Before Divorce: The Mandatory 90-Day Waiting Period
There really is a waiting period to get divorced in Utah.
Although it can seem frustrating feeling like you are trapped in a marriage longer than you’d like to be, the court believes there is good reason for this law. Many of our clients have expressed confusion at the waiting period, so we decided to dig a little deeper into the guidelines associated with this waiting period.
How long is the waiting period? The Utah Code states that the Court cannot grant a Decree of Divorce “until 90 days has elapsed from the filing of the complaint” (Utah Code § 30-3-18(1)). This means that from the time you formally ask the Court to grant you a divorce, you have to wait for about three months before it can be granted.
Why does the waiting period exist? In short, the waiting period is present to avoid divorces being completed on decisions made in the heat of the moment. The waiting period offers parties the opportunity to decide if divorce is really what they want and in the best interests of the parties and the children. It’s quite common for couples to attempt reconciliation after filing for divorce. Perhaps it’s the age-old tale of not missing something until it’s gone, but in several cases, parties are able to successfully work through their problems after the petition has been filed.
In the event parties are attempting reconciliation, it’s important to let the court know both parties agree to hold or dismiss the case. Otherwise, deadlines may stay in place, causing the divorce action to proceed.
On the other hand, if you are having difficulty coming to an agreement and your case becomes contested, the 90 day period may lapse while you’re still in the process of litigating. You can also use the waiting period as an opportunity to complete any required courses, such as the divorce orientation and education classes.
Can I can get it waived? Although the court offers the option to ask for the waiting period to be waived, the option shouldn’t be taken lightly. The court requires that there be “extraordinary circumstances” that warrant you needing to waive the waiting period.
In the event you feel you have extreme circumstances, the request for waiver is sent to a judge to make the final decision on whether or not the waiting period will be waived. There is no guarantee that your circumstances will qualify.
But what if we agree? Even if you and your spouse agree to waive the waiting period or reach a resolution and sign a stipulation, you are still required to wait the 90 days. However, if you and your spouse have signed a stipulation, you have the option to begin to follow its terms immediately, without waiting for the court to sign the final Decree of Divorce. For example, you can begin following the parent-time schedule, pay and receive child support and alimony, or make any divisions of property, so long as it is what was agreed to in your stipulation.
Essentially, you can live as if the divorce is final without it actually being final.
Although the waiting period may seem unnecessary or frustrating, it can help to ensure that by the time the Judge signs your decree, you’ve had time to make a well thought out decision, not a hasty one. At Burton Law Firm, we have the knowledge and experience to take on your case. If you have questions regarding your divorce, please contact us to schedule a consultation today.
Michael B. Lundberg is a native of Logan, Utah. While in law school, Mike served as the Executive Articles Editor of the Journal of Law and Family Studies and was published in that Journal, as well as the Utah Law Review. During his third year, he also found time to serve as President of the James E. Faust Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.
Mike has worked in a wide variety of areas in the legal field. During law school he worked as an extern with the First District Court in Logan, and later as an extern with the Utah Court of Appeals in the chambers of Judge Carolyn McHugh. After graduation, he was awarded a Dean’s Fellowship to work with Christensen & Jensen, PC in Salt Lake City. He then spent 18 months working as a law clerk for the City Attorney in Park City. He joined Burton Law Firm after operating as a sole practitioner for two years. During this time, he also served on the board of the Utah Young Lawyers Division of the Utah State Bar.