Rights of Unwed Parents With No Court Orders

We frequently get calls from unwed mothers and fathers who have never been to court, have no court orders, and want to know what their rights are with their children. Often they ask things like, “can he/she keep my child from me?” The truth is without a court order for custody, parent time, and any other child issue in place, your rights may be limited. Two parents, generally speaking, have equal rights to their children absent a court order to the contrary. But what this really means is if one parent is keeping the child from the other, that parent may be stuck until they can get the issue before a commissioner or judge. For this reason, we almost always counsel our clients seeking custody to not wait in getting into court. We have seen numerous horror stories of parents disappearing with children or leaving the state and becoming almost impossible to find. Don’t let this happen to you. If you do not have any custody or other child orders in place, you should act immediately to prevent future problems from arising. Even if you and the other parent get a long great, you never know if something is going to change. Don’t take any chances.

Specific Rights of Unwed Fathers

If you are the father in the relationship, and are not married, you should be aware of the following laws in Utah which may affect your ability to prevent an adoption of your child. First, if your child is less than 6 months old, the mother does not need your consent to give your child up for adoption unless you file a paternity action within 1 day following the birth of your child. There are exceptions to this general rule; you should consult with an attorney for details. Second, if your child is over 6 months old, consent may still not be required unless you can prove a substantial relationship exists between you and your child. Again, for advice regarding you specific situation, call and speak with a St. George Divorce Attorney at our firm today.

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Keeping Your Separate Property…Your Separate Property

Sometimes one person enters a marriage with considerably more assets and wealth than the other party. Unfortunately for some of those people, a divorce later follows and they leave the marriage with considerably less than they started out with. Nothing can be more frustrating than the feeling that a spouse who contributed little to the marriage walks away with a big chunk of what you thought would always be yours. If you have assets, will be inheriting assets, or simply are wealthy, there are 2 primary things you can do to ensure your wealth will be protected in the event of divorce.

Prenuptial Agreements

You know we were going to list this one first. A prenup is by no means romantic, however, it is absolutely crucial if you want to ensure your fortune is secure from divorce or separation. If you are planning on getting married, the last thing you probably want to think about is discussing protecting yourself from your spouse. We can’t tell you how many nasty divorces could have been avoided had the parties just simply executed a prenup. Absent not getting married at all, a prenuptial agreement is the very best tool you have to protect what you own going into marriage.

Don’t Comingle

The second best thing you can do to prevent a soon to be ex from taking ownership in your property is to keep the separate property you bring into the marriage separate. Do not comingle your assets such that a court would have a difficult time determining what is your and what is his/hers. Comingling of assets can occur in a number of different ways. For instance, let’s say you own a home prior to the marriage. Following the marriage, you put your spouse’s name on the title. You guys do some remodeling or maybe even take out a home equity line of credit on the property. Maybe your spouse makes significant improvements to the property. All of these things could create the appearance of comingling the property and could mean you lose a portion of the total value. Be careful and consult with a lawyer prior to marriage to determine the best course of action regarding your property.

The General Rule

The general rule when it comes to property is that anything you owned prior to the marriage is your separate property. However, there a few exceptions to this rule so don’t take any chances, speak with a St. George Divorce Attorney if you have any questions about diving property or planning for protections going into a marriage. We can help with these issues so do not hesitate to call for a free consultation right over the phone.

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Common Law Marriage in Utah

A man and woman involved in a relationship can have their relationship declared a marriage if a number of elements can be proven by the parties. The statute refers to these as unsolemnized marriages but is more generally referred to as the Common Law Marriage in Utah. If a party wishes to have a common law marriage declared as valid, the party must file a petition demonstrating the following:

  1. The parties are of legal age and capable of consenting to a marriage.
  2. The parties are legally capable of entering a solemnized marriage.
  3. The parties have lived together.
  4. The parties assumed marital rights and responsibilities.
  5. The parties held themselves out as man and wife.

