Divorce and Custody
Divorce causes a strain on both your emotions and your finances. One of the most important decisions you make is whom you select as a lawyer. You need an attorney who has proven ability to resolve differences between spouses — someone who is able to limit or eliminate the concept that divorce is a battle to be “won.”
If you and your spouse are in agreement as to the terms of your divorce you may be able to obtain what we call an “uncontested divorce.” Sometimes people think that the divorce will be uncontested because both spouses want a divorce. Agreeing not to be married is not enough to make your divorce uncontested. A better name for an uncontested divorce would be a “cooperative divorce.”
To truly be cooperative or uncontested both parties to the divorce will have to agree on all issues: custody, support, property and debt distribution, etc. Both parties will have to disclose information and sign documents.
Many people are able to negotiate an uncontested divorce before they hire a lawyer. So, why hire a lawyer at all? There are several reasons to hire a lawyer even if your divorce is uncontested:
The lawyer ensures that you have not forgotten or left out any crucial terms for your divorce.
The lawyer makes sure that the agreement between you and your spouse complies with the law and will be accepted and enforced by the judge assigned to your case.
The lawyer prepares all the legal documents for you. Even for an uncontested divorce there are several legal documents that must be prepared and filed with the court for the judge to review.
The lawyer also makes sure that they are clear and precise in their terms, and submitted to the court as required by law.
If you and your spouse are not able to come to agreements right away you may need to proceed by filing your case, having your spouse served, and waiting to see if your spouse contests the terms of your divorce.
You only get to divorce your spouse once and it is vital that you get good advice, good document preparation and good representation. To make good decisions about your case, you must have good and accurate information. Experience matters when choosing an attorney. Most contested divorces do not go all the way to trial. With good attorneys involved most cases will settle before then. But if you have to go to court for a judge to decide your case, make sure you have a good attorney at your side.
Only a judge can grant a divorce. A mediator cannot grant you a divorce. Mediators do play an important role in helping people settle their cases so that they can submit their settlement agreement to the judge, rather than going before the judge for a trial. All contested divorce cases have to go to mediation. Make sure you have a good attorney with you so you can make good decisions at your mediation.
Sometimes we need to get into court right away for the court to decide where the kids will live, what visitation will be, what support will be paid, etc. while the divorce is pending. Those are called temporary orders.
If there has been violence between spouses the court may enter an emergency protective order. A protective order may serve the same function as a temporary order.
In Utah, legal separation may be granted for up to a year – or it may be permanent, depending on the kind of case you file. Legal separation addresses all the same issues as are dealt with in a divorce.
A legal separation case can take just as much work and expense as a divorce. For that reason, most people do not file for legal separation when they are having trouble in their marriage.
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