Parent Time Increases Under New Utah Law

Minimum Parent Time Under Utah Law

When a parent in Southern Utah is awarded sole physical custody of his or her children, it does not mean that the other parent can never see the couple’s child or children.  Under Utah law, absent an abusive or dangerous parent, parents are typically awarded a minimum amount of time spent with a child depending on the age of the child.  For most children, the law dictates that parents can see their children at least once a week for 3 hours as well as every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening.  Noncustodial parents also have the right to spend time with their children on certain holidays and for several weeks in the summer.  To find out more about the minimum parent time established by Utah law, speak with a St. George family law attorney.

The New Optional Parent Time Schedule in St. George

Recently, the Utah State Legislature increased the amount of minimum parent time that a parent is entitled to if certain conditions are satisfied.  It’s referred to simply as the optional schedule.  Under the newly codified section of Utah Code 30-3-35.1, a parent’s minimum parent time can now be 145 overnights a year as opposed to the previous amount of about 52 overnights (excluding holidays).  The amount of time was increased because there were several lawmakers who believed that the minimum amount of time was not sufficient for many parents.

In order for a noncustodial parent to receive the increased, optional parent time, he or she needs to demonstrate the following things: the noncustodial parent has been involved in the child’s life; the parents can communicate effectively regarding the child; the noncustodial parent can actually facilitate the increased parent time; the increased parent time is in the best interest of the child; and any other factor the court considers relevant.  With the law being so new it is yet to be seen how often a court will award this increased parent time but anyone divorcing should consider this parent time amount as an option.

Find Out More About Parent Time Schedules from an Attorney

If you are divorcing or fighting a custody battle in St. George and the surrounding Southern Utah area, contact a St. George divorce attorney today.  Our attorneys can help you determine your options when it comes to child custody and parent time issues.  Call 435.216.1034 to speak with a lawyer today.

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The Financial Declaration in a Utah Divorce

If you are involved in a contested divorce in Utah, you are required to provide the other financial declarationparty with a financial declaration and initial disclosures. This is governed by Rule 26.1 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and everyone in this situation must give a full and accurate disclosure of their financial situation. The financial declaration is a specific court approved form detailing all of your income, assets, debts, and expenses. The form should be filled out completely. In addition, you must provide financial records proving the details of your financial declaration. The required records are as follows:

  • Statements verifying amounts of everything listed in your financial declaration.
  • Complete tax returns for the previous two years.
  • The last 12 months of pay statements.
  • All loan applications or financial statements prepared in the past 12 months.
  • Documents verifying real estate.
  • All bank and investment statements for the previous 3 months.

Failure to provide your financial declaration and the above mentioned supporting documents, can result in a negative ruling by the judge on financial matters and other possibly other negative consequences.

Deadline for the Financial Declaration

If you are the Petitioner in the divorce, meaning if you are the one who filed the divorce, your complete financial declaration is due within 14 days after the Respondent files his/her answer to your divorce petition. The Respondent’s financial declaration is then due 28 days after the answer is filed. Do not miss your deadlines with regards to these disclosures. So what happens if the other party is refusing to provide you with their financial declaration or any other required information? You can file a motion to compel this information and ask the judge to hold the other party in contempt and issue sanctions and attorney fees (if you are represented by counsel) against them.

Help with the Financial Declaration and Disclosures

If you are not represented by an attorney and need help with your financial declaration or initial disclosures, call our office anytime to speak with a St. George Divorce Lawyer. The rules can be difficult to understand so it certainly helps to have an experienced attorney on your side walking you through the steps of providing the other party with the required financial declaration. Also, because the financial declaration can have such a huge impact on the financial issues in your case, you really should at a minimum review it with with a lawyer.

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Does Utah Law Recognize Marriages from Other Countries?

The short answer is yes. Let’s say you are married on a tropical island in the Caribbean somewhere. You return home and want to have your marriage recognized in Utah but you are worried you may have to do something in Utah to make that happen. Well, for most people who are married out of country, they don’t have a to worry about there marriage being somehow invalidated by a Utah Court. In fact, there are only a few exceptions to the general rule that a valid marriage in any country equals a valid marriage under Utah law. Those exceptions are as follows:

  • One of the parties was not yet divorced from another living spouse at the time of the marriage. This may seem like a no brainer but in some countries you can marry multiple partners. So, if you are still married but marry an additional individual in another country that does not prohibit polygamy, your marriage would not be deemed valid under Utah law.
  • If the person you married in another country were under the age of 16, your marriage would not be valid under Utah law. Again, it might be lawful for you to marry the person in the particular country in which you married. Nonetheless, Utah does not recognize marriages to minors under the age of 16 under any circumstances.
  • If you marry an individual of the same sex in another country, for instance New Zealand recently legalized gay marriage, a Utah court would currently not recognize such a marriage. However, this may be changing very soon as the issue of gay marriage in Utah is currently making its way through the federal courts process and federal judges have recently ruled in favor of gay marriage in Utah.
  • If you are related within 3 degrees of the person you married in another country, Utah will not legally recognize your marriage. This obviously means you can’t marry family members, cousins, or anyone closely related to you.

