Family law cases that we handle typically include divorce, paternity cases, or post-divorce work; there’s always a lot of post-divorce litigation. A Court retains jurisdiction over the parties as long as they have minor children and as long as they have property between them, so post-divorce litigation is a lot of the work.
HOW CAN SOMEONE PREPARE FOR AN IMPENDING DIVORCE?
The two main issues in an impending divorce are going to be parenting and finances. So if they have minor children, they’d want to keep track of who is doing the parenting. For finances, the parties need to keep track of their finances, income, and expenses and quantify those. Then probably you ought to get rid of as much of the debt as you can, but there’s usually not enough money.
HOW IS THE CUSTODY OF A CHILD DETERMINED IN THE STATE OF UTAH?
Under Utah law, we have several factors listed in statute. We also have several factors listed in common law, and some of the Supreme Court cases. I generally keep a list of about 18 different factors the court will consider in looking at custody. The standard is the best interest of the child and then the court has all these different factors to review to try and determine what is in the best interest of the child. Primary among those would be who has been the primary caretaker of the child during the marriage. Then there are many other factors the court will look at, like the time available to be with the child, and stability, and abuse or neglect, or alcohol problems, interference with visitation, other relationships, family support, and, if the child is old enough, the child’s preference.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT? HOW IS THAT AMOUNT DETERMINED?
Both parents are required to support their children. Our statute specifically says so. The state of Utah along with I think every state in the country has a child support table that they use and they calculate child support based upon the gross monthly income of both parents and the schedule of the parent time. Then there is a formula that they follow and that child support is then paid by the parent who does not have custody of the child. If there is joint custody, then support is paid by the parent owing the higher amount, with a credit for the other parent’s share of the support.
IS ALIMONY OR SPOUSAL SUPPORT AWARDED IN EVERY DIVORCE CASE IN UTAH?
No, alimony is not awarded in every divorce case in Utah. Alimony is awarded based on need and ability to pay and not every divorce would have those factors. It’s also awarded based on the length of the marriage. The court has about a half a dozen other factors they can consider in awarding alimony, such as who has custody of the children, who took the marital debt, and what the general income and expenses of the parties are. So it just depends. They did pass a statute years ago where you cannot order alimony for longer than the length of the marriage except under extraordinary circumstances. So that’s usually the outside period of time for which alimony will be ordered, but there are lots of divorces that don’t have alimony, depending on those factors.
IF ALIMONY IS AWARDED, WHEN DOES IT BEGIN AND WHEN DOES IT END?
You may get a temporary award of alimony while you’re separated but assuming that alimony is awarded in the actual divorce decree, it will begin as soon as the divorce is final and it will end when the court says it ends, which like I said, would be either the length of the marriage or it could be some time shorter than that, depending on the needs and abilities of the parties. Alimony also ends whenever the recipient spouse cohabitates, remarries, or dies.
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