Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Lawmakers trying to make pornography a custody issue

Even though family law has come a long way since its creation, it is still evolving to fit within the continuing changing society it's meant to regulate. A hundred years ago, divorces were almost impossible to get, and those who went through with one were treated like lepers. Skip forward a hundred years and nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. It was once acceptable to declare women better parents, giving them custody in the majority of cases, but today many states have moved toward joint custody as the default and ideal arrangement for separated families.

Utah has sent its newest child custody bill to the governor after a unanimous vote to approve it by the state's House. The bill, SB227, will affect child custody cases if signed into law by allowing judges to consider another factor when making child custody decisions. If a parent has intentionally shown their child pornography, then that act can have a negative impact on a parent's custody plea. When discussing the law, one of the bill's sponsors mentioned instances where fathers sit with their son and make them watch porn as a rite of passage into manhood. While such actions are not illegal, the bill considers them to be inappropriate for children and thus a factor in custody determinations.

If signed into law, it is unknown what level of evidence would be needed to prove an allegation. As children can be manipulated into saying any number of untrue statements, it remains to be seen if a case can be proven with a child's testimony alone. Also of importance is how the child's age affects the seriousness of the action, as a 16-year-old is likely to be less severely impacted by pornography than a seven year old.

As family law issues continue to grow more complex in nature, it may be evermore important to seek legal assistance. A Utah-based divorce attorney may be able to help divorcing parties better understand their situation so they can make fully informed decisions to support their best interests. Also, an experienced attorney can fight for a parent during a child custody dispute, seeking to obtain the maximum parenting time for his or her client.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, "House passes bill making child exposure to porn a custody factor," Madeleine Brown, Mar. 13, 2014

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