disadvantages, so you must consider your circumstances before choosing which path to take.

Legal separation allows couples to live separately and divide their assets and debts. Utah divides marital property equitably, meaning each spouse is entitled to a fair share of the assets. This does not necessarily mean that the assets are split equally, and a spouse could lose property they purchased or paid for.

The court may also award alimony, which is financial support that helps a dependent spouse. The amount and duration of spousal support varies depending on factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse's income and earning capacity, and the standard of living established during the marriage.

Separation means the couple remains legally married. This makes it easier for couples to reunite if they reconcile later. On the other hand, separation allows people to easily dissolve the marriage if they do not reconcile. Neither spouse can marry someone else until they officially complete their divorce.

If you want to end your marriage and move on with your life, divorce may be the better choice. Divorce does, however, cut you off from benefits like sharing healthcare or retirement.

Before you decide which is suitable for you, make sure to consult with an attorney. They can listen to your circumstances and help guide you in the right direction.

Filing for Legal Separation in Utah

The petitioner (the person filing for separation) must meet the same requirements as those for divorce. They must be a Utah resident for at least three months and live in the county where they are filing.

The grounds for legal separation in Utah are the same as those for divorce: irreconcilable differences, a spouse's willful desertion for one year, adultery, cruelty, or the other spouse's conviction of a felony.

Once a spouse files the petition, the other receives a copy and may respond to it.

If you think legal separation is a good choice, make sure to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.

The Potential Benefits of a Legal Separation

Legal Benefits

  • Division of property and assets without the finality of a divorce.
  • Continuation of health insurance and tax benefits that are lost in a divorce

Personal Benefits

  • Give the individuals space to work on themselves
  • Allows for a “trial divorce” to see if the couple wants to remain apart
  • If the couple reunites, they could have a stronger, healthier relationship in the long term.
  • Provides time to get accustomed to a new life without the immediate trauma of a divorce
  • Can give couples time to come back together, start fresh, and address any underlying issues, such as communication or intimacy problems
  • If the couple decides to divorce, they can feel confident that they made the right choice by having a separation first.

Social or Cultural Benefits

  • Legal separation is better for people with certain deep religious or cultural beliefs.

Estate Planning Implications for a Legal Separation

A separation may also impact your will, trust, or other estate plans. If you already have plans in place, consider making changes after filing for separation. These changes should reflect your new circumstances.

For example, it may be necessary to update beneficiaries, change trustees or executors, or revise your distribution plan. Review your current plan with an attorney, and see if you need to alter it.

Whether you need a divorce or separation, Nelson, Taylor & Associates, PLLC is here to help. If you are unsure which is the better option, we may be able to review your case and guide your next steps. To meet with our team, schedule time with us online or call us directly at (801) 901-7046.