Divorce Lawyer Lehi Utah

Divorce Lawyer Lehi Utah

Currently, the United States has a child support enforcement system that is the product of a strong federal-state partnership with highly particularized niches of authority. The balance of power within this partnership, however, has not always been stable. Early initiatives, those taken prior to the creation of a comprehensive program, emanated from Washington, D.C., as national legislators focused on strengthening each state’s Aid to Families with Dependent Children program–the primary cash assistance vehicle serving low-income families–as a means to support families in need. Later efforts involved building the new child support program itself, and debates about the federal-state balance were largely decided in the states’ favor. Today, states find themselves once again in an evolving relationship with the federal government. National policymakers have increasingly placed new requirements on the states to meet specific policy goals, but the states have retained a certain degree of autonomy in meeting those goals.

Proper child support is an issue that has confronted American society for over a century. Today, we see the most conspicuous ramifications of this problem everywhere, from those impacted children living in desperate poverty to those who go to bed hungry every night to those who lack basic medical care. Perhaps even more widespread are those effects that are less overt but equally invidious–children who perceive, because of their lack of financial support, that their parents do not care about their well-being. These are the children who end up dropping out of school, becoming pregnant, having scuffles with the law, and becoming involved with drugs. In each of these cases, the underlying problem remains the same. What do we, as a society, do when a father, usually the primary breadwinner of the family, cannot or will not provide for the children he brings into this world?

Both during and immediately after the Revolution, American courts lacked a common law version of a child support duty. This was because most American laws were based on English precedent, and there was no basis in English law for mothers to collect support from their former spouses. In fact, all that the English law provided was a “principle of natural law” that all parents should support their children; no third party–including a mother–could attempt to collect money from her former spouse to help her raise her children.

American courts thus “invented” the common law notion of child support, without reference to any European standard, in the early nineteenth
century. The courts first recognized the right of third-party benefactors to sue an alleged father for financial damages. This third party could be a friend, a relative, or simply a merchant who supported the father’s children by providing them with a variety of goods and services. In order to win the claim, however, the complainant had to prove that (1) the items purchased were necessities, such as food and clothing, and (2) that the father in question had failed to make available such resources.
One widely cited case that began to articulate the third-party basis for suing was Van Valkinburgh v. Watson and Watson (1816). In this New York case, a child attempted to purchase a coat on his father’s credit. The merchant sold the child the coat, and then tried to collect the money from the father. The court laid out its legal foundation in favor of all parents’ providing for their children by asserting:

A parent is under a natural obligation to furnish necessaries for his infant children; and if the parent neglects that duty, any other person who supplies such necessaries is deemed to have conferred a benefit on the delinquent parent, for which the law raises an implied promise to pay on the part of the parent.

In this case, the justices maintained that the father was actually successfully supporting his son, and that therefore the merchant had no claim in compelling the father to pay for the coat. Thus, while articulating a principle of parental responsibility, the court asserted that only cases where third parties provided necessities to minors could result in enforceable claims.

While the plaintiff could not recover damages in this case, Van Valkinburgh v. Watson and Watson did lay the groundwork for the principle of allowing third parties to recover significant child care costs. Tomkins v. Tomkins (1858), decided in the New Jersey court system, endorsed this precedent, and in this case found the father liable to a third party. The specifics of the case were as follows. In 1833, Mr. Tomkins left his wife and his child, and he failed thereafter to provide them with any material support. The mother sought aid from an almshouse, and the child went to live with her grandmother. Representatives of the grandmother, the mother, and the child aimed to convince the court that the father had deserted them, and thus sought proper restitution. Lawyers for the father claimed that the father was under no legal requirement to support his child, an assertion that the court quickly rejected. Lawyers for the father make the claim that a parent is under no legal obligation to support his child, and that whoever furnishes a child with necessaries, must do it gratuitously; that no recovery can be had for such necessaries, unless they were furnished under an express contract with the parents…. Such is not the law in New Jersey. A parent is bound to provide his infant children with necessaries; and if he neglects to do so, a third person may supply them, and charge the parent with the amount.

The court went on to further castigate the father in question for his delinquent behavior; at the same time, the justices recognized that they were, in fact, “creating” new law. The court maintained that
if a case can be suggested where the moral obligation of a father to provide for his offspring can be enforced as a legal one, it would be difficult to find one more apposite than this. The complainant left his child, about three or four years of age, with its destitute and heart-broken mother. He abandoned them both to the charities of the world. The mother found shelter in the alms-house. The daughter was forced upon its grandmother, a woman then advanced in life, and of moderate means for her own support. There is no evidence that for the fifteen years the child was under the care of its grandmother, the father ever made any inquiry as to its whereabouts or welfare. Now, in view of all these facts, if there was any doubt as to the legal obligation of the father to provide for his child, and of his legal liability to such as should supply that child with the necessaries of life, the moral obligation is so strong that a court of equity would feel but little inclined to grant relief, on any such ground as that the moral obligation had been converted into a legal one.
In Tomkins, the court found the father to be delinquent in his responsibilities toward his family–a breach of what the judges viewed as his natural duty. As reflected in this quotation, part of the finding of fault rested upon the court’s visceral reaction to a father’s abandonment of his offspring. In the court’s opinion, there was an unspoken standard of family life that needed to be protected. Now, with the establishment of this case law, a father’s delinquency provided third-party supporters with the ammunition they needed to sue for reimbursement.

Mothers as Complainants in Court

In addition to third parties, mothers themselves who wished to sue for support could also file civil claims. The mothers who made these claims, however, faced an additional burden in court. Not only did they have to prove that they were destitute, they also had to show that they were not at fault with respect to the divorce. Significantly, if the wife were at fault, then she would not be entitled to collect support.

Connecticut’s Stanton v. Stanton (1808) was one of the first cases that outlined the legal course of action for mothers acting on behalf of their children. In this case, Eunice Stanton sued the estate of her deceased exhusband, John Bird, in order to recover expenditures laid out for their children that were subsequently paid for by her second husband, Joshua Stanton. The facts of the case were straightforward. Eunice married John Bird in 1789, had three children, and subsequently divorced him in 1797. She immediately took custody of her two youngest children, William and Maria; her oldest son, John Herman, continued to live with Bird. In 1803, Eunice married Joshua Stanton, after which, in 1805, her eldest son came to live with her (he claimed abuse by Bird). During the time that the three children lived with her and then with her new husband, Eunice Stanton claimed the expenses.

With only the bare bones of a legal precedent establishing a fundamental duty of parents to provide for their children, the justices in the state of Connecticut nonetheless carved out such a duty in their decision by pointing to the financial “dissolution” of the wife upon marriage.
Parents are bound by law to maintain, protect, and educate their legitimate children, during their infancy or nonage. This duty rests on the father; and it is reasonable it should be so, as the personal estate of the wife, and in her possession at the time of the marriage, becomes the property of the husband, and instantly vests in him. By the divorce, the relation of husband and wife was destroyed; but not the relation between Bird and his children.

As was common law at the time, when a woman became married, all of her assets were transferred to her husband’s name. This was the doctrine of coverture, which had evolved as part of English law beginning in the Middle Ages. As the husband was defined as lord of the manor during the Middle Ages, men were defined as “personifying” the entire marital relationship during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in America. The court reasoned that this transferal, while a boon to the husband financially, also bestowed upon him certain responsibilities for his children. The court therefore ordered the estate of John Bird to reimburse his ex-wife for the expenses.

Charity Organizations And Local Law Enforcement

While the courts were beginning to establish a common, civil basis for third-party benefactors and mothers in search of child support, certain social trends during the latter half of the nineteenth century prompted the legislative branch to address the nonsupport issue as well. The first set of trends involved the changing nature of the American family, and the second revolved around the breakdown of the poor relief system that had served as the primary safety net for decades across American towns. These trends gave rise to the most powerful agents for action in the child support system prior to the early 1900s–private charity organizations working with local law enforcement.

Divorce was rare in the American colonies, as the early settlers brought with them from England the most strictly interpreted traditional and religious ideas concerning the sanctity of marital vows. Once the Americans achieved independence, however, they began to experiment with new ways of developing family law. The states first eliminated the private bills of divorce granted by the legislatures that had been common in the initial years of the republic, replacing them with general divorce statutes applicable to all divorce-seeking parties. Despite this liberalizing trend, the number of couples filing for divorce remained quite low. With the country still heavily reliant on agriculture to fuel the economy, families were wedded to one another in tight-knit communities. These interconnections provided strong social sanctions against any type of misbehavior, such as adultery or desertion, that might serve as a precursor to divorce.

The rise of industrialization in the latter part of the nineteenth century, however, brought with it a massive disruption in the social order of American life. For the first time, the cities drew workers by the thousands to labor in factories, offices, and all types of manufacturing plants. With the transplantation of families from the rural countryside to the urban centers also came the anonymity of city life and the newfound freedoms associated with such a constantly mobile existence. No longer subject to the community sanctions that had preserved family units in the countryside, workers–in particular, male laborers–were much more willing to flout their responsibilities to their wives and children in the name of individual financial, emotional, or sexual gain.

