Not married in Utah? Recently Moved to Utah? Spouse in the Military? Not sure where you can file for divorce?
Sometimes there’s a small snag in my client’s plans to file for divorce in Utah. While you are probably grappling with the emotional, financial and practical consequences of making the decision to get divorced, there are some technical legal requirements that must be met.
Of course, that’s what I’m for. As your divorce lawyer, it’s my job to worry about that stuff. But if you are considering getting divorced, and are wondering if you can even file here in Utah, here are some considerations.
In short, you need to have lived in the county where you are filing for 3 months.
In order for a court to grant you a divorce, that court must have jurisdiction over you and your spouse, as well as the power to grant divorces. This means the court must have the authority to make a decree of divorce – they can’t order just anybody around willy-nilly, right? Utah Code § 30-3-1 governs what is required for the court to have this authority. It says that either you or your spouse must be a “bona fide resident” of the county where you are filing for divorce for the previous 3 months.
It is not a problem if you were married in a different state, or even in a different country – as long as you fit the bona fide residence requirement.
But what about spouses in the military?
In most ways, military divorces are just like civilian divorces, but there are a few key differences, and this is one of them. Because people in the military move around frequently, they are often temporary visitors, rather than legal residents, of the place they are living in. So, according to the code, a petitioner who is a member of the armed forces of the United States, but not a legal resident of Utah, can file for divorce in the place where he or she has been stationed for the previous 3 months. This means that if you are the military spouse, you can file for divorce, but if your spouse is the military member and you have not been living here for the last 3 months, you will have to file somewhere else – probably in your spouse’s home-state, or possibly in a federal court.
Can I get a divorce if my spouse is currently deployed?
There are other complications where the military spouse is currently deployed. Due process requires that a party to a law suit (which is what a divorce action is) have the proper opportunity to defend themselves. Courts recognize that a member of the military who is deployed may not have the ability to do that right away, so there can be some hoops to jump through in getting that person served with the divorce papers. The petitioning spouse may also have to wait for the military member to return from deployment before the action can proceed.
It is possible to get a divorce while a spouse is deployed, but there are complexities and the spouse will probably have to be willing and cooperative. Otherwise, you will have to wait until they return.