If You Choose To Divorce

Make a Safety Plan for You and the Children

  • If you are in danger, call the Women’s Shelter for Women and Children (801-377-5500).
  • Are your children in danger?  Do they know who to call in an emergency or where to run for help?  Go to Child’s Safety Plan.

Keep Records

  • Keep a journal of abuse. Use a spiral notebook or any bound book that pages cannot be inserted into, and write details.  Include dates and times. It can be used in court for evidence.  Keep it hidden.

Get Legal Help

  • For information on finding legal help in Utah,  go to www.youtube.com/user/utahstatecourts. They have free information; listen to the film clip.
  • Get temporary custody of the children. You can go to the Provo 4th District Court (125 North 100 West, Provo) on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday from 1 -3 p.m. and get free legal advice. Before going, go to www.ut.courts.gov and get the online documentation. Fill it out and take it with you.
  • You can also go to Utah Legal Services (455 North University # 100, Provo) or call 801-374-2766. You will do a short intake interview and then talk to a legal person.  They have help for all kinds of legal problems. They will need your name, birth date, monthly income, how many people that income supports, your assets, race and gender.
  • Ask friends for suggestions for lawyers if you can afford one.
  • ChainBreaker volunteers may be able to help give suggestions.
  • Do not represent yourself.
  • You may also contact the victim’s advocate in your city for help. They cannot give you legal advice, but they have legal experience so they can give suggestions and steer you in the right direction.
  • For help working with a lawyer, go to How to Choose a Lawyer.

Prepare Financially

  • Get copies of tax forms, bank statements, paycheck stubs, and mortgages; put them in a safe place, probably not in the home.
  • Put money aside to help you.
  • Ask family if they can help in any way.
  • Go to jobs.utah.gov to find information about food stamps, child care, medical and financial help. You can fill out the forms and take them with you for the interview.
  • Community Action Food Bank for low income families (801-377-8200) can help with deposits and 1st month’s rent if you can prove you can take care of it after that. They have emergency car repair help, bus tokens, gasoline and household items. They also have free classes and seminars to help you become self-reliant and empowered. (Wed. 6-7:30 and Saturday 9-10:30 a.m.) Call before going.
  • If you need help with rent, get on the Housing Authority List. The Housing Authority of Utah County is located at 240 E. Center, Provo, 801-373-8333. The Provo City Housing Authority is located at 650 W. 100 N, Provo, 801-852-7080.
  • For utilities help, go to http://housing.utah.gov/seal.
  • WIC can help you learn about nutrition and can provide healthy foods for you if you are pregnant or nursing and for your children that are under 5. Go to www.health.utah.gov/wic or call 1-877-wic-kids.
  • Advocates may have access to emergency victim funds.
  • If you need medical help, go to Mountainlands Family Health Center: 589 S. State, Provo, 801-429-2001, or 910 E. 100 N. Suite 151, Payson, 801-465-1891. You can also go to www.mountainlands.org


  • Get help from Job Workforce Services at jobs.utah.gov.
  • LDS Employment Center has classes for interviewing, resumes and a lot of support.
  • If you need clothing for work, ChainBreakers has some clothing you can see at the building Tuesday nights from 6 to 7 p.m. before class. UVU Turning Point Women’s Resource Center (801-863-8080) has clothing (801-863-7580 for appointment) and other classes you can take.

Get a Protective Order

  • You can do this by calling the victim’s advocate in your city; they can help you and give you other advice.  Every city has an advocate; you can call the police station or the court house to find out who it is.  Advocates are not required to report anything except child abuse so it is easy to talk to them.
  • Alpine- Kathy 801-368-7122
  • American Fork- Dawna 801-763-3020
  • Orem- RaNae 801-229-7128
  • Pleasant Grove- Rochelle 801-404-6073

Get Counseling for You and your Children

  • If you have insurance, check your provider list.
  • Check with clergy.
  • Call Family Support and Treatment Center (1255 North 1200 West, Orem) at 801-229-1181. You need to make an appointment for an intake interview. All services are charged according to your income. They have play therapy for the children and counseling for adults. They have babysitting while you get counseling. Children under 8 do well with play therapy. They have parenting classes also. They have a respite nursery, a place to drop off your children if you are in distress or can’t care for them. (This is a time to cool off instead of harming your children.)
  • Advocates may be able to qualify you for Crime Victims Reparations, a state program that pays for therapy for you and your children.
  • Call UVU Turning  Point at 801-863-8080. They have a Successful Life Management Class and a WISP Program to help with school if you decide you want to go to school.

Take Care of Yourself

  • Read self-help books. For a list of recommended reading, go to Good Books. The Utah Domestic Violence Council Website, UVDC.org, has a list of books, too. They also have a free online course about domestic violence.
  • Attend classes.
  • Take time to enjoy your children.
  • Take time to relax and have fun.

How To Choose A Lawyer

Brooke Wilkins (attorney):

When do you need a lawyer?