Changes in state divorce laws reflected these new economic realities, although these transformations were by no means uniform. By 1905, while South Carolina still disallowed absolute divorce, and New York permitted divorce only in cases of adultery, most other states had enumerated a much longer list of justifiable actionable causes. These included bigamy, extreme cruelty, conviction of a felony, habitual drunkenness, as well as other factors. These more liberal divorce laws provided the opportunity for increasing numbers of couples to seek out a legal end to their union. Although early divorce statistics are somewhat sketchy by modern standards, it has been estimated that there were 2.8 divorces per 100 marriages in 1867. By 1890, the number of splits rose to 5.8 per 100 marriages, and by 1910, to 8.8 per 100 unions.

As divorce was becoming more prevalent, Americans were changing their views of children. In the early 1800s, most Americans viewed children as “miniature adults” capable of the same thought processes, emotional responsibilities, and physical tasks as their older counterparts. Children commonly worked in factories, logging in roughly the same hours as the adults seated next to them. This was especially true in working-class families. Children, and not wives, were normally sent out to be the secondary wage earners in their families. Their labor was seen as a normal part of growing up, or simply as the price to be paid for receiving room and board within a traditional family unit. With children seen as economic assets, fathers normally assumed custody in cases of separation or divorce.
One of the most enduring changes brought about by the Progressive movement was the complete transformation in this dominant perception of children. Reformers, as represented by labor unions, women’s suffragists, and other charitable organizations, argued that this prevailing notion of children as small adults was not only completely erroneous, but also devastatingly harmful. Activists, largely from the middle and upper classes, argued that children constituted a special class of people, with unique needs, desires, and opportunities for growth. In this new, more romanticized view, children needed to be protected from the harsh vicissitudes of the world, and especially from the filth, abuse, and other ravages of the labor market. As a result of the spread of these new ideas, restrictions on labor market participation and other child protective laws became more commonplace as the century progressed. Between the years 1900 and 1930, the number of children between the ages of ten and thirteen working in nonfarm occupations dropped from 186,358 to 30,000.

With the spread of these new attitudes in the industrial arena, the states themselves took a greater interest in protecting the well-being of the children living within their borders in other respects as well. By the middle of the nineteenth century, most states had adopted some version of the Elizabethan poor laws, which had been developed in England in 1601. One of the laws’ central components was the provision that required parents to support their children if the youngsters–in the absence of such support–would otherwise become paupers. But this provision was very loosely interpreted.
In brief, a mother’s need set in motion a chain of events that was supposed to provide the family with the basics of an income safety net. The triggering mechanism for assistance was simply a mother who requested aid from her town in order to support her children. After her request was registered and money began flowing in her direction, the courts would require fathers to reimburse the towns for the support of their children. The punishment meted out for this violation in England, however, was almost nonexistent. As Blackstone commented, children were expected to work in order to prevent their pauperization, and “the policy of our laws, which are ever watchful to promote industry, did not mean to compel a father to maintain his idle and lazy children in ease and indolence.” Initially, American courts replicated this policy by compelling fathers to reimburse the towns only at extremely low levels, if at all.

With the spread of industrialization and the ramifications created by a loosening social structure, however, the towns experienced increased pressure to help families in need. This pressure, interestingly enough, fell upon the charity workers–the precursors of today’s professional social workers–who were then laboring in mostly private organizations. As fathers began to desert their families in higher numbers than ever before, charitable organizations were overwhelmed with single mothers requesting financial support. Aid was not disbursed liberally or freely, however. The type of relief that these private groups favored was very specific and pivoted on one specific moral theme: it could not serve to weaken the character of the person receiving the aid.

This vision of a great and upstanding society was propagated by leaders of the Charity Organization Society (COS) movement. The first such organization began 1878 in Buffalo, New York, and the movement spread throughout the country from there. While each local group was different, generally its members shared at least one common belief. In their view, striving to be an affluent member of society should be the goal of every man and woman across the nation. If someone were poor, according to Mary E. Richmond, one of the movement’s leaders, it was probably the result of a moral failing on his or her part. Public relief, therefore, had to be condemned at every turn, since it only fed into this depraved moral state. The proper role of charity, then, was simple. Private citizens should set an example for the lowly, inspiring them to find the direction and the help that they needed through personal efforts and family relationships to rise above their current situation in life. What this meant in practice was that local Charity Organization leaders would take it upon themselves to visit families “in need” in order to determine the true cause of their deprivation. Only truly deserving families would receive financial assistance; the others–the lazy, the slovenly, and the cheats–would have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

The COS movement and all of its affiliated private agencies held fast to this belief system in all areas of welfare work, including the case of deserted children. In her analysis of the issue, Richmond argued that the problems of children being raised by “married vagabonds” were difficult to solve, but not impossible. The teams of “friendly visitors” played an important role in addressing these families’ needs, and were much more important than the provision of public relief.

In order to insure support for families over the long run, then, COS movement leaders advocated a hard-line approach. To the greatest extent possible, aid had to be kept to a minimum. Only when all else had failed would the town provide assistance and use the full extent of the law to pursue the wayward father.

When it came to actually attending to the problems of single mothers, however, charity workers, while mostly attentive, were simply overwhelmed by the task before them. Most of these organizations simply could not meet the demand at hand, and therefore took two forms of remedial action to address the crisis. First, charity workers appealed to the state legislatures to enact stricter criminal penalties for fathers who deserted their families. They advocated jail time, fines, or some combination of the two punishments. These lobbying efforts were critical because, at the turn of the century, only four states considered desertion or abandonment to be a felony, thereby reducing the possibility of punishment for wayward fathers to close to zero. Moreover, even those states that did have laws against desertion on the books typically had low fines (approximately $100) and brief mandatory jail sentences (three months). However, by 1911, organized charity workers had pushed seven states into passing tough new felony laws, and had increased penalties in eighteen other states to fines up to $1,000 and jail sentences of up to one year.

Second, relief workers in private agencies began to serve as important liaisons among mothers, fathers, and the state. The new criminal laws passed by the states enabled the support collected from fathers to be directly transferred to the mothers in question or–even better, from the agencies’ point of view–through the agencies from the fathers to the mothers. Private agencies took advantage of this legal remedy by acting as intermediaries between these parties: representatives from these groups began bringing charges against specific fathers in the court system in order to compel them to pay.

An additional complication for the towns that were seeking financial compensation for helping single mothers in need was the problem of interstate flight. As fathers became more mobile and job opportunities opened all over the country, fleeing one’s state of origin became a common method for escaping the obligation of supporting one’s children. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), the organization that encourages uniform legal standards across the country, attempted to deal with this problem on numerous occasions. In 1911, the commission proposed the Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act (UDNA), which was later adopted by eighteen states. The UDNA made it an offense for a father to willfully desert his children and fail to pay support. Unfortunately, the initial incarnation of this interstate enforcement law was inadequate, because it was difficult to prove whether a father had “willfully” left his family or simply left his hometown temporarily in search of employment. The Uniform Support of Dependents Law (USDL), adopted by several states in 1944, improved upon the UDNA by requiring that fathers support their children in other states that had similar support laws. Yet, despite these improvements, interstate enforcement continued to be an enormous problem.

Beyond these laws that applied to the families just described, it is important to point out that there were three categories of children to whom standard child support policy did not pertain: out-of-wedlock children, African-American children, and children with deceased fathers. Society held parents of these children to different standards, and thus meted out either rewards or punishments according to highly particularized rules and norms. By far, out-of-wedlock and African-American children fared the worst, while children of widows received relatively better treatment under the law.
Standard child support laws also did not apply to African-American families. Under the system of slavery, official marriages between African Americans were largely prohibited by law. Slavery made the white male slaveholder the head of household for all blacks–adults and children that he “owned.” Even during the post–Civil War era, child support was not an issue, since whites often seized upon black children as indentured laborers under the notorious Black Codes. These practices persisted well into the 1880s, when legal reformers finally managed to overturn these chattel-like arrangements. Prejudice, however, continued unabated, so that few social reformers or law enforcement personnel would assume the responsibility of bringing a case against a deserting African-American father. These children were simply not seen as worth the bother and expense of a legal pursuit.
Finally, standard child support laws also did not apply to widowed mothers, although their fate stood in marked contrast to the situations involving out-of-wedlock and African-American children. Widowed mothers were placed in a special category of assistance, more deserving of guaranteed financial assistance than a divorced mother or the mother of an out-of-wedlock child. During the early part of the twentieth century, the majority of states created “mothers’ pensions.” If a woman lost her husband through death, and she faced dire economic circumstances, she could apply for state-based aid. This assistance prevented her from having to give up her children to local authorities for lack of support.

