Ending a marriage is never easy. It is also not a one-day process. If you no longer wish to live with your spouse but are not yet ready for divorce, a legal separation may be an option.
Temporary Separation Orders in Utah
Under Utah law, a couple may seek a temporary separation order from a state judge. This order can establish certain financial and legal terms of a separation, including alimony, division of property, child custody, and child support. The order is “temporary” in that it automatically expires after one year unless the couple reconciles before then or one spouse files for divorce. If there is a divorce filing, the court may extend the temporary separation order until the case is resolved.
It should be noted that there is no legal requirement in Utah for couples to separate before seeking divorce. A temporary separation order is simply an option that a couple may choose. But there is no legal barrier for one spouse to immediately file for divorce or dissolution of the marriage. Further, a legal separation has to be agreed upon by the parties. It is not something you can litigate in court.
Do Prenuptial Agreements Affect a Temporary Separation?
Many couples choose to sign a prenuptial agreement—that is, a contract in anticipation of marriage. Among other things, a prenuptial agreement typically specifies how a couple will divide their property in the event of separation or divorce. As a general rule, such agreements are enforceable in Utah. However, Utah law also states that a premarital agreement may not affect “the right of a child to support, health and medical provider expenses, medical insurance, and child care coverage.” In other words, you cannot use a premarital agreement to limit child support or settle any questions related to child custody. These matters must be handled through divorce or a temporary separation order.
Is Annulment an Option?
Another option for couples looking to end a marriage without going through divorce is annulment. Unlike a divorce, which dissolves an existing legal marriage, an annulment is a judicial decree that states the marriage was never legal to begin with. In most cases, a divorce is easier to obtain than an annulment, but there are certain circumstances where the latter may be preferable.
Utah provides for annulment in cases where “the marriage is prohibited or void” by law. The most common examples of a prohibited or void marriage include:
- One spouse was already married (i.e., bigamy);
- The spouses are close relatives (siblings or first cousins);
- One spouse had not reached the legal age of consent at the time of the marriage. In Utah, no person under the age of 18 may marry for the first time without parental consent. No person under the age of 16 may marry without parental consent and a court order; or
- The marriage was procured through fraud or misrepresentation.
Get Annulment Help from an Attorney in Salt Lake City
Whether you choose to pursue annulment or temporary separation as a precursor to divorce, it is important you have proper legal representation. A Utah divorce law firm can provide you with divorce law help and ensure your rights are protected. Contact Jill Coil at the offices of CoilLaw, LLC, today if you need help today. Our attorneys are well-versed in divorce laws and annulment laws, as well as prenuptial agreement laws and other family law issues.