For 99% of people getting married over seas, there is never going to be a problem with enforcing your marital rights, seeking a divorce in Utah, or otherwise feeling confident you have a legally valid marriage under Utah law. For the few that may fall under one of the exceptions stated above, you should consult with a Utah Divorce Lawyer to further investigate your marital sanding. For more information call us anytime.

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Requesting a Change in Alimony

Post divorce life can be a long journey. Things often change financially for the parties to a divorce later down the road. The payor spouse may fall on hard times that are not temporary in nature and thus require a decrease or termination of the alimony award. Likewise, the recipient spouse might also fall on hard times and require an increase in spousal support at some point following the divorce. Alimony is always modifiable, meaning alimony can change if either party seeks a change and are justified in doing so. The party requesting a change in alimony must meet the same standard necessary to change any other provision in the divorce decree. That is, the party must be able to prove a substantial change of circumstances subsequent to the decree that was not originally contemplated within the decree itself. The question becomes, what is considered a substantial change of circumstances?

Substantial Change of Circumstances

There are many potential situations which could qualify as a substantial change in circumstances and be sufficient grounds for modifying an alimony award. First, lets consider a few fact patterns which would likely be seen as sufficient changes in circumstances justifying the decrease or termination of alimony. The most common scenario we deal with is a job loss. Now, if you lose your job but it is a temporary job loss, you may not get much relief from the court. If, however, you have been unemployed for a greater period of time, 6 months or more, your job loss might not be considered so temporary and a long term modification might be granted. Disability is one case where a person might find great success in terminating alimony all together. If you are injured and unable to work as a result, you might be able to terminate your alimony order. Additionally, let’s say your spouse was unemployed at the time the decree was originally entered and later become employed and thus no longer has the same need for alimony. The courts in Utah have found a recipient spouse’s increase in income and employment can be considered in modifying or terminating spousal support.

Increasing Alimony

Since alimony is always modifiable, a recipient spouse can come back years following entry of the divorce decree and ask for more support if justified. Much as discussed above, if the recipient spouse needs additional support through no fault of her own, such as following a job loss, injury or disability, or other possible financial emergency, he/she may move the court for an adjustment. Sometimes, a recipient spouse may want to seek an increase in alimony because they discover their ex is now earning much more following divorce. However, alimony starts with the need of the recipient spouse. Thus the paying party’s increase in income alone will not be sufficient, the recipient spouse will still need to demonstrate a change in his/her need.

Modifying Alimony to Extend Beyond Length of Marriage

Generally speaking, alimony may only be awarded up to the length of the marriage. However, many people do not realize a party may request a modification prior to the termination of the alimony award, requesting an extension of alimony. In order to have alimony award extend beyond the number of years in the marriage, the party must request the extension prior to termination and prove extenuating circumstances justifying the continued payments. Extenuating circumstances can mean possibly many different things, therefore, you should speak with a divorce attorney at our office today if you think you qualify.

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The Discovery Process in Divorce

One of the most important phases of litigation in a contested Utah divorce is the discovery process. The discovery process is the means of learning everything about the other side’s position and the evidence they would produce at trial. It is very important to thoroughly investigate the other party’s claims in a divorce including all financial matters, custody arguments, etc. The discovery process can be broken up into about three important elements which are all described below.

Financial Declaration and Initial Disclosures

At the beginning of every divorce, both parties are required to fill out a financial declaration disclosing all of their income, expenses, assets, debts, etc. Full financial declarations are provided to each side. The financial declaration is extremely important as the judge in your case will take into account the information provided in this form in determining financial matters such as alimony, child support, and division of assets. As your attorney, we ensure your financial declaration is properly executed and ensure the other side has fully disclosed all relevant financial information.

Similar to your financial declaration, you must also provide, and the other side must do the same, initial disclosures detailing relevant evidence you intend to introduce at trial. This includes any witnesses, documents, etc. that you intend to bring as evidence in support of your claims. This covers anything known at the time you make the disclosures. There are court imposed deadlines for when your initial disclosures are due so it is important to speak with your St. George Divorce Lawyer early about this process.