Although by 1921 forty states had such programs in place, there were two severe problems that prevented the programs from making a substantial impact on the largest number of potentially eligible women. First, the benefit levels were, by any standard, extremely low. States permitted localities (usually counties) to run these programs, and most never came close to funding the program at an adequate level. In 1930, when the mother’s aid committee of the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection recommended average grants of at least $60 per month, only eight cities throughout the United States were meeting this goal. In 1931, the median grant was $21.78 per month. Most mothers therefore had to find supplemental income even if they were able to secure a pension. Second, women had to qualify for the benefit by passing a character test; if caseworkers found that the mothers were unable to provide a suitable home for their children, these women were immediately expelled from the rolls.
For the majority of children born to white, divorced parents, the history of child support enforcement up through the early 1900s was dominated by two primary players: individual complainants and private charitable organizations working with local law enforcement personnel. Each of these avenues of recourse presented enormous problems to mothers in need. Individual efforts to attain support through the courts were haphazard and largely tools of the upper classes. When charity workers and local law enforcement became involved, mothers often did not fare any better. Private agencies collaborated with law enforcement personnel by bringing support claims to their attention, securing orders of support from local judges, and working as virtual collection agencies by redistributing the money collected from the fathers back to the mothers. Awards were low, and societal “behavior monitoring” was high. Children born out of wedlock and African-American children were largely ignored, and children whose fathers had passed away received only subsistence-level benefits, if they received any at all.

A new child support system seemed desirable, a system that would guarantee consistency in payments and not discriminate among potential recipients.
At the turn of the century, a newly evolving profession–the social workers–began advocating on behalf of a completely revolutionary approach to child support enforcement. In doing so, they entirely overturned the conventional wisdom of the private charity workers and law enforcement personnel who had come before them. According to the social workers, families did not necessarily need to be reunited; in fact, in cases of physical, emotional, or substance abuse, family unification would be a harmful outcome. Of course, by making this argument, they placed themselves at the center of the policy solution. According to their new perspective, instead of focusing on rehabilitating fathers, social workers would champion the cause of single mothers. Women needed as much help as possible in raising their children, including education, day care, and job training. And since these were such enormous tasks, private charities could not do the job alone. The federal government needed to step in with a massive infusion of aid to get these women back on their feet. The only question was when these social workers could make their move and pitch their agenda effectively to the American public, and they found their opportunity during the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations.

Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the United States was known as a country where private charities, churches, and other philanthropic organizations were the sole service-oriented entities to take care of those in need. The Charity Organization Movement had institutionalized a series of policies and procedures to deal with the problems of the poor. This involved using “friendly visitors” and intensive casework to help correct the perceived moral failings of those in need. Movement organizers frowned upon public relief while extolling the virtues of private volunteers to assist in moving families out from the ranks of poverty. While the Great Depression and the resulting New Deal programs had somewhat softened the nation’s attitude toward increased governmental involvement in the economy, reliance on private charities with their focus on holding fathers accountable continued to be the dominant social service safety net paradigm.

In addition to opposition from private charities, social workers advocating a larger public role for themselves also encountered difficulties from state law enforcement personnel. Since the nonpayment of child support was considered a criminal act, it was up to the local police to apprehend these offenders. Police did not consider the mothers to be the problem–it was the fathers who needed jail time and local rehabilitation. District attorneys agreed with this approach, and repeatedly filed charges against fathers who had abandoned their most basic of duties–the financial support of their families. Social workers who advocated a new public role for their profession thus faced two sets of incumbent policy entrepreneurs that would be difficult to thwart. They therefore had to carefully craft highly effective and cooperative risk-reduction strategies in order to move their case forward.

The Great Depression highlighted divisions within the occupation of social work that had been brewing for several decades. On one hand, thousands of social workers continued to support the efforts of private charity societies to handle the economic devastation of the early 1930s. They insisted that casework was still the most appropriate model for handling poverty in single-parent families, and they rejected the notion that social workers should engage in cooperative relationships with federal officials in order to achieve certain societal goals. Moreover, they frowned on what they viewed as the dilution of their membership by untrained, unskilled relief workers who had no commitment to the occupation’s status as a whole. By remaining insulated from these external pressures, they hoped to preserve the integrity of the profession.

Social workers who advocated on behalf of a more public approach to their profession, of course, viewed their role vis-à-vis society completely differently. The massive dislocation of workers during the 1930s had infused in them a new mission and sense of urgency. With the number of needy families increasing exponentially all around them, these publicly oriented social workers welcomed the financial support they received from the federal government in such legislation as the Federal Emergency Relief Act and the Social Security Act. They recognized that with the weaknesses inherent in the modern economy, they could no longer work in isolation from the public purse. Instead, they needed to work in conjunction with federal programs in order to best achieve their goal of a more affluent and productive society.

By the mid-1970s, child support enforcement in the United States had undergone a massive transformation. Gone were the days when social workers controlled the agenda. Gone were the days when the primary focus of this public policy was distributing benefits to mothers and providing them with intensive job training and educational services. Gone were the days when welfare budgets would continue to rise without accountability. No, these were the days when the conservatives reigned supreme in child support policy. Through the early 1970s, they carefully constructed a new child support program that placed the federal government in a new partnership with the states to pursue fathers for financial resources, rather than to offer services to single-parent mothers. This approach, they reasoned, would provide solid relief for their current budgetary woes, where deficits prompted by exploding welfare costs dominated the election-year debates.
Indeed, the program met with marked initial success. By early 1976, over 11,700 people were employed across the country to enforce support. These employees were in charge of working the over 1.9 million AFDC cases that immediately came onto their books. Yet there was a steady undercurrent of duress on the system. Women not receiving welfare, or non-AFDC women, were not guaranteed the same rights, benefits, and privileges for child support assistance as AFDC clients. Some states offered them services, while others did not. But the demand for services was very real. By 1981, while the AFDC caseload had climbed to about 5.1 million cases, the non-AFDC child support caseload was catching up.

Women leaders wasted no time in laying out what they viewed as the dismal state of the child support system as it existed in the mid-1980s. While during the 1960s social workers had argued that the child support crisis was the product of a lack of economic opportunity for families, and during the late 1970s conservatives argued that it was the result of familial breakdown and welfare dependency, in the 1980s women located the cause in the realm of financial vulnerability. To women leaders hearing from their female constituents, the key factor behind the child support crisis was the government’s lack of effort in preventing women from becoming dependent on AFDC in the first place. If women not receiving welfare wanted to receive child support, they had to turn to the courts for help.

In the 1970s, then, most elected officials argued that middle and upper income fathers would simply “do the right thing” without the government having to oversee the execution of their financial obligations. The legislative language that established the 1975 child support program reflected this perspective, with the majority of resources directed at fathers of children on welfare. Yet, as women leaders pointed out in the mid 1980s, Senator Long’s optimistic predictions about paternal behavior in middle-class families did not come to fruition. Non-AFDC fathers were simply not doing the right thing.

The non-AFDC population thus faced an entirely different institutional environment than its AFDC counterpart with respect to the child support problem. In this separate legal framework–the courts–they had a unique set of policy tools at their disposal, which were designed, in theory, to meet their unique needs. Yet the courts, as will be demonstrated, were not adequate to the task at hand.

To complicate matters from the start, each state was unique in its method of deciding child support cases. During the 1970s, the level of court complexity was overwhelming. One result of this disjointed court organizational scheme was the duplication of child support services. One court would enter a judgment on a case, and then another would do the same without knowledge of the first court’s action. Moreover, even if the record showed that another order existed, judges would often take liberties and go about modifying these earlier decisions anyway. Linked to this duplication problem was a similarly frustrating issue–the fragmentation of responsibility that prevented support cases from being processed in an orderly way.

Without a single source of accountability, many families were at a loss when a discrepancy occurred in their case account or when a father missed a payment completely. Tracking the path of a single check through this byzantine system proved to be too overwhelming for many single parents, who resigned themselves to accepting nonpayment as a fact of life.
Beyond the problems that afflicted the court system as a whole, individual state judges possessed wide and often arbitrary authority over whether child support should be paid, and if so, at what levels. As it first developed, the guiding philosophy behind this flexibility seemed reasonable enough. Judges were trained professionals, who, by virtue of their education and experience, were considered capable of assessing the merits of each family case separately. This was so because, inevitably, special circumstances would arise: fathers might be in school, with less money available to pay support; children might be spending the majority of time with the mother even though the father had custody, and so on. During the 1950s and 1960s, the conventional wisdom suggested that such special factors should be considered thoroughly before a judge handed down a support decision. Yet, for mothers who relied on a consistent stream of income to feed and clothe their children, this type of judicial discretion spelled financial disaster. Irresponsible judges were simply too numerous to control.