  • Law cannot heal, only provide measure of safety and security
  • Pray and listen for inspiration re: choosing a lawyer
  • Divorce, children, property all call for a lawyer
  • Never sign any legal docs. without them being reviewed by a lawyer
  • Don’t need lawyer to get a protective order, but you might

1st comes a temporary protective order to help in case of threat of harm for emergencies; can determine temporary custody, can restrict a person from coming to your house

A protective order is for when you are living with someone; restraining order is for any other situation

There are filing fees with the court.

Every police dept. has a victim advocate and for free will help you fill out papers. I am the petitioner if I am the person filing the forms.

How do you find a lawyer?

  • Go to Utah Bar website and use their referral service (info on length of practice, their locations, etc.) maybe not anymore
  • Talk to people for referrals especially; draw from a network of people; pray for inspiration
  • Is it true that the better the lawyer, the more you’ll pay generally, YES; still, the advice is to talk to people
  • Talk about money and fees right up front

How will I pay you, how do you charge, what’s your retainer, what’s your rate, how will you bill me and what will you bill me for; do you have a paralegal that can do work at a reduced rate? Etc. etc.

  • Montgomery is a rating system that can also be looked at (peer-rated)


When you are with a lawyer and working with them:

  • Be succinct and organized
  • Stick to the facts; lawyers are not good counselors and deal best with facts
  • Bring a friend; they can help you stay focused and stick to facts and also process what you hear (it may not be what you want to hear)
  • Be honest
  • Keep a journal so you can document (considered as court evidence); avoids the “he said, she said” situation; don’t let him know about the journal (guard it and keep it private); email journals are good because they automatically log date and time
  • What’s the best way to keep track of child support? ORS (Office of Recovery Services keeps track); deposit check in separate account, keep copies of check; what if they hand cash? Request money orders rather than checks and cash
  • There are 2 kinds of custody, legal and physical

Physical means you have the kids and are day to day raising them

Legal custody is about big global decisions and legal responsibility

When journaling, include activities and whereabouts of children all the time (to protect them)

If you don’t want his girlfriend in your child’s life, yet you still want child support, hope his name isn’t on the birth certificate; 12-year-olds cannot decide whom they will live with (at age 16 they can); get written agreement through a mediator to modify the court order if there’s ever abuse that can be proven

Mediation is less costly and will come up with more amenable decisions

Courts make the decision on legal emancipation (re: children petitioning before age 18; there’s usually another support system in the child’s life)

There’s a difference between physical residency and legal custody also; statutes determine visitation according to standardizedrules; go to mediation beforehand to work out something that works best for you

Termination of parental rights: he has to be served properly with notice; if he can’t be reached, public notice can be considered as proper service

Can we use a Bishop’s evaluation as evidence? YES, although it may not carry as much weight as you hope; round up letters of evaluation and testimony as quickly as you can

If father’s income goes down, how would he change the amount of child support to be paid? (Use ORS) Most orders take into account that incomes change; must do a court order; child support must be paid on children until age 18–no difference between men and women

A protective order can provide rules about child support; if you start divorce proceedings when he is in prison, he can be served for sure

How do you pay a lawyer?

  • No matter what, you will be paying your lawyer, no such thing as a contingency fee; likely flat rates for simple straight forward situations; most family law is not simple and straight forward
  • Retainers are the rule and after it is exhausted, you’ll be billed
  • If you fire your attorney, any money that hasn’t been used, is returned to you; contact the Bar Association if this isn’t the case for you
  • Once the retainer is used up, refresh your retainer (pay him again, perhaps the same amount or less, but keep putting it in); your relationship will be helped a LOT if you keep your fees paid up
  • If you can’t respect your lawyer, the judges don’t respect them, so get another one; always have your attorney that they put things in writing
  • Joan advises we look the attorney in the eye and ask him if he has time to do the job well (see the book The Smart Divorce); sign a written fee agreement once you decide whom you will hire, read it carefully
  • Lawyers are risk-averse people; how do we know attorneys are doing their job? They usually only use the information you give them (there are services you can pay to check accounts); how do you track an ex’s income goes up (ORS every three years will do a re-evaluation to adjust child support, work with them)
  • IRAs are part of the divorce agreement (along with all other equitable divisions); courts decide the division of assets, so you keep track ofall financial records; there is a “discovery” process that helps during divorce proceedings; it can be expensive, but that is how you get financial information

Custody Evaluator is not a lawyer, but a therapist, social worker, counselor and they provide information for the court that is used by the judge to determine custody and they rely heavily on it; their info carries HUGE weight

Guardian Ad Litem talks with children, is a children’s lawyer and represents the children’s interests in court; sometimes they charge and the charge can be shared

Special master is given power to make decisions that deals with the nitty gritty orders of the court regarding children and you have to go to the court to get it changed; court will appoint one (attorney will help you find one ); judge relies HEAVILY on the Special Master’s opinion and report (not always attorneys), just for children’s issues