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Tag: divorce

House Bill 157 (HB0157 (utah.gov)), “Child Custody Factor Amendments”.

This post discusses another proposed family law bill under consideration for the 2024 Utah legislative session, House Bill 157 (HB0157 (utah.gov)), “Child Custody Factor Amendments”.

This bill, if passed, would provides that a parent’s approval or disapproval, in itself, of a child’s gender identity, is not a factor to be considered:

  • in a Division of Child and Family Services determination regarding removal of a child from parental custody; and
  • when determining child custody as part of a divorce or other family law proceeding.

If passed, H.B. 157 would amend:

Utah Code § 30-3-10

and

Utah Code § 80-2a-202

The new provisions specially are:

(For Utah Code § 30-3-10)

127          (10) In considering the past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each party
128     under Subsection (2)(d) or any other factor a court finds relevant, the court may not:

*****

144          (b) discriminate against a parent based upon the parent’s agreement or disagreement
145     with a minor child of the couple’s:
146          (i) assertion that the child’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to the
147     child at birth; or
148          (ii) practice of having or expressing a different gender identity than the sex assigned to
149     the child at birth.

(For Utah Code § 80-2a-202)

167          (b) A peace officer or a child welfare caseworker may not take action under Subsection
168     (2)(a) solely on the basis of:

*****
175          (iii) a parent’s agreement or disagreement with a minor child of the couple’s:
176          (A) assertion that the child’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to the
177     child at birth; or
178          (B) practice of having or expressing a different gender identity than the sex assigned to
179     the child at birth.

“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” – Abraham Lincoln

While I realize that the intent of the bill is NOT to give credence to, among other things (all bad) junk science and the extremely dangerous notion that one can legally force others to share and engage in one’s own delusions, the result of enacting such legislation would—ironically—have the opposite effect (e.g., the bill incorporates “sex assigned at birth” when biological sex is not “assigned,” but a law like this would legitimate this inanity). The best way to deal with what will be looked back on as one of the most intellectually bankrupt and embarrassing concepts of the 21st century is to give it precisely all the statutory attention it deserves: none. Parental rights are inalienable and God-given, not a thing the government can erode with trendy, woke (there, I said it) legislation.

Here is the propose text of the bill:

30          30-3-10. Custody of a child — Custody factors.
31          (1) If a married couple having one or more minor children are separated, or the married
32     couple’s marriage is declared void or dissolved, the court shall enter, and has continuing
33     jurisdiction to modify, an order of custody and parent-time.
34          (2) In determining any form of custody and parent-time under Subsection (1), the court
35     shall consider the best interest of the child and may consider among other factors the court
36     finds relevant, the following for each parent:
37          (a) evidence of domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional
38     abuse, involving the child, the parent, or a household member of the parent;
39          (b) the parent’s demonstrated understanding of, responsiveness to, and ability to meet
40     the developmental needs of the child, including the child’s:
41          (i) physical needs;
42          (ii) emotional needs;
43          (iii) educational needs;
44          (iv) medical needs; and
45          (v) any special needs;
46          (c) the parent’s capacity and willingness to function as a parent, including:
47          (i) parenting skills;
48          (ii) co-parenting skills, including:
49          (A) ability to appropriately communicate with the other parent;
50          (B) ability to encourage the sharing of love and affection; and
51          (C) willingness to allow frequent and continuous contact between the child and the
52     other parent, except that, if the court determines that the parent is acting to protect the child
53     from domestic violence, neglect, or abuse, the parent’s protective actions may be taken into
54     consideration; and
55          (iii) ability to provide personal care rather than surrogate care;
56          (d) in accordance with Subsection (10), the past conduct and demonstrated moral

57     character of the parent;
58          (e) the emotional stability of the parent;
59          (f) the parent’s inability to function as a parent because of drug abuse, excessive
60     drinking, or other causes;
61          (g) whether the parent has intentionally exposed the child to pornography or material
62     harmful to minors, as “material” and “harmful to minors” are defined in Section 76-10-1201;
63          (h) the parent’s reasons for having relinquished custody or parent-time in the past;
64          (i) duration and depth of desire for custody or parent-time;
65          (j) the parent’s religious compatibility with the child;
66          (k) the parent’s financial responsibility;
67          (l) the child’s interaction and relationship with step-parents, extended family members
68     of other individuals who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
69          (m) who has been the primary caretaker of the child;
70          (n) previous parenting arrangements in which the child has been happy and
71     well-adjusted in the home, school, and community;
72          (o) the relative benefit of keeping siblings together;
73          (p) the stated wishes and concerns of the child, taking into consideration the child’s
74     cognitive ability and emotional maturity;
75          (q) the relative strength of the child’s bond with the parent, meaning the depth, quality,
76     and nature of the relationship between the parent and the child; and
77          (r) any other factor the court finds relevant.
78          (3) There is a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody, as defined in Section
79     30-3-10.1, is in the best interest of the child, except in cases when there is:
80          (a) evidence of domestic violence, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional
81     abuse involving the child, a parent, or a household member of the parent;
82          (b) special physical or mental needs of a parent or child, making joint legal custody
83     unreasonable;
84          (c) physical distance between the residences of the parents, making joint decision
85     making impractical in certain circumstances; or
86          (d) any other factor the court considers relevant including those listed in this section
87     and Section 30-3-10.2.

