What is the New Utah Divorce Waiting Period?

THE OLD LAW

Divorce is not a decision often made lightly. For decades States have imposed waiting periods to prevent couples from divorcing too soon when there is a still a chance they can reconcile. In the early 2000s, the law in Utah imposed a 90-day divorce waiting period that could be waived for “good cause.” This was interpreted by most judges to mean that a party could simply provide any reason at all and it was sufficient to waive the 90-day divorce waiting period.

The law then changed to require “extraordinary circumstances” to waive the waiting period. The new language made it exceedingly difficult to have any significant level of consistency from one judge to the next. In fact, I personally had a case where a judge waived the waiting period to help a party qualify for an auto loan and a second case where a different judge denied the waiver even though an unborn child needed health insurance, for a prenatal operation, that could only be obtained after the divorce.

Most lawyers in Utah like to see laws uniformly applied because it provides some reliability in advising clients. On an issue such as a waiting period, there is unlikely to ever be any uniformity, because no one will be willing to spend time money to appeal a court’s decision on a motion to waive the waiting period. This means there is no case law for any judge to rely on in determining what constitutes “extraordinary circumstances.”

THE NEW LAW

Legislation introduced in the 2018 general session provides for one change to Section 30-3-18, Utah Code Ann.:

(1) Unless the court finds that extraordinary circumstances exist and otherwise orders, no hearing for decree of divorce may be held by the court until [9030 days has elapsed from the filing of the complaint, but the court may make interim orders as it considers just and equitable.

The extraordinary circumstances standard remains unchanged, but the total period was substantially reduced from ninety days to thirty. The waiting period for divorce in Utah is now only thirty days. The good news about this change is that the Court is much less likely to see Motions to Waive the waiting period that are not extraordinary circumstances. It usually takes a few weeks to get the logistics of the divorce resolved anyway. A thirty-day waiting period means that there really will be no reason to spend money or time to prepare a Motion to waive the waiting period unless there is some urgent, highly compelling, reason to do so.

If you are looking for a divorce attorney in South Jordan or the Salt Lake area to help you through this time, give us a call.