Legislative Update – Week 1

End of Week 1

Here is the status update on those bills we have been watching:

SB 11 (Sponsor –  Hillyard):  Attempts to define “fault” for purposes of determining alimony. http://1.usa.gov/Vsvfoh . This is one that we will watch closely given that the Legislature has attempted and failed to fix the vagueness in the alimony statute as ruled in Mark v. Mark, 2009 UT App 374.  http://bit.ly/113AwPX.

StatusSenate Judiciary Jan 29 motion to recommend failed 3-4-0

Pro Argument: Attempts to reinstate fault into the factors of alimony after Mark v. Mark, 2009 UT App 374.  http://bit.ly/113AwPX. All factors relating to the parties’ financial condition should be examined, including non-financial matters like abuse, neglect, etc.

Con Argument:  The definition of “fault” isn’t really fleshed out well and there is no substantive difference between the existing law and case law and this proposed bill. Also may result in abuse by judges who impose their own religious or biases into the case.

Also, what is the result if the Court does find fault? Double alimony? If the need for alimony is only $500 but the Court finds fault, does that mean an award of $2,000 is appropriate? What if the other party is also at “fault”, do the parties’ fault negate each other?  How much more egregiousness does the one party’s actions have to be?  Does adultery justify a bigger award of alimony, what about addiction, etc.? How does a court quantify the damage to a marriage as a result of infidelity or other “economic harms”?

This statute is likely to encourage litigation and only perpetuates the litigious and highly conflicted nature of divorce actions.  Alimony should not be a vehicle for the Court to punish bad acts within a marriage relationship.