88          (4) (a) The person who desires joint legal custody shall file a proposed parenting plan
89     in accordance with Sections 30-3-10.8 and 30-3-10.9.
90          (b) A presumption for joint legal custody may be rebutted by a showing by a
91     preponderance of the evidence that it is not in the best interest of the child.
92          (5) (a) A child may not be required by either party to testify unless the trier of fact
93     determines that extenuating circumstances exist that would necessitate the testimony of the
94     child be heard and there is no other reasonable method to present the child’s testimony.
95          (b) (i) The court may inquire of the child’s and take into consideration the child’s
96     desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules, but the expressed desires are not
97     controlling and the court may determine the child’s custody or parent-time otherwise.
98          (ii) The desires of a child 14 years old or older shall be given added weight, but is not
99     the single controlling factor.
100          (c) (i) If an interview with a child is conducted by the court pursuant to Subsection
101     (5)(b), the interview shall be conducted by the judge in camera.
102          (ii) The prior consent of the parties may be obtained but is not necessary if the court
103     finds that an interview with a child is the only method to ascertain the child’s desires regarding
104     custody.
105          (6) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (6)(b), a court may not discriminate against a
106     parent due to a disability, as defined in Section 57-21-2, in awarding custody or determining
107     whether a substantial change has occurred for the purpose of modifying an award of custody.
108          (b) The court may not consider the disability of a parent as a factor in awarding custody
109     or modifying an award of custody based on a determination of a substantial change in
110     circumstances, unless the court makes specific findings that:
111          (i) the disability significantly or substantially inhibits the parent’s ability to provide for
112     the physical and emotional needs of the child at issue; and
113          (ii) the parent with a disability lacks sufficient human, monetary, or other resources
114     available to supplement the parent’s ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of
115     the child at issue.
116          (c) Nothing in this section may be construed to apply to adoption proceedings under
117     Title 78B, Chapter 6, Part 1, Utah Adoption Act.
118          (7) This section does not establish a preference for either parent solely because of the

119     gender of the parent.
120          (8) This section establishes neither a preference nor a presumption for or against joint
121     physical custody or sole physical custody, but allows the court and the family the widest
122     discretion to choose a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.
123          (9) When an issue before the court involves custodial responsibility in the event of a
124     deployment of one or both parents who are service members and the service member has not
125     yet been notified of deployment, the court shall resolve the issue based on the standards in
126     Sections 78B-20-306 through 78B-20-309.
127          (10) In considering the past conduct and demonstrated moral standards of each party
128     under Subsection (2)(d) or any other factor a court finds relevant, the court may not:
129          (a) (i) consider or treat a parent’s lawful possession or use of cannabis in a medicinal
130     dosage form, a cannabis product in a medicinal dosage form, or a medical cannabis device, in
131     accordance with Title 4, Chapter 41a, Cannabis Production Establishments and Pharmacies,
132     Title 26B, Chapter 4, Part 2, Cannabinoid Research and Medical Cannabis, or Subsection
133     58-37-3.7(2) or (3) any differently than the court would consider or treat the lawful possession
134     or use of any prescribed controlled substance; or
135          [(b)(ii) discriminate against a parent because of the parent’s status as a:
136          [(i)(A) cannabis production establishment agent, as that term is defined in Section
137     4-41a-102;
138          [(ii)(B) medical cannabis pharmacy agent, as that term is defined in Section
139     26B-4-201;
140          [(iii)(C) medical cannabis courier agent, as that term is defined in Section 26B-4-201;
141     or
142          [(iv)(D) medical cannabis cardholder in accordance with Title 26B, Chapter 4, Part 2,
143     Cannabinoid Research and Medical Cannabis[.]; or
144          (b) discriminate against a parent based upon the parent’s agreement or disagreement
145     with a minor child of the couple’s:
146          (i) assertion that the child’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to the
147     child at birth; or
148          (ii) practice of having or expressing a different gender identity than the sex assigned to
149     the child at birth.