Written Discovery Requests

To learn more about the other party’s claims, your attorney can send written discovery requests to them requiring they provide certain documents, answer questions, and admit or deny certain allegations. These are generally called requests for admissions, requests for production of documents, and interrogatories. Additionally, your lawyer can send subpoenas to any relevant party seeking any relevant piece of evidence. For instance, if you believe your spouse is hiding assets, subpoenas can be sent to accountants, banks, etc. to help find out more information about assets and related issues.

Written discovery requests are one of the most effective tools in your lawyers bag of tricks. Often these requests are battled between the attorneys because the potential impact a certain disclosures may cause. It is not uncommon for one side to object to a certain request and for the judge to have to intervene.


Finally, a very useful tool in the discovery process is the deposition. We can call the other party to appear out our office to answer questions on the record. We can cross examine them just like we would at trial. This allows us to discover what their anticipated testimony would be at trial. The deposition is recorded and the testimony given can be introduced as evidence at trial.

Help From Utah Divorce Lawyers

We know how to use the discovery process to your advantage, to give you the best possibility of resolving your divorce in your favor. Retaining one of our Utah Divorce Lawyers can make a big impact on your ability to discover all the necessary information about your soon to be ex’s case. Call us today for an analysis of your matter.

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How do you Determine the Credibility of a Witness?

In divorce actions, especially those involving hotly contested custody issues or property and alimony issues, will likely produce conflicting evidence from the spouses.  For example, we recently had a case where the spouse was making all kinds of allegations that her husband was physically abusive to both her and their children, and the father swore that he has never laid a hand on anyone in his family.

The evidence was so contradictory that the wife claimed that her husband actually pointed a gun at her head and the gun accidentally discharged, shooting the bullet through the wall into the room where their children were sleeping.  The husband admitted that he had been cleaning his gun on one occasion and it accidentally discharged, but that nobody was in the home but him and the bullet hit the closet wall about 2 feet up from the floor.  The judge presiding over this hearing actually stopped the hearing and advised the attorneys to advise the clients that because one of the two are lying that they better understand the perjury laws in Utah, which can result in serious criminal penalties.  In spite of the admonition, neither parties admitted to lying or recanted their testimony.

In such situations like the example given above, how does the judge determine credibility, that is, how does he determine who he should believe when the evidence is completely opposite coming from each party.  The Utah Legislature has found it prudent to give judges some guidance on this issue.  As stated in Utah Code 78B-1-128 “The credibility of a witness may be questioned by:

(a) the manner in which the witness testifies;
(b) the character of the witness testimony;
(c) evidence affecting the witness’ character for truth, honesty, or integrity;
(d) the witness’ motives; or
(e) contradictory evidence.”

In cases like that described above, the judge is placed in a tight spot, even with the guiding principles above.  Sometimes there is simply no way to tell who is telling the truth.  For that reason it is extremely important that the attorneys on the case do as much research on the issues and evidence presented by the other party so that evidence can be brought forth to discredit the lying witness.  Evidence showing that the witness has a history of being dishonest or has a specific motive in presenting the testimony he is giving that day is important for the judge to have to make sure that the the lying witness is not believed.

You may be facing a case where your spouse is lying in order to gain an advantage over you.  Let us help you out.  Give us a call or email us anytime so we can go over your case with you and help you find ways to strengthen your case.

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Avoiding Custody Disputes During the Holidays

The holidays can be stressful for many of us. For divorced parents managing the holiday parent times issues can add a whole other level of stress. Not surprisingly, many divorced parents tend not to agree on all the child related issues during the Christmas season. When do you get the kids, when do I get the kids, where and when to drop off, who picks up, and on on. We all know the kids suffer the most when parents are unable to get along during this time of year and the kids are trapped in the middle. That can really dampen their holiday spirits. For that reason we provide a couple tips to help avoid custody arguments that may arise for holiday parent time.

Discuss Issues Early

The terms of your divorce decree may not work well this year for you, or the kids, or for anyone. However, you will be held to the terms of the decree unless your ex spouse agrees to something different. Therefore, if you know you are going to need a variance on your holiday parent time to make it work, talk to your ex about this early. People are more likely and able to agree to minor changes on parent time if they have advance notice. Try never to spring up issues that could result in a fight last minute. Even if your ex won’t agree, it is better to go through that battle a month before Christmas than the day before. This way the children are not exposed to conflict so close to the holiday and if necessary you can make other arrangements.