Both the federal government and the states were slow to recognize this problem. Indeed, prior to 1984, only half of the states were offering full or partial enforcement services to non-AFDC families who requested aid in obtaining support. Interestingly, the more services for non-AFDC women the states did manage to offer, the more non-AFDC families began to petition the states for help.

With the 1984 Child Support Enforcement Amendments’ passage into law, there was, undoubtedly, a historic sense of accomplishment. Women now had a better chance than ever before of recovering the support that they deserved for their families. And only four years later, with the Family Support Act of 1988, Congress provided women with more economic insurance by requiring the mandatory use of financial guidelines in assessing support awards.
Moreover, after Reagan left the presidency, women legislators and women’s groups continued to successfully pressure the federal government to tighten enforcement provisions. For example, the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 imposed a federal criminal penalty on fathers for the willful failure to pay a past-due child support obligation for a child living in another state. The Ted Weiss Child Support Enforcement Act of 1992 amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require consumer credit agencies to report all child support delinquencies. Under President Clinton, the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 prevented child support obligations from being discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, and the Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act required each state to enforce orders issued in other states. Also in 1994, the Small Business Administration Reauthorization and Amendments Act required that all recipients of financial assistance be not more than sixty days delinquent in paying their support, and the Social Security Amendments of 1994 required that state child support agencies improve paternity determinations by a set standard or face federal financial penalties.

In addition, with women continuing to enter public office in greater numbers than ever before, the states also began to pass their own individual laws to help enforce support. Among the many new policies that were launched during this era, revoking drivers’ and professional licenses for the nonpayment of support became extremely common. Other states placed themselves on the cutting edge of reform by requiring employers to report all new hires immediately to their state employment agency, using their W-4 forms. Still other states passed versions of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which promised enhanced interstate enforcement.

Father’s Rights Lawyers

Since the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), fathers have become much more vocal about their disappointment with the current policy environment. In many ways, PRWORA represented the culmination of women leaders’ efforts to tighten child support provisions after the introduction of full services to non-AFDC mothers in 1984. PRWORA introduced a national directory of new hires to track down delinquents, required states to improve their interstate collection mechanisms, and mandated that all states have procedures in place to revoke driver’s and professional licenses when fathers fall behind in their payments. PRWORA even authorized states to deny food stamps to those fathers who fail to support their children.
In response to what they perceive as these draconian measures, fathers have become active protesters against the status quo, taking their grievances to the streets, to their legislators, and to the media.

Although fathers’ rights groups are numerous and their goals varied, one constant theme has emerged throughout their short history: their central goal has been to modify child support awards, usually in a downward direction. Fathers’ rights groups maintain that the country’s monomaniacal zeal to catch and punish “deadbeat dads” has produced a child support enforcement system that is inherently inequitable and unjust to fathers. States are pursuing them to the fullest extent of the law, without regard to their capacity, willingness, or desire to pay. According to this perspective, this single-focused mission has forced many men into poverty, or into the underground economy. Fathers have been stalked, and the states have been doing the stalking.

Not only have men been forced into financial ruin because of current child support policy, they also have been forced into emotional ruin.
When fathers are treated as nothing more than open wallets, it is no wonder that they become confused over the proper role they should take in their children’s lives. The father–child bond undoubtedly weakens over time, as men perceive themselves as having nothing more to offer their offspring than loose change.

To fathers’ rights leaders, most fathers, then, are not “deadbeat dads” but simply men trying to survive economically. But the myth of the “deadbeat dad, ” some experts argue, has become so pervasive over the past two decades that all fathers have suffered under the weight of unnecessarily harsh child support laws.

Fathers have come to recognize the importance of their spending time with their children, and have done everything in their power to “share parenting” with their former partners. Most fathers’ rights groups remain strong proponents of shared parenting arrangements. To these groups, shared parenting provides a variety of benefits to the children, including stronger familial ties, an enhanced emotional support system, and a consistent relationship with both parents. Shared parenting generally involves a child spending more than 20 percent but less than 50 percent of his or her time with the noncustodial parent (anything under the 20 percent threshold is the “ordinary visitation” that typically occurs in most sole custody cases). Fathers would also like to be financially compensated for this increased time spent with their children through reductions in their child support awards.

Child support guidelines, however, have not kept up with these changes. According to fathers’ rights groups, child support guidelines continue to assume that the mothers are the primary caretakers of the children. This mindset holds even as fathers claim that they are not only increasingly spending more time with their children but also are becoming more emotionally invested as well. Fathers want their new roles to be taken seriously, and are demanding that the courts and the child support agencies compensate them for the increased time that they are allotting to their children, especially under shared parenting agreements.

In June 1995, President Clinton initiated action by instructing all federal agencies, via a memorandum, to help strengthen the role of fathers in families.

To support these diverse roles, DHHS policymakers laid out five beliefs that would thematically link their programs together in the upcoming years. These included the following: (1) all fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children; (2) parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household; (3) the roles fathers play in families are diverse and related to cultural and community norms; (4) men should receive the education and support necessary to prepare them for the responsibility of parenthood; and (5) the government can encourage and promote fathers’ involvement through its programs and through its own workforce policies. While many states have pursued their own projects for low-income fathers, the most important cross-state program has been the Parents’ Fair Share Demonstration (PFS), which used an experimental design for quality evaluation purposes. Implemented in 1992, PFS focused on low-income fathers in the following seven cities: Los Angeles, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Springfield, Massachusetts; Trenton, New Jersey; Dayton, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Memphis, Tennessee. The program offered nonpaying or delinquent noncustodial fathers several types of opportunities: enhanced contact with local child support enforcement personnel, peer-group meetings for similarly situated noncustodial fathers, and mediation services for fathers facing conflicts with custodial parents. The center piece of the program, however, was job training. Across a number of sites, noncustodial parents worked part-time while acquiring skills that would be useful in the ever-changing economy. Agency directors established contacts with local businesses to ensure that workers ultimately had a good chance at long-term, stable employment. Additionally, “job club” activities helped fathers to polish their résumés and to present themselves effectively in interviews.

If you are a father who believes your exwife is using child support to destroy you economically or you are the mother who is seeking child support to look after the minor child, an experienced Lehi Utah divorce lawyer is your best friend. An experienced Lehi Utah divorce lawyer will ensure that you don’t have to pay the child support that you cannot afford as a father and as a mother, you receive a fair and just child support in the given circumstances.

Alimony In Divorce

The word alimony is derived from the Latin term for nourishment or sustenance, alimentus. The concept of alimony, or the support of a wife who was living apart from her husband, stems from the provision made for wives who were successful in obtaining limited or bed-and-board divorces in the English ecclesiastical courts. Until the mid-19th century there was no form of absolute divorce for the general English population. Only the rich and powerful might obtain this form of marital termination through an Act of Parliament. This feudal arrangement, dictated under English Common Law, enabled the husband to gain control of his wife’s property. He controlled her income and rents and profits from real estate she owned. In return he was obligated to support her. Usually this obligation was carried out within the family home. However, if a bed-and-board divorce was obtained because the husband was guilty of cruelty or adultery, he could be required to pay alimony when the wife was authorized by the court to live separately from him. This protected the wife from falling into destitution because the husband legally remained in control of her property and earnings.
A similar award mechanism was established in the United States. Under the Married Woman’s Property Act of the 19th century, the government stripped husbands of control over their wives’ property. However, husbands continued to be legally responsible for spousal support. Therefore, when absolute divorce became available, the husband was obliged to continue to support his former wife in these cases, as well as in those involving limited divorce or judicial separation.

Marriage is a wildly popular institution—so popular that failure of a first marriage usually does not deter spouses from marrying again. Approximately 75 percent of divorcing women remarry within ten years, 54 percent within five years. These second marriages are at least as likely to fail as first-time marriages.

For some who marry a second time, marriage demands a hefty admission price not imposed on first-timers: any alimony claim against a former spouse will likely terminate. The intuition of most observers is that this is the right result—an ex-husband should not pay alimony to a former wife who is married to someone else. Indeed, the vast majority of states including Utah, either through case or statutory law, provide that a recipient’s remarriage automatically terminates alimony, or at least creates a prima facie case for termination.

The remarriage-termination rule begins with the general principle that an alimony award, unlike a division of property, is modifiable. Often, judicial authority to modify alimony is specifically granted by statute. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA), for example, allows modification “only upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unconscionable.” Ordinarily, the changed circumstances that trigger modification involve economics—a reduction in the payor’s resources, for example, or an improvement in the recipient’s financial status—that warrant a decrease in alimony. When an alimony recipient remarries, however, a different rule applies: alimony is not merely modified, but terminated, usually with no possibility of revival, and without regard to the financial impact of the recipient’s new marriage. Remarriage alone is thus the termination trigger, typically without regard to any other factors usually relevant to modification. Whether it appears in statutory or case law, this notion that alimony should terminate upon a recipient’s remarriage is a baseline of contemporary American law.