150          Section 2. Section 80-2a-202 is amended to read:
151          80-2a-202. Removal of a child by a peace officer or child welfare caseworker —
152     Search warrants — Protective custody and temporary care of a child.
153          (1) A peace officer or child welfare caseworker may remove a child or take a child into
154     protective custody, temporary custody, or custody in accordance with this section.
155          (2) (a) Except as provided in Subsection (2)(b), a peace officer or a child welfare
156     caseworker may not enter the home of a child whose case is not under the jurisdiction of the
157     juvenile court, remove a child from the child’s home or school, or take a child into protective
158     custody unless:
159          (i) there exist exigent circumstances sufficient to relieve the peace officer or the child
160     welfare caseworker of the requirement to obtain a search warrant under Subsection (3);
161          (ii) the peace officer or child welfare caseworker obtains a search warrant under
162     Subsection (3);
163          (iii) the peace officer or child welfare caseworker obtains a court order after the child’s
164     parent or guardian is given notice and an opportunity to be heard; or
165          (iv) the peace officer or child welfare caseworker obtains the consent of the child’s
166     parent or guardian.
167          (b) A peace officer or a child welfare caseworker may not take action under Subsection
168     (2)(a) solely on the basis of:
169          (i) educational neglect, truancy, or failure to comply with a court order to attend
170     school; [or]
171          (ii) the possession or use, in accordance with Title 26B, Chapter 4, Part 2, Cannabinoid
172     Research and Medical Cannabis, of cannabis in a medicinal dosage form, a cannabis product in
173     a medicinal dosage form, or a medical cannabis device, as those terms are defined in Section
174     26B-4-201[.]; or
175          (iii) a parent’s agreement or disagreement with a minor child of the couple’s:
176          (A) assertion that the child’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to the
177     child at birth; or
178          (B) practice of having or expressing a different gender identity than the sex assigned to
179     the child at birth.
180          (3) (a) The juvenile court may issue a warrant authorizing a peace officer or a child

181     welfare caseworker to search for a child and take the child into protective custody if it appears
182     to the juvenile court upon a verified petition, recorded sworn testimony or an affidavit sworn to
183     by a peace officer or another individual, and upon the examination of other witnesses if
184     required by the juvenile court, that there is probable cause to believe that:
185          (i) there is a threat of substantial harm to the child’s health or safety;
186          (ii) it is necessary to take the child into protective custody to avoid the harm described
187     in Subsection (3)(a)(i); and
188          (iii) it is likely that the child will suffer substantial harm if the child’s parent or
189     guardian is given notice and an opportunity to be heard before the child is taken into protective
190     custody.
191          (b) In accordance with Section 77-23-210, a peace officer making the search under
192     Subsection (3)(a) may enter a house or premises by force, if necessary, in order to remove the
193     child.
194          (4) (a) A child welfare caseworker may take action under Subsection (2) accompanied
195     by a peace officer or without a peace officer if a peace officer is not reasonably available.
196          (b) (i) Before taking a child into protective custody, and if possible and consistent with
197     the child’s safety and welfare, a child welfare caseworker shall determine whether there are
198     services available that, if provided to a parent or guardian of the child, would eliminate the
199     need to remove the child from the custody of the child’s parent or guardian.
200          (ii) In determining whether the services described in Subsection (4)(b)(i) are
201     reasonably available, the child welfare caseworker shall consider the child’s health, safety, and
202     welfare as the paramount concern.
203          (iii) If the child welfare caseworker determines the services described in Subsection
204     (4)(b)(i) are reasonably available, the services shall be utilized.
205          (5) (a) If a peace officer or a child welfare caseworker takes a child into protective
206     custody under Subsection (2), the peace officer or child welfare caseworker shall:
207          (i) notify the child’s parent or guardian in accordance with Section 80-2a-203; and
208          (ii) release the child to the care of the child’s parent or guardian or another responsible
209     adult, unless:
210          (A) the child’s immediate welfare requires the child remain in protective custody; or
211          (B) the protection of the community requires the child’s detention in accordance with

212     Chapter 6, Part 2, Custody and Detention.
213          (b) (i) If a peace officer or child welfare caseworker is executing a warrant under
214     Subsection (3), the peace officer or child welfare caseworker shall take the child to:
215          (A) a shelter facility; or
216          (B) if the division makes an emergency placement under Section 80-2a-301, the
217     emergency placement.
218          (ii) If a peace officer or a child welfare caseworker takes a child to a shelter facility
219     under Subsection (5)(b)(i), the peace officer or the child welfare caseworker shall promptly file
220     a written report that includes the child’s information, on a form provided by the division, with
221     the shelter facility.
222          (c) A child removed or taken into protective custody under this section may not be
223     placed or kept in detention pending court proceedings, unless the child may be held in
224     detention under Chapter 6, Part 2, Custody and Detention.
225          (6) (a) The juvenile court shall issue a warrant authorizing a peace officer or a child
226     welfare worker to search for a child who is missing, has been abducted, or has run away, and
227     take the child into physical custody if the juvenile court determines that the child is missing,
228     has been abducted, or has run away from the protective custody, temporary custody, or custody
229     of the division.
230          (b) If the juvenile court issues a warrant under Subsection (6)(a):
231          (i) the division shall notify the child’s parent or guardian who has a right to parent-time
232     with the child in accordance with Subsection 80-2a-203(5)(a);
233          (ii) the court shall order:
234          (A) the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the location from which the
235     child ran away to enter a record of the warrant into the National Crime Information Center
236     database within 24 hours after the time in which the law enforcement agency receives a copy of
237     the warrant; and
238          (B) the division to notify the law enforcement agency described in Subsection
239     (6)(b)(ii)(A) of the order described in Subsection (6)(b)(ii)(A); and
240          (c) the court shall specify the location to which the peace officer or the child welfare
241     caseworker shall transport the child.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Parenting before, during, and divorce litigation By Braxton Mounteer, Legal Assistant