Know What Your Decree and the Statutes Actually Say

I can’t tell you how many times a client has called us thinking their ex is breaking the terms of their divorce decree only to later realize the terms actually didn’t favor them. The first step if there is a disagreement on holiday parent time is determine what your own responsibilities under your decree are. Often a divorce decree will refer to dividing holidays based on the “standard statutory schedule.” This can be tricky and even St. George Divorce Lawyers sometimes get the terms of the statutes wrong. Nonetheless, the best thing to do is to go over the terms of the statutes with you divorce attorney to arrive at the proper meaning. Once you know what your obligations are, you can have a more informed conversation with your ex or have your lawyer discuss the matter for you.

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A Successful Divorce Mediation Requires Preparation

In Utah, the law requires parties to a divorce attend at least one session of divorce mediation in good faith prior to going to trial. Mediation can be an effective means of reaching a settlement agreement, even in hotly contested matters. However, going into a mediation not prepared and without supporting evidence for your claims can lead to a huge waste of time and money spent in the process. The key to any mediation is in large part is the preparation going in.

What You Need to Know

Before you go to mediation, you need to know all the details surrounding your claims. For example, if there are financial matters at issue such as alimony or child support. You need to know your own total financial picture and that of your soon to be ex. You need to know your  spouse’s income, expenses, assets, etc. If there are child issues at stake, you need to know your spouse’s work schedule and the schedules of your kids. If assets are at issue such as a marital home, business, or bank accounts, you should know exactly the value of each asset. For any issue, you should be fully aware of how the law applies to your case. Understanding how a judge would rule if you don’t agree can help you manage your risk in the matter.

What You Need to Bring

Generally speaking, you should go to the mediation with evidence to support all of your claims. If financial matters are at stake, you should have a fully executed financial declaration with all supporting documents. You need to make sure the other side has provided you with the same. If a home is at issue, you should have an appraisal or other document demonstrating the value. If child custody is at stake, a calendar showing all the recent days of the last few months you have had with the children can have a great impact.

Bringing a Lawyer to Mediation

Even if you are yet to hire a lawyer, you should consider getting one on board if nothing else just for the mediation. A good St. George Divorce Attorney can help you adequately prepare and organize for the mediation to help ensure your best chance of reaching an agreement. Additionally, since the mediator is not looking out for your best interests, having an attorney by your side only focused on what is best for you can be invaluable. As mentioned, knowing how a judge would likely rule on any given issue is essentially to effectively mediating. A lawyer can help in the mediation and give you an idea of what you could expect at court.

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Healthcare Reform Providing Divorce Incentive

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has a new health care calculator on their website that breaks down how much the new “Obamacare” system will cost you. This calculator has been mentioned by the Obama administration as a great tool to help people understand the new reform.

What’s interesting however is that some articles are being written suggesting that by playing around with this calculator you can realize that by being unmarried you could save $7,000 – $11,000 under the new healthcare system. Or in the reverse you could be charged $7k-$11k extra for being married. The difference of course being in the amount of taxpayer subsidies you lose by being married and filing jointly.

Whether this incentive to be single that comes from the reform was conscious or not remains to be seen. The other uncertainty is whether or not these articles are simply more political bantering by both sides trying to mischaracterize the program and shed different shades of light on it but its still an interesting issue to consider and may be the straw that broke the camels back for some feuding couples in their decision to get divorced.

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Bifurcating Your Divorce

In most cases divorces take a long time. The movies always depict a divorce as simply getting in a fight, signing a paper, and then moving on to the next happy ending; but reality is much much different. Once a divorce officially begins in Utah, the court requires that the parties wait at least 90 days until they can be awarded a divorce, and the only way that couple will actually be ready to enter a decree at the end of the 90 days is if they are willing to agree to every term of the divorce. Although this does happen, it is not common. A more likely scenario is that the couple is fighting over child custody, child support, alimony, or property division. What does all this fighting mean for the timeline? It means that the divorce could last a year or maybe longer.

What Does it Mean to Bifurcate Your Divorce?

Because of this long divorce timeline people start getting impatient and want to move on with their lives. While some individuals don’t want to think about marriage ever again, others find new partners quickly and have a desire to get remarried before their divorce is even finalized, but that poses a problem. Being married to more than one individual is bigamy and is illegal in Utah. So to help people that find themselves in this scenario the legal system provides for what is called a bifurcated divorce. A divorce bifurcation allows for a judge to enter a decree of divorce for the parties, legally divorcing them, yet setting aside the issues that they are fighting over to continue to be resolved in further court proceedings. So the divorce is essentially split in two, the property division and the like is set in a case that continues, and the separation of the parties and dissolution of the marriage is resolved and closed.

St. George Divorce Attorney Who can Help with Your Divorce

If you are looking at getting divorced but want to move on with your life and would like to know more about bifurcation then call us today for a free phone consultation.

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