You will notice there is no time period requirement such as the requirement that the parties cohabitated for a minimum of “X” amount of years etc. Many people falsely believe they have to have been dating or lived together for a long period of time or something to that effect in order to have a shot at a court declaring them to have a valid marriage. This is not the case. While such requirements may be imposed in other jurisdictions, Utah does not require these kinds of time periods.

When Common Law Marriage Makes Sense

There are few different reasons why a person may want to declare their relationship as a legal and valid marriage. Probably the most common is the case where two people have been living and dating for several years, sometimes have children together, and then later decide to separate. Often the parties have invested their entire life into the relationship and desire the same protections and rights that come with divorce. In situations where the parties meet all of the elements necessary under the law, an individual can seek the same protections and address the same issues as in a regular divorce.

Seeking Legal Representation

Having a court declare your relationship as a common law marriage is no easy task. Seeking legal representation from an experienced St. George Divorce Attorney can substantially improve your chances of correctly going through the legal process. Don’t leave something this important to chance, call and speak with a family law attorney at our firm as soon as possible.

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Jurisdictional Issues in a Utah Divorce

Jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority over a case or authority over a person. In order to meet the court jurisdictional authority in a Utah divorce, at least one of the parties must have been a bona fide resident of the county in which they filed for at least 3 months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce petition. This means that the husband or the wife, not necessarily both, must have actually lived in that particular county for the 3 months prior to filing for divorce. Often times, one of the parties just moved to Utah or to a particular county and as a result must wait 3 months before they can file. This is an important rule to consider as you contemplate when and where to file for divorce.

Jurisdiction Over Children

In divorces involving children, the jurisdictional requirement is generally 6 months. This means that the children must have lived in Utah for a period of 6 months prior to the court having authority to make any custody or other child order. There are some exceptions to this rule but it gets complicated so you should discuss any of these issues directly with a St. George Divorce Attorney in our office.

Jurisdiction Over Non Residents

If one party does not live in Utah, and the parties have never lived in Utah during the marriage, and the nonresident did not commit any acts giving rise to the divorce in Utah, it is highly unlikely a court would will find there is sufficient jurisdiction in Utah, most likely under those terms a court would dismiss a case for lack of jurisdiction. If you have recently moved to Utah and your soon to be ex resides in another state, you should consult with a lawyer to determine the place in which you should file for divorce.

Getting More Information

Jurisdictional issues can be complex in divorce. Therefore, you should meet with an experienced divorce lawyer in Utah at our office prior to taking any steps to file on your own. Get a free consultation with an attorney at our firm as soon as possible by calling 435.216.1034.

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90 Day Waiting Period for Divorce in Utah

What is surprising to many people filing for divorce for the first time in Utah, is the fact that all parties to a Utah Divorce must wait 90 days after the initial divorce petition is filed before a judge will grant the divorce. This can be very frustrating to many people who for one reason or another do not want to wait 3 months before their divorce is complete. In the past, the 90 day waiting period could be waived rather easily if both the parties to the action consented to the waiver. However, a change in the law a few months ago has now resulted in very few waivers being granted. Indeed, at least for the time being, the 90 day waiting period has become a hard fast rule in Utah.

Other Time Periods to Know

There are a few other time period related rules everyone should be aware when it comes to a divorce. Most notably, is the 120 day service rule. In a divorce in Utah, you have 120 days to serve your spouse with the divorce petition and accompanying paperwork or the judge may dismiss your case for lack of service. Now this is usually not a big issue for most people since 120 days should be more than enough time to have anyone served. However, some people file for divorce then have second thoughts or in some cases the parties temporarily try to work through their difference putting the divorce on hold. Just be aware that if you file for divorce and then do nothing for a period of time, there is a chance the judge is going to dismiss your case. If your case is dismissed for lack of service and you later decide to the move the case forward, you will be required to file another matter and will likely have to pay the court filing fees all over again.

