How Long Does it Take to get a Divorce in the State of Utah?
The divorce process can be complicated and drawn out. Clients are always asking “How long until my divorce is over?” While the time for divorce obviously varies depending on the complexity of the case (e.g., high or low asset, contested custody, etc.), the average time for a divorce is between 4-6 months. With the passage of a relatively recent law shortening the “waiting period” for a divorce in Utah from 90 days to 30 days, divorces can conceivably be finished in 30 days. But, that’s not the average time to divorce.
The timeline for a divorce can be broken down as follows:
- Petition and service: after the consultation, retention of services, and preparation and filing of the Petition for Divorce Decree (and Parenting Plan), it generally takes our process server between 2 days to a week to personally serve the other party (Respondent), depending on whether the other party is avoiding service. Our process server can do emergency service as well.
- Answer and/or Counterclaim: once served, the other party has 21 days to file an Answer (and his or her own Counter-Petition for Divorce Decree if they desire). These are “soft deadlines” in family court, because the court does not favor punishing a party who has filed a late response (i.e., entering a “default,” which means giving the other timely party everything they asked for), because a default may not be in the best interest of the children.
- Answer to Counterclaim: if a Counter-Petition is served on my client, then we have 21 days to file an Answer.
- Mediation: once the other party has retained their own counsel, we generally contact counsel right away to schedule formal mediation, which is mandatory in contested divorces (i.e., a divorce where a party has filed an answer objecting to anything in our petition). Due to the busy calendars of the mediator and both attorneys, it generally takes about 2-3 months to get into mediation. Most divorces are settled at formal mediation. At mediation, the parties sign a document prepared by one of the attorneys or mediator called e.g., Stipulation and Settlement Agreement, which will be filed with the Court.
- Final divorce documents: the Stipulation and Settlement Agreement is not a signed Court order yet; it’s only an enforceable contract. The Petitioner’s attorney must prepare the final divorce documents (i.e., Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Divorce Decree), which are based on the language from the stipulation. This process can take anywhere between 1-3 weeks depending on the drafting attorney.
- Rule 7 comment: once the proposed final divorce documents are completed, they must be circulated to opposing counsel, who has 7 days to review and either approval or object “as to form.” (The parties can’t necessarily change the terms of the stipulation without “opening up a can of worms;” but they can ensure that the language from the stipulation matches the language in the final divorce documents.) Delays can be caused if the attorneys and/or parties can’t agree on language.
- Court review: once the proposed final divorce documents are “approved as to form” and they are filed with the court along with several other financial documents, the Court generally takes 2-4 weeks to review and sign the final documents. Delays can happen at this stage as well, because each judge and his or her team of clerks have varying local court rule requirements. Once signed by the judge, post-divorce the parties’ controlling document is the Divorce Decree.
Divorces involving family disputes can be highly emotional, and are often exacerbated by the complexities of the legal system. A divorce and family law attorney can help you to reach objective decisions that are truly in the best interest of your child, and to navigate the complex legal system. Contact Hoyer Law Firm today to set up an initial consultation.