Two bills could affect divorcing parents in Utah if passed
Mandatory divorce courses and alimony bills up for consideration in House
Utah lawmakers could pass two family law bills this legislative session that would have a direct impact on divorcing parents in the state. According to KSL News, the first bill gives greater weight in alimony hearings as to whether a spouse was a stay-at-home parent. The second bill, reports Deseret News, would allow divorcing spouses to take a mandatory divorce course online, which could be particularly beneficial to single parents. Both bills are controversial for different reasons and it is now up to the Utah House on whether or not to vote them into law.
House Bill 422 was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a 6 to 4 vote. The bill requires a family court to consider whether one spouse gave up employment opportunities in order to stay home and raise children. The consideration could have a bearing on the amount of alimony a stay-at-home parent may be due.
The main objection to the bill is that it is unnecessary and impinges on judicial discretion. Critics say that judges are already able to consider all "relevant facts" when determining alimony, which would presumably include whether the parent had sacrificed his or her career in order to raise children. Critics also point out that ultimately alimony payments should be based on the recipient's financial need instead of his or her status as a stay-at-home parent.
The second bill, House Bill 428, would make it easier for single parents to complete a mandatory divorce course. Under current law, parents who get divorced are required to take a divorce class, which is split into an orientation and the course itself. While the orientation can already be completed online, the course must be done in person. The bill would give parents the option of completing the entire course online.
While critics of the bill say doing the entire course online will lead to less engagement with the materials, proponents say it helps single parents fulfill their obligations. They point out that single parents are already pressed for time and that completing the divorce in person is too much of a burden for some, especially for those who work odd hours or live in rural areas. As with HB422, HB428 recently advanced to the House floor where it will be voted on by legislators.
Bills like the ones above rarely make the headlines, but as this article shows they can affect countless numbers of families. Parents are often too busy to keep up with the latest development in Utah family law, which is why anybody going through a divorce should contact a professional family law attorney. An experienced attorney, backed up by an in-depth knowledge of the law, can help ensure that her client's best interests are well represented during a divorce or other family law concern.