Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Utah to add extra hurdle for divorcing couples with children

Often, it is the children who suffer the most in instances of divorce. Whether it comes from the financial impact divorce has on most families, the antagonistic atmosphere created by the divorce or parents using them as bargaining tools, it can leave a lifelong mark on the child. States have long recognized the importance of maintaining a healthy environment for children regardless of the marital status of their parents. This concern has spurred laws, which require spouses with children to attend special classes before their divorce will be granted. With divorce rates still hovering around 50%, some legislators think more should be done.

Utah legislators are proposing a bill which would require spouses with children to attend classes aimed at keeping the couple together earlier in the divorce process, in hopes that it will have a positive effect on the amount of divorces in the state. This measure comes as other states have sought ways to make it more difficult to divorce.

The required classes do more than just inform couples on the legal requirements of a divorce. They also focus on how to deal with the grief of a divorce, how to explain the situation to children and keep them out of the negative aspects of a divorce. While opponents fear the bill will make already long, emotional and difficult situation worse, supporters hope the requirement will result in more couples reconciling and giving their marriage another chance.

While the bill adds an additional step to Utah's divorce process, it is not as radical as other states proposals, which may require couples to wait up to two years to finalize their divorce. The bill, as currently written, has exceptions for taking the class for instances where a spouse has filed a protective order during the divorce. If passed, the bill would require the couple to present a certificate of class completion to the judge before issues such as child custody or financial orders determined.

Source: ABC News, "For Utah Parents, Hurdle to Divorce Could Advance," Feb. 25, 2014

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