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Filing for Divorce Online in Utah | OCAP System

Many people in Utah each year use the court’s OCAP system online to file for divorce. This system works well for some but not for everyone. If your case is uncontested and there are no complex issues to sort out, the OCAP system might work for you. However there are a few things anyone considering filing for divorce online should remember before jumping in. Addressed below are a few quick tips and information you should consider before filing using OCAP. For specific information regarding the facts of your case, contact a St. George Divorce Lawyer at our office at your convenience.

  1. The first thing to consider when thinking about filing for divorce online is whether or not your case is completely uncontested or not. If there is anything the two of you have not agreed on, you should consider hiring a lawyer. This is especially true if the two of you have not agreed on any major issues such as custody, alimony, assets, etc. If you have the major points ironed out but not specific details, you either should not file or you should take the time to sort those details out before filing. It usually only leads to further conflict down the road when certain issues are left open at the time of divorce.
  2. Make sure you understand the terms of your decree and what the potential consequences could be. Everyone, regardless of whether they file for divorce online or not should at a minimum have an attorney review their divorce decree before it becomes an order they have to follow. Many clients come to us months or even years following a divorce they did online with questions only to realize they agreed to things they had no idea had such substantial consequences. It is much easier and usually cheaper to have an attorney involved upfront than it is to try and change things later. Just remember that this divorce order is something you are going to have a live by for a potentially long time. Something this serious deserves as much due diligence and help from a professional as possible.
  3. The OCAP system works well if you are looking to do standard things. It does not work well if you are trying to get complex terms or special circumstances addressed. If you have a lot of assets, debts, or real property, you should probably have a lawyer since your case may be at least somewhat different than the average case filed online.

Of course we are going to tell you to hire lawyer for your divorce no matter what the circumstances, after all we are divorce attorneys and enjoy representing people. But the reality is that everyone really should at least consult with an attorney before they take any major steps to filing for divorce online. Just speaking with an attorney could potentially save you years of headache. Since we offer free consultations, there really is no excuse not to have us review your facts.

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Domestic Violence and Divorce in Utah

In some cases, domestic violence may be the cause for a couple’s divorce. Domestic violence and other criminal charges are all too often associated with divorce in Utah. It is not uncommon at all for a client, men and women both, to contact our office explaining they were charged with domestic violence, served with a protective order, and are going through divorce, all at the same time. This means that individual would be facing 3 separate cases, potentially with 3 different judges, yet all the cases stem from the same set of facts, at least in part. For these types of matters, it can be extremely helpful to have an attorney who can handle everything. Having the same lawyer for your divorce, protective order, and domestic violence case can potentially save you money and headache. At our firm, we are experienced in all of these areas and can help when you are facing these difficult cases. A St. George Divorce Lawyer and Southern Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer at our firm can help you get through all of these challenges.

Victim Representation

We have represented individuals on both sides of the domestic violence equation. This includes victim representation in a domestic violence case against the accused. We do not discriminate between parties. Whether you need help filing for a protective order or defending against one, we can be of service to you. While some attorneys only represent defendants or victims, we have handles both sides of the story which we believe gives us an advantage and better understanding of an opposing party’s potential positions.

St. George Divorce Attorney

Once the dust has settled on a domestic violence matter or protective order proceedings, often parties are left with the divorce process to finalize. A St. George Divorce Attorney at our law firm will help you put everything behind and start a new fresh road by completing your divorce matter. Often people believe they can finalize a divorce all on their own without any problems. While you can represent yourself if you choose, you should at least consult with a lawyer prior filing anything. This can help prevent mistakes. We get many calls each month from people who filed for divorce on their own only later to realize they are bound to terms they never understood and now want to change. It is often more expensive to hire a lawyer post divorce to try and fix problems than to do things the right way the first time around. Don’t leave anything this important to chance. Email or call us today to get a free consultation.


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Alimony Disputes in Divorce Proceedings

One of the most hotly contested issues in divorce proceedings next to those that involve children is disputes over alimony, or spousal support. The theory behind spousal support is quite simple but the arguments can get complicated and heated quickly. The judicial system allows for spousal support so that spouses that primarily worked in the home are not left destitute by divorcing the bread winner. The problems come in when the discussion comes to how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. Also a lot of bread winners argue that their ex spouse could go get a job and provide some for themselves.

