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When did divorce become legal in Utah?

When Did Divorce Become Legal In Utah

Utah formerly followed the “fault” concept in divorce proceedings; this meant that to establish grounds for a divorce, one partner found fault with the other spouse. In 1987, Utah passed a law that allows divorce when there are “irreconcilable differences” such as when the parties can no longer “pursue the legitimate purposes of the marriage.”

Under this law, one party doesn’t have to blame the other but may simply tell the court that the marriage is “no longer working.” This is what is called a “no fault” divorce provision.

The law previously held that the offending spouse who caused the divorce, lost rights and property in a divorce proceeding, but as a practical matter and by statute this is no longer the case. The person that begins the divorce action is called the “Petitioner”; the person against whom the divorce is filed is called the “Respondent.”

What are the grounds for divorce in Utah?

1.  Irreconcilable differences of the parties.

Irreconcilable differences means that there is no hope that the couple will be able to work out their problems and save the marriage. It may actually mean irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Some of these irreconcilable differences may include: in-laws and extended family involvement, balance between home and work, communication patterns, sexual intimacy, personal habits, sharing household responsibilities, outside friendship, political views,  debt difficulties and also disciplining children. If one of these factors is recurrent in marriage, then the couple can divorce.

2. Impotence at the time of marriage

This is the inability of a man to achieve an erection or orgasm. If you partner has a problem in maintaining an erection, chances are your sex life has taken a hit too.  If you notice this in your partner you may feel frustrated and will not know the next step. Impotence can be brought about by many factors such as stress, depression, anxiety or unresolved issues from his background. Impotence can also be a sign of certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes. Lack of sex in marriage may not be easy, the wife really needs to persevere, thus a legal reason as to why people can divorce in Utah.

3. Adultery committed subsequent to marriage

Infidelity is the single most damaging thing that happens to marriage. Dealing with infidelity is not that easy for a married couple. The first step is  usually denial, whereby the spouse who has been cheated finds it hard to accept that he or she has been cheated on.

It is wise to accept reality and deal with your spouse’s infidelity. This will save you a lot of health issues related to worrying. In addition to this, you may begin feeling anger towards your spouse and also rejection. This is where majority of the people decide to part ways which is acceptable in Utah.

4. Wilful desertion of the other spouse for more than one year

This is the deliberate abandonment of a spouse without the intention of returning.  One of the spouses in a relationship may decide to leave for various reasons though some may leave without any reason.

Those who silently leave still have the duty to support their under age children and also their wives especially if they are ailing. Some other reasons of leaving may be due to infidelity, or misunderstanding. If your partner leaves and stays away for more than one year, you are at liberty to divorce.

5. Willful neglect to provide the common necessities of life

It is common that a man is the one supposed to provide for the family. Nowadays, women are working and some of them are breadwinners in the family. This issue of women being breadwinners has brought some bit of contradiction.

Men should provide for their families, failure to which they are termed as irresponsible. If a man is not concerned with paying of bills, food and education of the children, then the spouse is at liberty to divorce him.

6. Habitual drunkenness

Being married to an alcoholic may not be easy. Alcoholism may make the other spouse feel insecure, depressed and all alone. If worse goes to worst, alcoholics turn out to be irresponsible and violent. They may spend the whole day drinking and even neglect their duties at work then come home and start beating their spouses.

In other situations, they may even cause physical injuries to their spouses and even children. Another disadvantage is that some alcoholics use all their money or salary in buying drinks for them and their friends. They neglect their wives and the family lives in poverty despite the father earning. If the situation is not good, especially where physical violence is involved, divorce should be encouraged for the other partner to find peace of mind and reorganize her life.

9. Conviction of Felony

Felony is a crime regarded in Utah and many other judicial systems as more serious than a  wrongdoing or crime. Examples of felony may include murder, aggravated assault, manslaughter, animal cruelty, vehicular homicide, animal cruelty, larceny and arson which is deliberately setting fire to property. 

10. Cruel Treatment to the extent of causing bodily injury or great mental distress 

Cruelty can be mental or physical. Mental cruelty can come when you humiliate another person through your words and actions. It may happen that your spouse is  constantly criticizing you, shouting at you, ignoring you and not giving you emotional support. Mental cruelty is actually emotional abuse. Other examples may include:

a.) Threats of violence or the spouse threatening to leave

b.) Deliberately instilling fear

c.) Making your spouse feel not cared for by threatening them not to give them food

d.) Constantly lying to your partner

e.) Making false statements about other people to your spouse

f.) Hiding important information from your spouse

g.) Repeatedly raising the issue of death of a person your spouse left

h.) Constantly telling an individual that they are too much trouble

i.) Being over-familiar or disrespectful to your spouse

j.) Over Controlling your spouse and constantly ordering him or her around

When it comes to physical cruelty, it does not have to be that the abusive spouse is an alcoholic. At times you find very reasonable people physically abusing their spouses. The point here is: abuse to your partner may lead to divorce.

