I have mentioned previously that sometimes I receive calls asking if a legal separation is a necessary condition of obtaining a divorce in Utah. It is not, although there is a ninety day waiting period before a divorce may be entered.
However, Utah does have a law which allows for orders to be entered and enforced regarding use and disposition of property, payment of alimony and child support, division of debts and obligations, attorney fees, and child custody without a divorce being entered. This is set forth at Utah Code 30-4, which is entitled “Separate Maintenance.”
The court may enforce its orders by contempt proceedings, ordering the sale of property to provide for the deserted or neglected spouse, or by providing that either spouse may have a lien upon the property of the other to secure the payment of the support or maintenance.
If a married person willfully neglects or deserts a spouse or a spouse without fault lives apart from the other spouse, this is sufficient grounds for an action of separate maintenance.
Similar provisions may be made if a spouse is imprisoned in the state prison under a sentence of one year or more and has not made adequate provisions to provide for his (or her) spouse during the prison term.
The court may restrain the sale or disposal of real estate and the property so restrained shall be charged with a lien in favor of the plaintiff to the extent of any judgment rendered in the action.
I have not had much opportunity to use this statute. It seems that where such desertion or neglect has taken place, the parties typically seek a divorce. However, it is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which this section of the law may be appropriate, such as where the parties have religious objections to divorce, or envision reconciliation, or where divorce simply is not a practical alternative.
The court may review and modify the maintenance from time to time and terminate it altogether upon proof of voluntary and permanent reconciliation. The orders may only be valid during the joint lives of the husband and wife.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.