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Can evidence of a spouse's bad conduct be used in a divorce?

There are many misconceptions about the legal system, and divorce cases are no exception. It is important for Salt Lake City residents going through a divorce to understand these misconceptions, and how the reality of the law will impact their case.

A good example of this comes with one of the most contentious legal issues in a divorce, alimony. Last week, this blog discussed some of the factors the court may consider when deciding whether to award alimony, including the length of the marriage and the financial needs of the spouses.

In addition to these factors, courts can consider the fault of the parties during the marriage that lead to the divorce. A common misconception is that, because states now have no fault divorce, the fault of the parties that lead to the breakup of the relationship is entirely irrelevant to the proceeding. In reality, fault can still play a role in determining whether alimony is awarded, among other issues.

For example, under Utah law, the court can consider whether a party has engaged in sexual relations with someone other than the party's spouse. The court can also consider whether a spouse caused or attempted to cause physical harm to the other spouse or minor children, or whether the spouse caused the other spouse or minor children to fear life-threatening harm.

Finally, the court can consider whether a spouse substantially undermined the financial stability of the family. For example, a spouse who has dissipated marital assets may be held responsible for his or her actions.

Ultimately, individuals should understand that their ex-spouses' bad conduct may be relevant in the divorce proceedings on multiple key issues. Evidence regarding this bad conduct should be preserved and disclosed in order to ensure it can be used in the case.

Source: Utah State Legislature, "Title 30, Chapter 3, Section 5," accessed on Jan. 23, 2016

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Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law
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