Perhaps one of the most trying times for an individual or family is when a couple divorces. Although basic forms can be obtained and filled out online, because of the many serious and critical issues pertaining to child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, division of debts and assets, no one should try to go through a divorce without the help of competent legal counsel. Divorce decrees are very difficult to modify, so they should be done right the first time with the help of an experienced divorce attorney.
We understand that each divorce is unique and personal, and we will work with you to achieve the best result possible and enable you to move forward with your life. Although many cases settle prior to trial, we thoroughly investigate and prepare for each case.
Potential clients often call us when either they have already decided to get a divorce, or just want to get some advice on what would likely happen if they were to get a divorce. If that is you, and you want more information from a divorce lawyer in St. George, then give us a call today at (435) 673-8400.
If a couple has already separated and minor children or substantial assets are involved, sometimes one or both would feel more comfortable having a separation agreement in place. A separation agreement can address virtually all the issues that a divorce decree does, such as custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, a division of assets and debts, etc.
In Utah, the courts focus on what is in the best interest of the children when determining legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody pertains to the parental right to have a say in how the child is raised, including health, education and related issues. Generally, both parents share joint legal custody unless there is good cause to do otherwise. Physical custody pertains to where the minor child resides. Generally, one parent is granted primary physical custody with the other parent being granted parent-time or visitation. In some situations, it makes sense for the parents to have joint or split physical custody, where the child resides with each parent on an equal time basis. Occasionally, where there is a history of drug, alcohol or physical abuse custody can be denied and visitation can be supervised.
Child support is primarily determined by guidelines established by the state legislature. It is calculated by combining the gross income of both parents and then applying that by a factor to the number of minor children. Tax returns and pay stubs are required to verify income. A parent who is not working but is able may be attributed the federal minimum wage in figuring monthly income for purposes of calculating child support. The non-custodial parent pays child support and the custodial parent receives it.
Visitation is also referred to as parent-time because it is the right of the child to have parent-time with each parent. If the parties cannot agree upon a parent-time schedule, then the courts will use the guidelines found in the Utah statutes, which generally speaking grant the non-custodial parent visitation one night per week, every other weekend, an even number of alternating holidays and alternating birthdays every other year. On occasion, where the facts so warrant, such as where there has been a history of alcohol, drug or child abuse, the court may order supervised visitation.
Division of Debts and Property
Generally, debts and assets are equally divided between the spouses. However, each case is unique and under certain circumstances, an equal division of debts and property would be unjust or unfair. Oftentimes how debts and assets are assigned may affect a spouse’s claim to spousal support or alimony.
Unlike child support, alimony or spousal support is not required or “automatic” in Utah. Utah law does, however, allow the court to award alimony under certain circumstances where justice so requires. Generally speaking, the policy in Utah is to leave the two divorced parties in an equal or similar financial position, excluding separate premarital assets. Where balance cannot be achieved through the allocation of debt and assets, the spouse in the lesser position may have a claim for alimony. Alimony may be awarded as a monthly payment and can extend up to the length of the marriage.
A party may seek a modification of a divorce decree where there has been a substantial material change in circumstances not foreseeable at the time of the divorce. This is not necessarily an easy standard to satisfy, so it is important to have an experienced attorney help you in the first place to make sure we get the decree right. Nevertheless, at Witt Law Offices, we always have a certain percentage of cases involving modification. We have successfully petitioned and defended against both in St. George, Utah. Give us a call. We are here to help.
Mediation in Utah
Mediation has become a very effective way to resolve most issues that arise in a divorce, and it is much less expensive than a trial. In fact, Utah law requires divorcing parties to attend mediation if they have minor children. We attend mediation with you, where with our help, you and your spouse work with a neutral third party mediator to reach an agreement on some or all issues. We have a good working relationship with highly qualified mediators and work within selecting the best one for your case.