The rationale for alimony was once simple enough: upon marriage a husband undertook a lifetime obligation to support his wife. While he could obtain a legal separation, rarely could he fully sever marital ties. The husband’s duty of support thus continued throughout the wife’s life, and alimony was the tool for enforcing his obligation. An integral part of this vision was the system of coverture, under which a married woman’s identity merged into that of her husband. However a husband’s support obligation managed to survive divorce, that obligation is surely cut off when a new man takes on the task of supporting her. Upon remarriage, a new man becomes the ex-wife’s protector and provider, taking her under his wing and finally releasing the first husband from responsibility for her. This vision is neat enough: a husband has a lifetime obligation to keep his wife from need until the obligation is assumed by another. To take this reasoning a step further, allowing a woman to be the beneficiary of two husbandly duties of support would amount to polygamy, or at least to prostitution. The implication of such reasoning is that while a wife requires a husband’s support, the law does not much care which husband supports her. One husband is enough, and any husband will do. The remarriage-termination rule thus seems historically grounded in an unsettling view of husbands as necessary, if fungible, providers.

Fault-Based Rationales: Damage Awards and the Ultimate Betrayal
If the appearance of absolute divorce undercut alimony’s rationale, fault-based divorce sometimes supplies a new one. Cast as the remedy of an innocent spouse against a guilty one, divorce under a fault-based regime depends upon proof of marital wrongdoing, such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment.

Fault may indeed explain alimony—at least in some states and in some cases. An adulterous spouse, for example, might be required to pay alimony as damages for breach of the marriage contract. Of course such a fault-based rationale would require only guilty spouses to pay alimony to innocent spouses; that is, no innocent spouse would ever pay alimony and no guilty spouse would ever receive alimony. Because such a limitation does not describe the law of alimony, fault can at best provide a partial rationale.
If alimony is cast as a damage award against a guilty spouse, what explains the remarriage-termination rule? Drawing further on the contract analogy, alimony might be designed to give an injured wife the benefit of her bargain—that is, to put her in the position she would have been in had her husband shared his income with her, for life according to traditional views of marriage. Nothing in this analogy to contract, however, explains why alimony should terminate upon a wife’s remarriage. Certainly, in contract generally, a party’s good fortune subsequent to a damage award does not require her to forfeit her damages. Even when a wife’s remarriage amounts to good fortune, it is difficult to see why her improved financial footing should absolve a former husband of liability for the wrongdoing that triggered the alimony award. A contracting party who wins the lottery need not return a damage award. And of course not every remarriage is a winning lottery ticket. Yet the remarriage-termination rule cuts off alimony, good fortune or no.

An analogy to mitigation of damages is unhelpful. The mitigation principle ensures that a court “ordinarily will not compensate an injured party for loss that that party could have avoided by making efforts appropriate, in the eyes of the court, to the circumstances.” If applied to alimony termination, mitigation principles would suggest the peculiar conclusion that a wife should remarry in order to mitigate her losses and save her ex-husband money. Mitigation principles are also awkward because the timing is wrong. Opportunities to mitigate loss will ordinarily serve to decrease a damage calculation before it is reduced to judgment. In the case of divorce, however, a wife cannot avoid loss through remarriage at the time alimony is initially calculated, since she is not yet divorced. While it is true that alimony is modifiable and thus theoretically capable of repeated recalculation, mitigation principles would at most support a reduction in alimony commensurate with a wife’s improved financial status, yet the remarriage rule usually applies without regard to financial consequence and completely eliminates, rather than proportionately reduces, alimony.
Neither can principles of novation or renunciation explain the remarriage-termination rule. Novation occurs when a creditor (the ex-wife) takes a third party’s promise to pay (the new husband’s support obligation) in satisfaction of a debt (the ex-husband’s alimony obligation). Under this analogy, the new husband’s support obligation would substitute for the exhusband’s alimony obligation, thus discharging the ex-husband. The difficulty with this reasoning is that novation requires the agreement of the original parties—that is, both the ex-husband and the ex-wife. Novation thus explains the remarriage-termination rule only if the wife’s remarriage constitutes her implicit agreement to forgo alimony, a strained interpretation of remarriage given the negative economic consequences of termination and, in the end, an interpretation that begs rather than answers the question of why alimony terminates on remarriage. The failure of an ex-wife to expressly forgo alimony similarly undercuts any rationale for termination based on renunciation of rights, since renunciation also supposes a voluntary agreement to forgo alimony. Contract principles simply cannot explain the remarriage-termination rule.

No-Fault Rationales: Handouts and Masked Need

Central to the no-fault movement was a new vision of divorce as an opportunity for a fresh start and a clean break—a vision that leaves little room for alimony. As we have seen, general no-fault alimony statutes give courts discretion to award alimony on the basis of a spouse’s “need,” though “need” is not defined. Moreover, “need” alone provides no rationale for alimony, for it fails to explain why a former spouse should be responsible for a claimant’s need.

Can a need-based alimony model explain the remarriage-termination rule? Not by a long shot. If need triggers an alimony handout, then termination of alimony should depend on the elimination of need (or a payor’s inability to meet need). Yet the remarriage-termination rule commonly applies without regard to need. Under the automatic-termination rule and, except in extraordinary cases, also under the prima facie rule, alimony terminates upon a recipient’s remarriage whether or not her financial position has improved.

Even when an alimony recipient marries someone of sufficient earnings or assets to maintain or improve her standard of living, this economic improvement may be only temporary. Should her second marriage also end, an alimony recipient may be just as needy as she was prior to her remarriage, especially when the second marriage is short and she therefore can qualify for little or no new alimony. This is an especially serious concern for older women who remarry after a long-term first marriage. Advancing age is an irreversible impediment to a second long-term marriage and thus a counter-indicator of significant alimony the second time around. Moreover, the job or career opportunities available before a first marriage may not spontaneously reappear when a second marriage ends. The education, career, and personal life choices available at age twenty-five may simply not be available ten or twenty or thirty years later. The point is that while remarriage may mask need, it does not necessarily eliminate it.
What explains this judicial intuition that continuing alimony beyond a recipient’s remarriage would be unseemly, repugnant, unconscionable, or at least unreasonable? While dramatic adjectives signal a conclusion rather than an explanation, the sense of impropriety evident in judicial prose hints at a familiar theme: a virtuous woman cannot have two husbands at once, and since alimony evidences a husband’s support obligation, it must end when a woman takes a new husband. Under the historical model of alimony, a wife needs and deserves her husband’s protective cover only until a new man takes on the obligation to support her. No woman can or should have the support of two men at the same time, for this would amount to polygamy, or at least to prostitution, both of which are positively unseemly. The problem with such reasoning, of course, is that it reflects nineteenth-century views of marriage that have little in common with contemporary notions of marriage as a partnership of equals. Another popular explanation for the remarriage-termination rule is that the wife who chooses to remarry has thereby elected to relinquish her alimony. As the Nebraska Supreme Court explained in 1968, an alimony recipient has a “privilege to abandon the provision made by the decree of the court for her support … and when she has done so, the law will require her to abide by her election.” “If the dependent spouse has entered into a new marital relationship,” said the Alaska Supreme Court, “we think that the remarriage should serve as an election between the support provided by the alimony award and the legal obligation of support embodied in the new marital relationship.” “The policy behind terminating sustenance alimony after remarriage is that the wife has elected to be supported by a new husband,” reasoned the Ohio Supreme Court.

The election rationale does not depend on whether a second spouse is actually able to provide support, as one court acknowledged in terminating alimony upon a recipient’s remarriage to a man whose income consisted of social security and minimal retirement benefits. The low income of the wife’s new husband, said the court, “in no way diminishes the choice she voluntarily made to share her living expenses with him.”

Closely tied to the election rationale is the proposition that upon remarriage the second husband substitutes for the first. As a Nebraska court explained in 1956, “the reason for the discontinuance of alimony allowance upon the recipient contracting another marriage is that, in that event, the legal obligation of the second husband supplants that of the first.” “Absent extraordinary circumstances,” said the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1995, “the former spouse should not be required to pay alimony when another person has assumed the support obligation.”
At the core of the election rationale is the dubious assumption that remarriage necessarily implies a choice to forgo alimony. What explains this assumption? Is it the historical view of alimony as a husband’s obligation to sustain his wife, from which it must naturally follow that only one man at a time can owe a woman this obligation? Why must an alimony recipient choose between remarriage and alimony? Why can’t she choose remarriage and alimony? Rather than offering a reasoned explanation for this forced choice, the election rationale merely describes the consequence of the remarriage-termination rule. It is thus the remarriage-termination rule, rather than any reasoned rationale for it, that forces the recipient to choose between remarriage and alimony.

