During marriage, couples acquire the rights to some of the property and assets, as well as debts, acquired by one or both of them. Marital property doesn’t include things that are considered “separate property”owned by either spouse, for example, property owned before marriage, inheritance, gifts, property specifically excluded by valid prenuptial agreements, and property gained after legally separating. In addition, keep in mind that you are also on the hook still for your separate debts from before marriage.
Equitable Distribution vs. Community Property
There are two ways states divide marital property: equitable distribution and community property. Utah is an equitable distribution or common law state, which is the majority marital property legal system. However, large numbers of people, especially in the Western U.S., live in community property states. This means marital property in Utah isn’t automatically assumed to be owned by both spouses and therefore should be divided equally in a divorce.
In Utah, marital property is divided “equitably” or fairly, which may not be an even 50-50. Usually for longer marriages, it is about 50% to each party. For short-term marriages, the court generally puts people back to their position before the marriage, such as giving people what they had before the marriage and typically what they made during the marriage. Parties can agree on how they want to divide the property outside of court, but a judge will review it to ensure it’s fair.
The chart below explains more of the main marital property laws in Utah.
|Code Sections||Utah Code Title 30, Chapter 2: Property Rights and Section 30-3-5: Disposition of Property and Division of Debts|
|Community Property||Utah is an equitable distribution state that doesn’t have community property laws. However, Utah has enacted the Uniform Disposition of Community Property Rights at Death Act (UDCPRDA). The UCDPRDA allows a person who lived in a state with community property for its marital property laws (such as Nevada and Idaho) and then moved to a state without community property (namely, Utah) to not lose any pre-existing property rights.|
|Dower and Curtsey||Like most states, Utah has abolished the old common law legal concepts of dower and curtsey rights.|
If you’re divorcing, your property and debts need will need to be divided. It’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Utah divorce lawyer to discuss your rights and options, so you don’t accidentally waive your rights to marital property.
If your spouse has recently died and you want to understand your rights to marital property as a surviving spouse, you should speak to a knowledgeable Utah estate administration lawyer.
Note: State laws are changing all the time, so it’s important to verify these marital property laws by contacting a divorce lawyer or conducting your own legal research.
Research the Law
Contact a qualified attorney.