Personal Jurisdiction Over Nonresidents in Divorce Actions

When does Utah have personal jurisdiction in a divorce action

Whether the court has jurisdiction over a divorce action depends on whether Utah’s long arm statute has been satisfied and whether the responding party has minimum contacts with the state of Utah.

Under Utah divorce law, Utah has jurisdiction over divorce cases when the petitioner or respondent has been an actual and bona fide resident of this state and of the county where the action is brought for three months prior to the commencement of the action. Utah Code 30-3-1. When reading this statute one may get the idea that so long as one of the parties established a residence here for three months that Utah has the right to drag the other party into a Utah court to answer a divorce petition. This is not the case, however, as there are basic factors of personal jurisdiction that must be present.

In order to have jurisdiction over a non-resident the individual must fall under Utah’s long arm statute. The Utah Long Arm Statute, U.C.A. §78B-3-205 states that: “any person…, whether or not a citizen or resident of this state, who, in person or through an agent, does any of the following enumerated acts is subject to the jurisdictions of the courts of this state as to any claim arising out of or related to: (6) with respect to actions of divorce, separate maintenance, or child support, having resided, in the marital relationship, within this state notwithstanding subsequent departure from the state.” Thus, in order for Utah to have jurisdiction over a divorce, the married parties must have resided here at some point in their marriage.  But the analysis does not stop there.

A court must not only find that the requirements of the state’s long arm statute are met but also that the requirements of due process are met. See Rocky Mountain Claim Staking v. Frandsen, 884 P.2d 1299 (Utah App. 1994). As stated by Defendant in his Motion to Dismiss, “Due process dictates that an out-of-state defendant have such ‘minimum contacts’ with the forum state that maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’ International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316, 66 S.Ct. at 158 (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463, 61 S.Ct. 339, 343, 85 L.Ed. 278 (1940)).” Rocky Mountain Claim Staking v. Frandsen, 884 P.2d 1299 (Utah App. 1994). Furthermore the Defendant goes on to state the three part test to determine whether minimum contacts have been established, as follows:

1) “[A] defendant must purposefully avail herself of the privilege of acting in [the forum state] or of causing important consequences [t]here;

2) the claim for relief must arise from the consequences in [the forum state] of the defendant’s activities; and

3) the defendant’s activities or their consequences must have a substantial enough connection with [the forum state] to make exercise of jurisdiction reasonable.”

Rocky Mountain Claim Staking v. Frandsen, 884 P.2d 1299 (Utah App. 1994) (quoting Alameda Nat’l Bank v. Kanchanapoom, 752 F.Supp. 367, 369 (D.Colo.1990)).

If you are contemplating bringing a divorce action in Utah because you may have resided here as a couple in the past, make sure you also consider the minimum contacts that your spouse has or does not have with the state of Utah as that will determine whether the case can be brought here.

About Jerry Salcido

Jerry Salcido is a founding attorney of Divorce Lawyer Provo PLLC.
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