Family Law Legislation 2022 – Part 1
This blog post reviews four bills among new proposed legislation during the 2022 session of the Utah State Legislature that deal with divorce and family law matters.
Title: Gestational Agreements
The stated purpose of this bill is that it would “amend the requirement that the intended parents be married for a gestational agreement; and make technical and conforming changes.” From what I can tell after reading H.B. 51, that means: 1) unmarried couples would no longer need to be married to enter into gestational agreements (why? How does this benefit society?); and 2) “she” and “her” would no longer be used in reference to “gestational mother” and so, instead of “she and “her” the term would now be, and only be “gestational mother,” which appears to be intended to make the term “mother” gender neutral. This seems at best like a solution in search of a non-existent problem and at worst like ignorant social engineering.
Title: Child Support Statute of Limitations
Purpose: Addresses the statute of limitations for child support removing the 4-year limitation on enforcement of a child support order, or a sum certain judgement entered on or after 5/4/00 and makes other technical changes.
At first, this may seem to some to be a great idea, even perhaps a no-brainer. You might say, “I support HB 84 because it recognizes the public policy of supporting children and removes an obstacle for a parent who had to support the children during their minority from collecting child support based solely on the passage of time.” I do not support H.B. 84 because statutes of limitation are good public policy. To quote § 5 of the American Jurisprudence 2d legal encyclopedia, “The statute of limitations doctrine serves the objectives of finality, certainty, and predictability. Defendants have a right to rely on the certainty the statute of limitations provides. Such statutes embody important public policy considerations in that they stimulate activity and punish negligence. Statutes of limitation serve to provide an adequate time for a diligent plaintiff to bring a cause of action, as well as to punish those parties who sit on their rights. Another object of statutes of limitation is to prevent surprise. Statutes of limitation are additionally intended to promote the efficient litigation of claims and further the policy that one must diligently pursue one’s legal rights at the risk of losing them if they are not timely asserted. A statute of limitations is primarily intended to protect the sanctity of the outcome of litigation, not to prevent the burdens associated with participation in litigation. Utah’s current statute of limitation for enforcement of a child support order is 4 years from the child’s 18th birthday or eight years from the date of entry of the sum certain judgment entered by a tribunal. The longer period of duration shall apply in every order. See Utah Code § 78B-5-202. That’s more than fair. I see no reason to get rid of the statute of limitations here.
Title: Parenting Plan Amendments
Purpose: This bill prohibits a court from granting a petition to modify a parenting plan until the parties have attended an educational course; provides that a court may waive the educational course requirement for a petition to modify a parenting plan if course attendance and completion are not necessary, appropriate, feasible, or in the best interests of the parties; creates a mandatory educational course for parties when a petition to modify a parenting plan is filed; and makes technical and conforming changes.
Want to know what this proposed “educational course” would entail? Well, if H.B. 86 is passed, it would mean:
(3) A mandatory educational course shall be designed to educate and sensitize parties about a child’s needs during and after the modification of a parenting plan, including educating and instructing the parties on:
(a) the definition of a parenting plan under Section 30-3-10.7;
(b) the process for modifying a parenting plan;
(c) the objectives of a parenting plan under Section 30-3-10.9;
(d) how to effectively co-parent after a separation or divorce;
(e) resources, other than litigation, that are available for resolving custody and child support issues, including alternative dispute resolution or mediation;
(f) how modification to a parenting plan may impact a child;
(g) how a parent may help the parent’s child adjust to a modification of a parenting plan; and
(h) the signs and effects of high-conflict and domestic violence issues on children and family relationships.
We already have way too many laws governing divorce and family law in Utah. We don’t need more. Frankly, we need fewer. We definitely do not need this.
Regardless, the last thing divorced or unwed parents need is a law requiring them to attend another state mandated, state-generated “educational course”. The courses we already require of parents aren’t doing any good, and in fairness they aren’t doing any significant harm, but since when did “it doesn’t hurt” become a compelling reason to pass a law? Laws like H.B. 86 insultingly treat parents like ignorant proles who must not be permitted to do anything without first being “educated” by the government (and paying a fee for it). People aren’t that dumb and in a free society the state doesn’t have that kind of paternalistic power.
Title: Marriage Terminology Amendments
This bill seeks to substitute the term “illegitimate” with “legally recognized”. That would result in relationships currently identified as “illegitimate” as “not legally recognized,” which is the definition of . . . illegitimate. Changing accurate terms because they have taken on a negative connotation is a no-win situation. “Bastard” became “illegitimate,” and now someone wants to change illegitimate to “not legally recognized”. Why use one word when three will do, eh? Until enough people feel that term offends.
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