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Should 'blame' for divorce affect alimony in Utah?

Like virtually every other state, Utah has no-fault divorce. This means that, unlike in decades past, a couple can get a divorce without one spouse having to prove that the other "caused" the problems that led to end of the marriage. Similarly, when one spouse requests alimony, the court generally considers financial questions like each spouse's income, future earning capacity and savings, as well as the length of the marriage and each spouse's contributions to the union.

One Utah lawmaker wants to bring fault back into divorce, at least when calculating spousal support. State Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, has introduced a bill in which courts could consider things like extramarital affairs and unemployment when determining whether to grant alimony to a spouse. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 28, bringing it closer to a floor vote.

"Wrongful conduct" is already a factor for judges to consider in alimony cases. The bill would define wrongful conduct during the marriage as that which "substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship." The bill specifically mentions intent to abuse, having an affair or damaging the family finances somehow.

Some supporters of the bill openly say they hope adding fault to alimony calculations will make divorce more difficult in Utah. A representative of United Family of Utah said that the bill would encourage "validating marriage in society."

The bill will next go before the Utah House for a possible vote. We will report the bill's progress during this year's legislative session.

Source: Deseret News, "Lawmakers support idea of finding fault when determining alimony," Wendy Leonard, Feb. 28, 2013

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