General Alimony Principles

When it comes to settling alimony disputes it can be very difficult to predict what the possible outcomes may be. Ultimately, if the parties cannot come to an agreement then the judge will make a decision based on the arguments as to whether or not alimony should be awarded and if so the amount and duration of the award. Some general principles are used however to guide judges in their decision making but these are in no sense hard and fast rules. The first is the judges will normally not award alimony for long than the duration of the marriage. So for example if you were married for 10 years then you’re not likely to get alimony for longer than 10 years. The second is that judges try to balance incomes between the parties and maintain similar standards of living if at all possible.

St. George Divorce Attorney | Resolving your Alimony Concerns

If you are facing divorce and live in St. George or Washington County then call St George Divorce Attorney today. We can help you understand the process and what you should expect from your divorce. Our experienced attorneys can help you protect your interests and understand what your options are.

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Utah Advisory Guidelines | Parenting Plans

Anytime you have a joint custody arrangement, whether it is joint physical custody, joint legal, or both, the court will require you file a parenting plan. A parenting plan is suppose to layout the grounds rules upon how the joint custody arrangement will work and help to avoid conflict between the parents. The plan can address any issue which will help avoid the potential for conflict regarding the kids including such things as drop off and pick times and locations; what kinds of activities are acceptable while the kids are in a parents care; who will make certain decision such as where the children go to school, and virtually any other matter which may need to be addresses and which will help the parents work towards the mutual best interests of the children.

Standard Guidelines for Parents

The state legislature included some suggestions for parenting provisions known as the Advisory Guidelines in the divorce laws in Utah. Many parents simply adopt these guidelines as their parenting plan because, for the most part, these guidelines help most parents effectively parent following divorce. Now every case is different so the standard guidelines may not work well for you and your particular situation. For more information on parenting plans and the advisory guidelines, call and speak with a St. George Utah Divorce Attorney in our office today.

Free Consultations

At our law firm, we have helped numerous divorcing parents craft unique parenting plans which protect their interests and the interests of their children. We cannot stress enough the importance of a solid parenting plan when you have a joint custody arrangement and foresee the potential for future problems and lays out a good set of rules to the benefit of your children. Whether you have many kids or just one or two, we can help to ensure your life gets easier after divorce rather than more difficult. Do not hesitate to contact one of our Southern Utah Family Law Attorneys immediately to get a free consultation over the phone.

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Divorce Education Classes in Washington County and Iron County Utah

The divorce education classes are typically held once a month at the 5th district court houses in both Washington County and Iron County. If you live in St. George or Cedar City, or anywhere in between, this means you really only have 2 chances each month to get in and do the divorce education course and the divorce orientation course. These divorce classes are required for all divorcing persons in Utah with minor children. For those that are divorcing in Utah but are not currently residing here, there is an option to order the divorce education classes on DVD. You watch the classes and sign an affidavit swearing under oath that you completed the courses by DVD. Currently at the time of this article, there is no option to complete the classes online although many divorce attorneys in Utah have been asking for an online course for years.

Waiving the Divorce Education Classes in Utah

In some limited circumstances, you can request the divorce education class requirements be waived. Those who want to waive the requirement must really have a compelling reason or the judge will likely reject the request. Living in another state is typically not sufficient grounds to have the requirement waived because the court can mail you the DVDs to watch instead of requiring you to attend a live course. If you wish to waive the divorce education requirements, you should speak with a St. George Divorce Attorney in our office before attempting to submit your own motion. The judges are not generally keen on granting these types of waivers so you may need all the help you can get from a good Family Law Attorney in Utah.

Where do I get more information?

For more information on the divorce education classes, you can call us at 435.216.1034, or you can visit the Utah state court’s website at http://www.utcourts.gov/specproj/dived/. Going through a divorce with children involved can be difficult. We can help. Contact us anytime for a free consultation.

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