Divorce in Utah: Property Division and Equitable Distribution

At divorce, assets and liability are divided between the two parties. Property distribution is dependent on the decision and discretion of the court if parties cannot agree on fair and reasonable property division among themselves. The District or Family Court is responsible for dividing marital estates listed on the divorce papers in the state of Utah. A property settlement attorney ensures a spouse is well-represented during division and distribution proceedings and makes sure that agreements are properly carried out.

Types of Property

The court classifies assets and liabilities as part of either community or separate property. The court assigns a monetary value and distributes them between the two parties equitably depending on certain factors.

Community Property – Community property is also called marital property. It includes everything earned and acquired during marriage, including earned income and incurred debts. Property for the benefit of the marriage belongs under this category.

Separate Property – Separate property includes gifts, inheritances, and personal injury awards given to a spouse before marriage. It also includes property purchased with a spouse’s separate funds. However, separate property can be considered community property if it is mixed with community property during the marriage.

Division of Property

Lawyer talking with couple

Divorcing couples may elect to divide their assets and liabilities on their own or with the help of a neutral third party like a mediator. In cases where an agreement cannot be reached, property disputes are left to the courts and state laws determine how division will proceed. Court determined property division can only be revisited and revised under limited circumstances.

Property and debts are divided either through community property or equitable distribution, depending on the state. With community property, each spouse keeps their separate property and all community property is equally divided between the two parties.

Equitable Distribution

Utah law operates under equitable distribution, which determines that accumulated assets and earnings during marriage should be divided equitably between the couple.

Judges in Utah do not rely on a hard and fast set of rules. Instead, they practice discretion and consider the factors unique to each marriage. Fair property distribution involves considerations like the duration of the marriage, age and health, occupation, and amounts and sources of income. Judges will review additional factors like medical needs, childcare costs, level of education, and earning potential. They may also consider how community property was acquired. These factors can influence a judge’s decision and affect the way they divide and distribute property.

A long marriage that ends in divorce may urge judges to assess the economic impact of the divorce, as well as whether earning capacity was affected or improved with the efforts of both spouses. Courts may decide equitable distribution involves a 50-50 division of assets. On the other hand, with short-lived marriages, the court may elect to return spouses to the economic position they were at before marriage. In this case, equitable distribution may be unequal but fair.

Division of property after divorce does not always refer to a physical division. Instead, each spouse may receive personal property, assets, and debts with values adding to the percentage they are awarded by the courts.