Family Law

Family Law

Often, people come to family law attorneys for a divorce; however, family law covers a variety of areas:

  • Divorce
  • Annulment
  • Modification of existing divorce decree 
    • Child custody
    • Child Support
    • Alimony
    • Property Division 
  • Order to Show Cause (enforcement action for existing divorce decree)
  • Paternity 
  • Temporary Orders
  • Modification of existing paternity decree
  • Protective Orders (for divorce cases)
  • Temporary Restraining Orders (for existing divorce or paternity cases)

We understand that family law-related issues can be one of the most stressful events a person can experience in life: divorces are emotional and difficult, and modifications of divorces can dredge up past hurt. MacArthur, Heder & Metler is committed to handling these painful experiences with compassion and professionalism. We have handled thousands of divorce and other family law cases with customized approaches and successful resolutions. 

We recognize that divorce and other family law issues carry a potential to damage husbands, wives, and children—and the respective relationship with each other. In our representation, we seek to limit the damage that divorce or other family law actions causes to the individuals involved. Our family law practitioners are dedicated to turning problems into solutions, seeking to find swift resolutions to the pain of divorce or other actions. 

To help you understand what to expect in a divorce or family law-related action, please read through the summary of main issues below. For further questions and inquires related to a divorce or other family law matter, please contact our office for a consultation with one of our family law practitioners. 

  • Divorce: Divorce is the action of full legal separation of individuals. There are many grounds for a divorce, but most commonly, a party divorces due to irreconcilable differences. In order to get a divorce, a party must file legal documents with the court. Though a divorce can be resolved outside of court (see mediation below), the documents are required to go through the courts to have an order. The fees and costs of a divorce vary greatly and depend on how long it takes the parties to agree. In Utah, there is a minimum 30-day waiting period from the time a new divorce action is filed to when it can be finalized. To read more about divorce and the process, visit https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/divorce/. 


  • Annulment: In limited circumstances, the court can grant an annulment instead of a divorce. An annulment means that the marriage never existed and has different consequences from a divorce. You can read more about the grounds for an annulment here: https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/divorce/annulment.html


  • Paternity: A paternity action is the establishment of rights of a father if a child is born out of wedlock. In order for the father to have rights to parent-time and other responsibilities in relation to that child, paternity must be established. To learn more about paternity and the process, visit https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/family/paternity/.


  • Temporary Orders: The divorce process can be very challenging and sometimes parties need orders in place before the divorce is finalized. Parties can seek temporary orders within a divorce action to help with the process, which can include seeking temporary alimony, child custody, and exclusive use of the marital residence. Temporary orders are not a quick solution to immediate issues, as there is a minimum wait of 28 days for the hearing. If you are seeking temporary orders, it will make your divorce or paternity action more expensive.


  • Mediation: In Utah, there is a mandatory divorce mediation requirement. This means that parties that begin a divorce action must make at least one good-faith attempt at mediating before going to trial. Mediation is held with a qualified third-party mediator that can work through the outstanding divorce issues. If an agreement is reached, then the divorce can be completed without court. Our family law practitioners do all they can to resolve divorce and other family law matters in mediation, as it is less costly and lengthy than litigation. In general, about 85% of our cases are resolved in mediation.  


  • Child Custody: Child custody is tricky in a divorce. In a perfect world, parents would agree upon custody and parent-time arrangements, but often this is contested. The court considers what is in the best interests of the children in any divorce action. There are different statutes and rules regarding parent-time when a couple is divorcing or modifying an existing divorce. To protect the children and best suit their needs, we do not put the children in the middle of a divorce or modification action. This also is included in paternity matters. Our firm seeks to work out child custody issues in mediation in order to avoid the cost and emotional strain of lengthy litigation. If necessary, we will involve custody evaluators to assist in making determinations that suit the best interests of the children. Children do not select which parent that they get to live with after a divorce, though if a child is older, the child’s preference is given more weight by the court. 


  • Child Support: Child support is determined by statutory guidelines. You can read more about child support in a divorce or paternity action here: http://www.utcourts.gov/childsupport/calculator. The income that is used to calculate a party’s need or obligation for child support is the gross amount. If a party is unemployed or if there is a dispute, a party will be imputed at least at minimum wage to ensure a fair settlement. Existing child support orders in a divorce decree can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances. 


  • Alimony: Alimony, also known as spousal support, can be awarded in a divorce action. The amount and duration of the alimony obligation is at the discretion of the court and the circumstances particular to your case. These factors include ability of a spouse to pay, earning potential and income of both parties, and the financial conditions and need of the receiving spouse. If there is an alimony obligation in your current divorce decree that you would like to modify, that is also an available option. Alimony can be adjusted based on the current circumstances of the parties. Alimony automatically terminates upon the death of either party or the receiving spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation. Alimony is often a contested issue in divorce, so our family law practitioners will be open and honest with you regarding your need for or potential of paying alimony. 


  • Property Division: Property in a divorce action includes real property, personal property, and financial accounts and obligations. The first step in a property division is to determine what is martial property. If you have been divorced previously, you might have property in the marriage that was not comingled with your current spouse. Once martial property is determined, then our family law practitioners will work to split the property. Utah requires an equitable division of marital assets in a divorce, so often this division is 50-50. Our firm is well-equipped to handle divorces with extensive property issues such as businesses, estates, bankruptcies, or large estates. If need be, outside experts are used to consult on complex financial issues in a divorce in order to ensure that the parties, attorneys, and court are well aware of circumstances.


  • Modifications: A modification is a change of an existing decree in a divorce or paternity action. A modification requires that there is a substantial and material change in circumstances, such as a job change in which one loses income. Child custody, child support, and other provisions in your decree can be modified. If you are seeking to modify an existing decree in a divorce or paternity action, you will need to be prepared to demonstrate why that modification should take place. For example, if there is a significant change in financial circumstances and you want to modify child support, then you will need to bring taxes and paystubs for our family law team to review in order to give the best legal advice. 


  • Order to Show Cause (Enforcement, Contempt): It is a sad fact that often, people do not follow the provisions as set out in a decree of divorce or paternity. For example, one party may not be paying child support, refusing parent-time, or withholding insurance information for minor children. This requires the party who is complying with the decree’s provisions to bring an enforcement or contempt action, known as an Order to Show Cause, against the non-complying party. An Order to Show Cause is often heard by the court to resolve and the court can bring a judgment against the non-complying party. This judgment can include paying attorney’s fees and fines. 


  • Protective Orders: Sometimes, a spouse has been physically abused or in fear of imminent abuse by his/her spouse and when starting a divorce, wants protection from him/her. The court offers a free protective order service in order to allow parties to have immediate orders to protect themselves. A protective order can be done free of charge. A temporary protective order will be issued and a hearing set before a commissioner at the courthouse. At that hearing, the court will decide whether to continue the protective order as permanent or dismiss it. You do not need to have an existing divorce or paternity matter to have a protective order. There are also options for protective orders when children are involved. You can read more about protective orders here: https://www.utcourts.gov/abuse/information.html.


  • Temporary Restraining Orders: Unlike the movies and television, restraining orders cannot just be taken out against the other party. They can only exist in divorce or paternity matters that are already existing and require significant paperwork in accordance with Rule 65A of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. If entered, a hearing will be set before the commissioner at the court.