11. Permanent and incurable insanity

This must be established by a competent medical testimony. In all cases where partners lived separate and apart for three consecutive years, without cohabitation, and are still living separate and apart by reason of the incurable insanity of one of them, the court may grant a decree of absolute divorce upon the petition of the sane spouse: provided that the insane spouse has been released on a trial basis to the custody of his or her respective spouse. This is rare but applicable.


Below are prohibited and invalid marriages in Utah, which may be annulled:

a.) Marriages between parents and children

b.) Marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree

c.) Marriages between brothers and sisters (half or whole);

d.) Marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews;

e.) Marriages between first cousins (unless both parties are 65 years of age or older, or if both parties are 55 years of age or older, upon a finding by the court that either party is unable to reproduce);

f.) Marriages between any persons related to each other within and not including fifth degree of consanguinity;

e.) When there is a husband or wife living, from whom the person marrying has not been divorced;

f.) Either party is at least 16, but under 18 years of age and has not obtained parental consent;

g.) Either party is under 16 years of age at the time the parties attempt to enter into the marriage, unless the party is 15 years of age and has obtained judicial consent;

h.) Marriage between persons of the same sex; and

i.) Re-marriage to a different spouse before the divorce decree becomes absolute, or in the case of an appeal, before the affirmance of the decree.

When there is doubt regarding the validity of a marriage, either party may demand its avoidance or affirmance in a court where either party is domiciled. However, when one of the parties was under the age of consent at the time of the marriage, the other party of proper age may not have cause against the party under age. The court shall either declare the marriage valid or annulled.

A marriage may also be annulled for any of the annulment grounds existing at common law.

Here are some of things that  no one will tell you about getting a divorce in Utah

1. If you violate the Utah divorce decree there can be serious consequences.

Once the court has given a ruling and the divorce papers signed, both partners are bound to the terms in the decree. If any of the divorcees violates whatever is in the agreement, He or she will be charged of contempt of court. The most common divorce violations include child support, non-provision for the spouse or maintaining your ex- spouse, disobedience of the visitation schedule and not complying with visitation of the children.

If this happens the police will come to your house and record a visitation interference which the family lawyer will use as evidence during the contempt hearing. That is the only thing that the police can do since they cannot bring your kids from your ex-partner.  If your ex does not support the kids maybe due to lack of income there are also legal measures which should be taken.

2. The people around you will judge you and ask you why you divorced

Natives of Utah are a curious species. The news of divorce will spread in church, your neighbourhood and also your workplace. You should be psychologically prepared to hear all sorts of things from people.

Some may tell you that they have never liked your ex from the day you were married only to show you that they are on your side. You will be surprised to see that people that you barely know, know that you divorced and also know why you divorced.

Friends and family may take sides and disappear completely. It is good to limit your words during this period for the sake of your children. In addition to that, you should surround yourself with people who will encourage you since divorce is very distressing.

3.There is a requirement in Utah that couples should attend Divorce Education Class

There is a mandatory divorce orientation course that couples have to complete, created by Utah legislators. Your divorce cannot be completed until you and your significant other complete the course.

The requirement of taking divorce classes is if there are minor children involved since issues of child support and clarifies the consequences of divorce not forgetting the explanation of the divorce process.

4. Parenting after divorce may become more difficult

There may be plenty of disagreements plus you have to endure the pain of calling the mother of kids, ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’  when referring to the father of kids after the divorce. Raising up you kids alone may not be easy since at times you may need to consult on how some things are done.

It is therefore advisable that you should be amicable to your ex because divorce does not mean that you should be enemies. It is also good that you avoid bad mouthing your ex-spouse when talking to your children. A high level of self control and maturity is needed in this case.

5. You may feel terrible after getting a divorce

After getting the divorce you may be filled with a lot of guilt maybe because you are the one who  initiated the divorce or because children are blaming you. Feelings of guilt will be recurring after the divorce but it is good to stay away from negative people and seek professional advice.

Divorce Attorney Free Consultation

When you need legal help for a divorce, child custody, or other type of family law case in Utah, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506 for your Free Consultation. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506