Alimony is complex. Nowhere is this complexity more evident than in the search for a conceptual basis for alimony in contemporary marriage. Numerous commentators have proposed theories of alimony that aim to answer a simple question: Why should anyone be forced to share income with a former spouse? If divorce severs the tie between spouses, if each spouse is entitled to a clean break and a fresh start as no-fault laws teach, what is the rationale for alimony? Contemporary commentators have long struggled to explain alimony in an age of easy divorce and equality rhetoric, but there is still no consensus on the answer to these questions.

In extreme cases, the pragmatic justification for alimony is simple enough: alimony protects the state from the job of supporting a divorced spouse who without alimony would be thrust into poverty.

In extreme cases, the pragmatic justification for alimony is simple enough: alimony protects the state from the job of supporting a divorced spouse who without alimony would be thrust into poverty. Indeed, state statutes typically identify a claimant’s need as an alimony trigger. But need alone does not explain why one’s ex-spouse rather than one’s children, siblings, parents, or community should be responsible for meeting need. Moreover, trial courts are given broad discretion to define “need,” and state self-interest does not explain cases in which need is defined in ways that have little to do with avoiding poverty. Nor can pragmatism alone answer the many questions surrounding an alimony award: How much? How long? On what grounds modification or termination?

The law’s inability to articulate a justification for alimony is more than an abstract concern. The broad discretion vested in judges to determine alimony eligibility, duration, and value, in the absence of a theory to guide decision making, has produced an alimony regime marked by unpredictability, uncertainty, and confusion.

If you are seeking alimony, speak to an experienced Lehi Utah divorce lawyer. The lawyer can assist you get the alimony that your rightly deserve.

Divorce and Pension

No-fault divorce rested on a “clean-break” principle that influenced alimony and property distribution. Divorcing spouses were supposed to get on with their lives, as best they could. Yet, even during a short marriage, one spouse sometimes greatly enhances his earning power, while the other drastically reduces hers by staying home with the children. Earning power is often the most valuable asset of the marriage. If so, then it is unfair to confine the distribution to traditional property, and without taking future earnings into account. Hence, modern divorce law has begun to focus on “new property”—things that can’t be touched or held, but nonetheless have economic value: pensions, business goodwill, professional licenses, and professional degrees. An experienced Lehi Utah divorce lawyer can advise you on how you can protect your earnings in case of a divorce.

Lehi Utah Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need legal help with a divorce in Lehi Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC (801) 676-5506 for your Free Consultation. We can help you with alimony. Child Support. Child Custody. Modification of Divorce Decree. Property Division. Debt Division. And Much More. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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False Accusations of Abuse During Divorce

False Accusations of Abuse During Divorce

In some particularly contentious divorces, it is all too common for one spouse to make false allegations of abuse in order to gain an upper hand. The presence of abuse by one spouse can have a huge impact on divorce litigation, especially insofar as determining custody of minor children, and can lead to criminal charges in some cases.

While wise Utah divorce lawyers strive to keep discord to a minimum when negotiating a divorce, allegations of abuse change the entire character of the process. Abuse allegations can be very difficult to conclusively disprove and, as a result, often make divorce litigation unavoidable.

If you are involved in a divorce and your spouse has turned to false accusations of abuse, you need to act quickly to prove your innocence. Our experienced divorce lawyers in Utah have seen nearly everything that can happen during the divorce process. We have the investigation and litigation skills to deal with false accusations of abuse and are prepared to handle anything your spouse can throw at you.

We understand that it is important to confront allegations of abuse immediately. Experience has taught us that negotiations may still be salvageable if we can disprove allegations early.

It is much more common, however, for such allegations to signal the end of any chance at a peaceful resolution. That is why we are always prepared to go to trial if necessary to defend the reputations of our clients and their rights to their children and property.

Splitting Up After a Long-Term Marriage: Why?

In 2010, former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, announced their separation. By all outward appearances, the couple was happy and comfortable, and the announcement came as a shock even to close friends. Many asked why they were separating.

As a firm dedicated to the practice of divorce and family law on Long Island, we hear and understand the reasons men and women of all ages, in marriages of all lengths, decide to divorce. For long-term, stable couples, divorce oftentimes brings few fireworks, no accusations and oftentimes no infidelity. What contributes to the demise of a long-term marriage?

Consider this:

  • Al and Tipper Gore separated after 40 years of marriage. They raised children, sought and found adventure, and following a process of long and careful consideration, they decided to separate. From their statements, it seems clear they still love each other as friends, but chose to pursue their lives separately.
  • While the end of a long marriage can come rudely, it may also come as an emotional relief. As people live longer and healthier lives, fewer people are willing to accept an empty marriage that lost its love and intimacy long ago. In a recent paper from Bowling Green State University, researchers found the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled between 1990 and 2010.
  • Divorce after decades means careful consideration about wealth, and often retirement monies as well. While two people can live together less expensively than two can separately, more women and men are choosing to go it alone, understanding the financial difficulties and potentially lowered quality of life that may follow.

By all accounts, the Gores remain happy with their decision and the new opportunities pursued by each party. While causes of divorce are many, changes in time and relationship often spell the end of a marriage.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Dating After Divorce

Dating After Divorce

Getting back into the dating world after a divorce can be exciting — as well as incredibly frightening. Before you decide to take this next step in your journey, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to be completely sure you are ready to date.

What outcome do I hope to achieve in this relationship?

What kind of relationship are you looking for? Are you all-in on looking for a new long-term partner, or are you simply looking for something light and fun? You do not have to have a desired outcome set in stone, but you should at least consider what your intentions are and what you hope to achieve.

You don’t have to have a serious intention with a relationship, but it’s good to at least set reasonable expectations so you can be more comfortable if you start to get serious with a new partner.

Have I taken enough time to heal after my divorce?

It can take some time to emotionally heal after a divorce. You should reserve some time for reflection and to get over the tough times you’ve recently experienced. If you are still feeling a lot of pain, hurt or anger, you may need more time before you seriously begin dating again. This is just as much for your potential new partner’s sake as yours — it is unfair to use another person as a means to get over your divorce.

What will I tell my children?

You should not give your children any details they do not need to know. It can be understandably difficult to bring up a new relationship to your kids, but you will not be able to hide it forever. Be as honest as you can, and speak with a counselor if you’d like further advice.

What to Know About Equitable Distribution in Utah

In Utah, the standard for divorcing couples is that their property will be divided in an equitable manner. Note that this does not necessarily mean an equal division, but instead a fair one. When making decisions regarding asset distribution, courts will consider what each spouse brought to the marriage and what each will need once the marriage has ended.

Some of the factors a judge will consider include the following:

  • The income and property each spouse had at the time of marriage and the time of the divorce filing
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Any pension, inheritance rights and health insurance either spouse will lose due to the divorce
  • Whether the court has awarded or will award alimony
  • Whether the marital property is liquid or non-liquid
  • Each spouse’s likely financial circumstances in the future
  • The tax consequences of the divorce and asset distribution to each spouse
  • Whether either spouse has purposefully wasted marital assets
  • Whether either spouse has transferred marital property to another person or entity as a means of avoiding distribution

Only property acquired during the course of the marriage is divided by the court, with a few exceptions, such as inheritance or gifts. Examples of marital property include any income earned during the marriage by either spouse, the property purchased using that income, other properties purchased while married, retirement benefits either spouse earned during marriage and the appreciation of any assets (such as real estate or valuables) accrued during the marriage. Businesses and professional practices are also subject to equitable distribution if they can be classified as marital property.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Why You Need an Attorney for Divorce

Why You Need an Attorney for Divorce

When you file for divorce, you are required to provide the court with certain information. For example, you must give the court the legal authority to actually process your case.

divorce petition — occasionally also referred to as a divorce complaint — allows you to present certain facts that indicate you meet all jurisdictional requirements for the divorce. These conditions vary depending on the state in which you live.

If you have somehow made a mistake regarding the requirements for filing the divorce petition, a court will instantly dismiss it. Your case could also be dismissed if you fail to include any required item in the petition.

That’s not the only way you could make your case more difficult on yourself by improperly filing the petition. You must inform the court on what you are seeking in your divorce. If you do not understand the divorce laws in Utah, you could accidentally leave out requests for benefits to which you are legally entitled, which means you will not get that benefit once the divorce is finalized.

Importance of properly filing your divorce petition

For your divorce proceedings to begin, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the petition. However, you are not allowed to mail it. Instead, you may have a police officer or process server deliver the petition in person. This individual will also deliver what’s called a “summons,” which notifies your spouse of the due date by which he or she needs to respond.

What to Expect as a Witness in a Divorce Deposition

Divorce depositions, like those associated with most other civil cases, involve parties making sworn statements about certain elements of the case in question. This could include information on finances, assets or a variety of other issues.

In some situations, third-party witnesses might get called in to be deposed, as well. Attorneys representing either spouse could reach out and ask to speak to a witness directly to get key information. These witnesses may also sign an affidavit, a sworn written statement that contains information on issues relevant to the divorce case.

What happens at a divorce deposition?

