Family Law in a Nutshell
Family law encompasses a wide array of cases. It can of course mean a divorce but it also means cases where the parties were never married. In a divorce case the parties have to resolve all of the financial issues including, what happens to the house, how is retirement divided, does one party get alimony? In a custody case the only issues are child support and custody/parent time. The following is a list of commonly asked questions and answers?
1. How does the judge decide who gets custody?
Answer: The judge reviews every case and goes through factors outlined by the Utah Code. As you are trying to fight for custody it is important to know how to prove those factors for your client to win custody. Including whether or not to ask for 50/50 or primary custody.
2. How is child support figured?
Answer: Child support is based on a formula. The website to determine child support can be found at https://orscsc.dhs.utah.gov/orscscapp-hs/orscscweb/actions/Csc0002.
3. How do the Utah court’s determine alimony?
Answer: Alimony is determined on three main factors: 1. What are the needs of the person receiving alimony? 2. Can they meet those needs? 3. How much can the party afford to pay?
4. I am a Mom what are my rights?
Answer: Utah law does a really good job of looking what is in the children’s best interests. If you have been the primary caretaker then the judge is going to consider maintaining that arrangement. However, just because you are the Mom does not mean that you will automatically get custody.
5. I am a Dad what are my rights?
Answer: Utah is not biased against Dad’s. Your rights are the same as the Mom’s, but you need to be an active participant in your children’s lives. The Court’s want to see which parent is taking care of the children regardless of gender. The Court’s do care about the best interests of the children.
6. What if I or my significant other is self-employed?
Answer: That makes determining child support more difficult but not impossible. In some cases the court will “impute” an income. This means that one party has the ability to go out and get a job. It used to be minimum wage of $7.25, but now even the fast food workers earn more. If you are worried that your spouse is hiding money because they are self-employed then we look at all of the money coming in, including Venmo or PayPal and show that the taxes of only $12,000 a year are not what should determine child support or alimony.
7. What if I believe the other party has hidden assets?
Answer: Then we use experts who go through the financial records and do cash and asset tracing.
8. How is retirement divided?
Answer: Retirement is divided by a formula where you each get 50% of what occurred during the marriage. This is sometimes referred to as the “Woodward” formula.
9. How do we do for holidays?
Answer: The Utah legislature outlines the holidays and it can be found here. https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title30/Chapter3/30-3-S35.html?v=C30-3-S35_2020051220200512. However, if you can agree to something different because of your specific family traditions then do that. This is only what is followed if you can’t reach an agreement.
10. What if one of us moves or lives out of state?
Answer: Then you follow another statute, 30-3-37, it basically states that the party living out of state gets 1/2 the summer and two big holidays every year. The four holidays that are divided are: Spring Break, Fall Break, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
11. What if the other party is not following the courts orders?
Answer: We file what’s called a Motion to Enforce. If the court finds that they are not in compliance they could award attorneys fees, jail time, community service or the taking of classes to learn to be a better co-parent.
12. There has been a change, how do we modify our Decree?
Answer: We file what is called a Petition to Modify and change your divorce decree. This could happen when one party is making more or less money, or the custody arrangement is not working.
13. Who pays the attorneys fees?
Answer: Usually each party pays their own attorneys fees, however if one party has all of the money then the court will order that party to pay both attorneys fees.
14. What is a custody evaluation?
Answer: A custody evaluation is someone that is appointed to talk to you and your kids about what is happening and then make recommendations. They can cost anywhere from $4,000-$20,000.
15. How long does it take to get divorced?
Answer: That depends on you. In the last twelve months, I had one matter be completed resolved in 37 days (very unusual) and another case that has been pending for years(very unusual), most cases are about 6-9 months.
16. Will I and my children be okay?
Answer: You will be okay. Another attorney wrote a book on getting through divorce that you might find really helpful. I also recommend the following books because this is a really hard process:
a. Anxious People: Fredrick Backman. This is a fictional book about a bank robber that tries to rob a cashless bank. It deals with issues such as divorce, loneliness, suicide, friendship and healing.
b. Too Good To Leave, Too Bad to Stay. This book is written by a therapist and they treat the decision about whether or stay in a marriage as a diagnosis and ask questions about your relationship. Great book if you can’t decide which direction to go.
c. No One Dies From Divorce. Jill Coil. Written by a local family law attorney on how to get through a divorce.
d. Why Won’t You Apologize. This is a great book about how to give an accept apologies and is perfect for helping you to learn to let go or to walk away.
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