Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 8: Legality vs. Morality

By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant 

Since I have started working as a legal assistant, I have come to realize more the nuances of legality vs. morality. For the purposes of this post, I will define legality as that which is permitted by law (in other words, behavior that is permitted by law or that the law supports) and I will define morality as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.  

I think everyone realizes that even though something is legal, it does not necessarily make it morally right. For instance, Nazi soldiers who rounded up Jews in WWII Germany were not doing anything illegal given the laws of Germany at that time (also a lack of international criminal law enforcement). However, none of us would say that what they were doing was morally right. The difference in this case is obvious. 

This is not a new observation by any means, but through observing the practice of law up close I have come to see how it truly is the case that the law does not always represent what is morally right. I think in an ideal society, that would be the case. I would think that all laws in a perfect world would represent perfect moral goodness.  

But in our imperfect legal system within the United States, sometimes the law prohibits us from doing the right thing. I think this is particularly true in the case of divorce and family law. I think that simply by trying to legislate things like child custody, child support, and alimony, more battles are created than actual justice/healing in a broken relationship. I am not saying that people who have been/are getting divorced should just get along, I am saying that whatever healing could have taken place often gets lost in a competition to get back at someone, to get “my fair share” of something, or “get what the law allows”. I think that we naturally generate that competition through trying to focus on what is legal vs. what is morally good, what is right under the circumstances.  

I am not sure what the solution would be to this problem. Law is an important part of life, even in domestic cases. I am sure there is some way to make the law less adversarial in nature, or at least my naiveté leads me to believe as much. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  


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