To call in a witness to a divorce deposition, attorneys must serve that witness with a subpoena, either personally or via a police officer or process server. This subpoena will specify when and where the deposition will occur (typically in the office of the deposing attorney). At the deposition, a court reporter will be on hand to record everything the witness says. Both spouses and their divorce lawyers may also be present.

Witnesses in these depositions also have the right to legal counsel. This is especially important if a witness will be asked questions that would be protected by doctor-patient privileges or other sensitive issues. Because there are no judges present, lawyers have the ability to ask just about any question. Witnesses are required to answer honestly, unless an attorney instructs them not to answer at all.

To that end, it’s a good idea to at least speak with a family law attorney ahead of time if you are to be a witness at a deposition. This will give you an opportunity to go over the types of questions you should avoid answering (if applicable) and will give you a better feel for what to expect in this process.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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What Not to Do if You’re About to Get Divorced

What Not to Do if You’re About to Get Divorced

When you’re about to get divorced for the first time, you may start to feel more than a little overwhelmed. Those who are unfamiliar with the divorce process and do not receive proper advice often make some key mistakes that could impact them in the long term.

To that end, the following are some things you should never do before and during your divorce:

  • Speak with financial advisors you cannot trust or understand: You need to be able to get your financial affairs in order before your divorce begins. Any financial advisor you work with should be someone you can trust implicitly and who can explain your financial situation to you in a way you can fully understand.
  • Acting based on your emotions: It’s completely understandable if you feel like an emotional wreck during your divorce. However, you should never let your emotions dictate your actions. This is, of course, much easier said than done, which is why it’s so important to have an attorney who advises you on the strategy that’s right for you.
  • Attempt to conceal your assets: Many people mistakenly believe they can get away with concealing their assets to reduce the amount of their money or possessions subject to the division of assets. This is illegal and could impact your ability to receive a fair settlement if caught.
  • Try to stick to the same standard of living: One of the biggest errors people make during and after their divorce is trying to stick to the same standard of living. Your new financial situation may force you to be much tighter with money than you were previously, at least in the short term. It’s a good idea to get used to your new lifestyle before your divorce than to try to suddenly adjust to it afterward.

Tips for Navigating the Holidays When Dealing with Divorce

The holiday season can be a tough time for families dealing with divorce or separation, especially if there are children involved. There are, however, some ways you can navigate the challenges that come during the holidays in a way that minimizes potential conflict.

Below are a few tips to help you through this time of the year:

  • Consider starting new traditions: Just because you have celebrated one way in the past does not mean you have to repeat those traditions each year. Consider starting new traditions to which you and your family members can look forward.
  • Be flexible: If there are certain traditions you and your former spouse are both unwilling to part with, consider how you can compromise so that you can both enjoy them.
  • Consider what the kids want: Although your children should not be able to make the sole decision as to what you’ll do over the holidays, at least consider their wants and needs. Will they feel cheated if they don’t get to see a certain family member? Are there certain holiday traditions that are particularly meaningful to them?
  • Be transparent about your plans: If it’s going to be impossible for your children to spend time with both parents over the holidays, but you and your former partner have come to an agreement on how you will split holidays moving forward, be sure your children know that next year will be different.
  • Set rules for gifts: Communicate with your former spouse about how much money you will spend on gifts and the budget with which you’ll be working. Substantial differences in the gifts children receive from each parent can breed resentment.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Negotiating Divorce in Utah

There are some situations in which only one spouse will take part in the divorce proceedings. This could be for a variety of reasons — one spouse may live in a different state, for example, or simply be resistant to the divorce occurring. When only one spouse participates in court, the process is called an ex parte divorce. The divorce will still be valid, so long as you meet certain requirements.

Negotiating Divorce in Utah

First, you must meet the residency requirements of a divorce. You must file your divorce within the state or county that you permanently live, or where you have been present for a certain period of time according to state law. This time period could be anywhere from six weeks to a full year.

Under an ex parte divorce, you have an exception to the normal rule of jurisdiction. This means that the divorce court can have power over a person’s legal rights even if they lack a relationship with the state in question.

Next, you must give notice to your spouse of your intent to file divorce. A person working as a “process server,” typically a local law enforcement officer, delivers this notice. If you do not know where your spouse is currently located, you may have to look into other options to ensure that they get notice of the divorce action.

Once the process has been completed, courts are required to honor divorces that were obtained even in another state.

How to Negotiate a Fair Alimony Arrangement

Like any other aspect of your divorce, you can negotiate an alimony arrangement outside of the courtroom. Doing so allows you to have more control over your future, while also avoiding the expensive, time-consuming process associated with litigation.

Each spouse in a divorce must provide certain financial disclosures at the outset of the divorce, even if it’s obvious which spouse will be making the alimony payments. To determine an appropriate amount of alimony, you will need to consider the following:

  • Separate assets your spouse owns: You are entitled to know the value of any assets your spouse owns independently of you. This includes any assets gained before the marriage.
  • General income and expense reports: A detailed income and expense report will give you a clear picture of how your spouse is spending money. Major disparities in spending and income must be addressed in alimony discussions, especially if one spouse has a lot of money to spend on luxury items.
  • Bonuses and benefits: Additional income is available from overtime and bonuses. This may be unpredictable, but should still be included when calculating alimony. Know if your spouse receives certain work-related benefits such as sick pay, unused vacation pay, health insurance benefits, vehicles paid for by the company or any similar benefits.
  • The needs of the person receiving alimony: The purpose of alimony is to provide the spouse receiving payments with the support he or she needs to maintain a reasonably decent standard of living. Just because there is a large disparity of income does not mean the recipient is going to get large sums of money each month.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Do I Need a Family Lawyer to get Divorced?

Do I Need a Family Lawyer to get Divorced

Divorce law falls under the umbrella of family law. Very few people are able to effectuate a divorce without the assistance of a lawyer, as this is rarely possible or practical. The best way to protect your rights and your relationship with your children is to seek out the assistance of an attorney who handles family law on a daily basis. An experienced lawyer knows the ins and outs of the process, and can explain each step of the way to you while fighting to protect your interests.

Getting a divorce is more than signing a piece of paper that splits you from your spouse. You may think that there are no bones of contention between you and your spouse, but what often occurs as you move toward final separation is extreme emotion takes over and causes a serious roadblock. Certainly, parties who have legal representation meet these roadblocks too. But the difference is that a skilled divorce attorney knows how to defuse many of these situations and can guide you on which battles are best fought and how to fight them. The right family law attorney will handle your divorce with the proper mix of compassion and aggression in a cost-effective manner.

In the process of your divorce, you can expect to deal with the following issues:

  • Spousal support
  • Division of property and debt
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Visitation
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Postnuptial agreements

How Does the Child’s Preference Affect Custody Proceedings?

When parents divorce, asking children to choose which parent they want to live with can be traumatic for all involved. In some cases, however, children are sufficiently mature to express a reasoned preference. In such cases, the child’s preference can be an important factor in shaping the custody arrangement.

Utah courts determine child custody based on a number of factors intended to protect the interests of the child. A child’s preference is not binding on the court, but judges have discretion to consider it. They often give it significant weight if the child can articulate cogent reasons for the choice. Issues to consider when a child expresses a custody preference include:

  • The older a child is, the more likely a judge is to give weight to the child’s opinion. The judge, however, is likely to independently assess the child’s maturity, regardless of age.
  • Judges are vigilant for signs that a parent has tried to influence the child’s preference. Coached testimony from the child will not only be disregarded, but also may work against the parent who pressured the child.
  • Judges are not required to accept a child’s preference, even if the child is mature. In fact, giving undue weight to a child’s preference in custody proceedings can be grounds for reversal on appeal.

Temporary Spousal Support During Your Divorce

While you are going through a divorce in Utah, temporary maintenance may be awarded to ensure that a lower earning spouse has an adequate standard of living during the time it takes to finalize the dissolution of the marriage. Sometimes, as a divorce lawyer, I see people don’t even think about this. Temporary maintenance (also called spousal support or alimony) is the term used in many states, but the law uses different terms such as temporary alimony or temporary spousal support.

In Utah, the law provides a formula for assessing the amount of temporary maintenance to be paid. By law, temporary maintenance is mandatory when the income of one spouse is two-thirds or less than the income of the other spouse. Temporary maintenance guidelines only apply when this requirement is met.

If the formula kicks in, the higher earning spouse will be expected to pay temporary maintenance. There is a maximum cap for utilizing the formula on the income of the payor.

Under the guidelines, to determine an appropriate amount of temporary maintenance, the court selects the lesser figure that is arrived at by the following calculations:

  • 30 percent of the income of the higher earning payor minus 20 percent of the income of the lower earning spouse
  • 40 percent of the combined income of both spouses. The income of the lower earning spouse is subtracted from this figure.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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Types of Alimony in Utah

Types of Alimony in Utah

When a couple divorces, they are occasionally on uneven ground financially. This may be due to their unequal earning potential or because one has foregone their career aspirations to care for the couple’s children. Under some circumstances, one of the spouses may be required to support the other one financially. This support can be temporary in nature, long-term or even permanent.

Under Utah law, a spouse may seek spousal support to address any number of situations. For some, the need for support is temporary in nature and should last only a few months. For others, however, alimony is required in the long term due to inability to financially provide for his or herself in a manner to which the spouse is accustomed.

Temporary maintenance is sometimes ordered to be paid for a spouse who needs support while the divorce is being finalized. Generally this support is meant to be for only a few months and the obligation terminates once the divorce is final. Once this happens, a judge may decide if the support should continue and may then order the other to pay permanent alimony.

Permanent alimony, on the other hand, is designed to continue, usually on a monthly basis, without stopping unless and until the supported spouse gets remarried. To decide if permanent alimony is warranted, a judge will look at a number of factors. These factors may include the length of marriage, the spouses’ ages, each of their present and future earning potential and the contributions each spouse made during the course of the marriage. Not every judge will order alimony, but the longer a couple is married, the more likely a judge is to order alimony payments.

How Does Infidelity Affect Divorce?

For many couples, infidelity is an unforgivable act of betrayal. It can negatively affect a marriage to the point where divorce is the only option. Each year, a large number of couples end their marriage because one person is unfaithful.

Utah State recently adopted a no-fault divorce law. As a result, Utahers who wish to end their marriage for any reason, including infidelity, may cite that their marriage as irretrievably broken down.

While you may be angry with your spouse for cheating, the court system has no interest in why your marriage failed. Divorce is not a criminal proceeding. As a result, the courts do not punish spouses for being unfaithful.

If your spouse cheats on you, do you get the house? Does cheating affect equitable distribution? You may be surprised to know that equitable distribution is not affected by infidelity. Cheating can devastate an entire family, emotionally harm your children, and end your marriage, but the court is only concerned with obtaining a fair resolution to your marital dissolution. The court views marriage as an economic partnership. As a result, it divides the assets of a marriage equally between each partner.

The only time infidelity can affect equitable distribution, and as a result a divorce proceeding, is if the cheating spouse diverted funds from the marriage to further his or her extra-marital relationship. The court may require the return of the funds used outside the marriage. A skilled and aggressive attorney can fight to determine the amount of those funds and help you retrieve them.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Financial Planning After Divorce

After a divorce, it can take some time to adjust to your new financial situation. There is less money coming in, but still plenty of expenses to monitor. To that end, it’s important to sit down and closely analyze how a divorce will affect you financially before it is actually made official.

Financial Planning After Divorce

Here are some financial planning considerations to keep in mind as you prepare for life after divorce:

  • Thoroughly analyze your expenses. Many people do not completely realize the financial impact of their divorce until after it happens. To avoid being shocked, sit down and list out every one of your sources of income and your expenses. This will give you an accurate picture of what you can expect your financial state to look like after your divorce.
  • Consider your career. Are you going to need to find another job or embark on a new career to make ends meet? If so, you should start looking into your options right away so you are prepared once the divorce is finalized. Also consider any training you might need for a new career.
  • Figure out your living situation. It might not be realistic to hang on to the family home. Thus, you need to consider where you are going to be living. Will you rent an apartment? Do you have another place lined up? Will you be able to sell the home quickly?
  • Consider what you are losing. You’re not just losing an income. You are also potentially losing health insurance and a variety of benefits, including retirement benefits. All of these benefits should factor into your detailed financial analysis.

Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Relatively Inexpensive

In addition to being stressful for a variety of reasons, divorce can be an expensive process. Between the legal fees, property division, debt responsibilities and other costs, it’s possible you will come away from your divorce with some work to do in terms of rebuilding your financial health and stability.

However, there are some tactics you can use to help keep costs down in the divorce process. The following are just a few of them:

  • Negotiate as much as possible: This might be easier said than done in a contentious divorce, as your former spouse might not be willing to negotiate on certain (or any) issues. But whenever possible, negotiating allows you to compromise and avoid some expenses.
  • List your priorities: Create a full list of priority issues in your divorce, and determine how much you want to negotiate on those issues. This helps you form a plan of action for your negotiations and allows you to set priorities.
  • Be thorough with your record keeping: With the large amount of paperwork associated with a divorce (and marriage), it’s easy to lose track of some items. Be as thorough and meticulous with your record keeping as possible, and keep track of all correspondence, research, court orders, notes and other documents.

Seeking an Annulment in Utah

We’ve written about the difference between getting an annulment or divorce as well as an annulment in Utah. Though annulments have the effect of ending a marriage, they are different in various ways from divorce. Divorce dissolves a marriage, while an annulment declares it void.

Marriage is a legal contract. Just like any other contract, there are certain requires that the contract must meet in order for it to be considered valid. If one of the spouses can show that there was some material issue with the marriage contract, he or she may be successful in annulling the marriage.

Under Utah law, there are five grounds for annulment. The first is that one or both of the spouses was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage. In order to legally enter into a contract, a person must be an adult (18 years old) at the time. If he or she is not, the contract is not necessarily void, but it is voidable.

A marriage can be annulled if one or both of the spouses was unable to consent due to mental incapacity. This can include any circumstances where one or both of the spouses is unable to give legal consent, such as if one were drunk at the time of the wedding, for example. If one of the spouses can prove that they were mental incapacitated at the time of the wedding, the marriage might be voided. In the same vein as mental incapacitation, if one of the spouses has been mentally ill for at least five years, the other may seek an annulment.

Sexual intercourse is considered part of the legal agreement of a marriage. If one of the spouses is physically unable to partake in sexual intercourse, the marriage may be annulled.

Finally, if a spouse can prove that the marriage was obtained through duress, coercion or fraud, it may be voided. For instance, if one of the spouses was threatened in order to obtain the marriage, this marriage would voidable.

Free Consultation with a Utah Divorce Attorney

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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How to Deal with an Angry Spouse During Divorce

How to Deal with an Angry Spouse During Divorce

In some cases, a divorce can get rather contentious. I’ve seen it as a family lawyer.

If you have reason to believe your soon-to-be-former spouse will react with anger, or if you have already experienced this response, it is important to know how to deal with these issues appropriately.

Here are a few examples of what you might expect from an angry spouse and how you should respond:

  • False accusations of abuse. In some situations, one spouse might falsely accuse the other of abuse and seek a restraining order as a means of gaining leverage in the divorce process. You can prevent this from happening by simply refusing to get into any sort of conflict, whether it’s in person, over the phone or via email.
  • Not fulfilling verbal agreements. You might believe you’ve reached an understanding with your spouse about a certain issue, but suddenly he or she reverses course. To prevent this from happening, get every agreement in writing and signed by your spouse. If the other person goes back on his or her word, the document then provides evidence.
  • Limit access to money or assets. Some individuals try to limit their spouse’s access to marital assets. Before you file for divorce, make sure your name is on all of the assets the two of you own together, including bank accounts, credit card accounts, retirement accounts and mortgages. Open your own credit accounts separately as soon as you can to avoid your former spouse damaging your credit.
  • Spying. Your former partner may be tracking all of your activities, including what you are doing online. Do not say or do anything that could compromise you or give your spouse ammunition to use against you during court proceedings.
  • Actual physical or verbal abuse. If your spouse’s anger escalates to the point where he or she becomes truly abusive, it’s time to get law enforcement involved. At this point, the situation has become more serious than you needing to protect your best interests in the divorce — you and your kids could be in actual danger.

Rules to Help You Communicate with Your Former Spouse After Divorce

Although many people who go through a divorce would very much like to never have to see or talk to their former partner ever again, this is unfortunately not a realistic scenario for most couples. If, for example, you have children together, you need to keep in touch regularly if you have any hope of consistent parenting.

Here are some ground rules that can help you to more effectively communicate after a contentious divorce in what is typically an awkward and unpleasant situation:

  • Be smart about how you communicate. Whenever possible, keep all communication in writing if you know there might be a disagreement. If you have to make phone calls, keep them as brief as possible and only talk about what you need to discuss. The longer the communication, the more likely an argument will occur.
  • Stay impersonal. Never discuss any personal issues, as this opens the door up to emotional entanglements. Keep everything strictly business.
  • Do not send messages through children. This can cause a lot of long-term emotional damage to kids. Any communication between the two of you should be conducted directly, rather through an intermediary like your children.
  • Have your own life. You are divorced, which means you no longer need to be concerned about where your former spouse is going, what he or she is doing or thinking or who he or she is seeing. Keeping your lives as separate from each other as possible is the best course of action, and will help you to stay businesslike during your communication.
  • Analyze your relationships with your former partner’s family. If you had been married for some time, it is understandable to want to maintain relationships with your former in-laws. However, it is important you never discuss your former spouse, and maintain the relationship primarily as a friendship.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


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