Divorce is already hard enough on the parties involved, but it is even harder on the children of the recently separated family. I speak as a child of divorce, who had to live through it and who has experienced the effect that divorce has had on me and on and my siblings.

When your divorce is contentious or negotiations have broken down, you shouldn’t use your children as messengers between your spouse and you on divorce-related subjects. Your children are not the proper avenue of communication between you and your estranged or ex-spouse.  You’re the adult. Communicate like one.

The worst thing you can do is force your children to choose sides. Forcing your children to pick a side causes damage that may be irreparable. This isn’t just forcing Tim and Susan to choose to live with Mom or Dad. How confident are you that they would choose you anyway (or for how long)? For all of your and your spouse’s faults and failings, you are the children’s parents and your children need you to work (and deserve to have you work) together for the children’s benefit. You need to start (if you have not already started) acting in your children’s best interest and stop thinking of them as problems and/or as solutions to your problems.

Don’t bad-mouth your ex-spouse to your children. Your children are literally a part of their parents, and (except in truly dysfunctional situations) they love both of their parents. If you tell your children their mother or father is a loser, an abuser, or other kind of scoundrel, your children may (and likely will) start to believe that they are that way too. If you’ve disparaged your ex-spouse (whether what you said is true or not), act like the adult that you are, swallow your pride, and apologize for including your children in something you had no business discussing with them.

In the early stages of a divorce, you may be tempted to buy your children’s affection. While it is not the worst thing you could do, it has unintended adverse consequences. If you try to buy your children’s affection in an effort to get a better outcome in the divorce case, only to “cut off” this level of affection or material exchange with your children after the ink dries on the decree, this sends your kids the message that you see your children as pawns for self-serving purposes. If you try to buy your children’s affection for the rest of their lives (or at least the duration of their minority), you’re throwing good money after bad, you’re engaging in an unsustainable practice. Kids will quickly tire of movie tickets and theme parks and start expecting cars and luxury experiences. How long can you keep that up? And how insufferable will your children be if they become accustomed to getting whatever they want?

You reap what you sow. The path of least resistance makes for weak parents and for weak kids. Do right by your children, for their sake and yours.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Holt v. Holt – 2024 UT App 6 – reasonable time rule

Holt v. Holt – 2024 UT App 6

THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS

RHONDA S. HOLT, Appellee,

v.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN HOLT, Appellant.

Opinion

No. 20220090-CA

Filed January 11, 2024

Third District Court, Salt Lake Department

The Honorable Andrew H. Stone

No. 044902588

Ben W. Lieberman, Attorney for Appellant

Matthew A. Steward and Katherine E. Pepin,

Attorneys for Appellee

JUDGE GREGORY K. ORME authored this Opinion, in which

JUDGES MICHELE M. CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER and

DAVID N. MORTENSEN concurred.

ORME, Judge:

¶1       Christopher and Rhonda Holt’s divorce was finalized in 2004 after the entry of a stipulated settlement agreement and the district court’s entry of a divorce decree. Per the divorce decree, Rhonda[1] was awarded a commercial property in which she operated a salon and Christopher was awarded an equity interest in the property redeemable “when the property is sold.” From the time the court entered the divorce decree, Rhonda operated the salon and did not sell the property or satisfy Christopher’s outstanding interest.

¶2        Years later, Christopher petitioned the district court asking that it require Rhonda to sell the property and satisfy his equity interest, first on the rationale of modifying the divorce decree and later on the rationale of enforcing it. He contended that because “Utah law implies a reasonable time under the circumstances,” the court should compel Rhonda to sell the property. The district court ultimately determined that Rhonda had no obligation to sell the property and declined to impose any deadline by which she had to do so. But under Utah law, a reasonable time for performance will be implied if a contract fails to include a specific time for performance. And on the facts of this case, we conclude that a reasonable time for Rhonda’s performance extends to the time when she ceases to operate a salon on the property.

BACKGROUND

¶3        Christopher and Rhonda were married in 1988. In 2004, Rhonda filed a complaint for divorce, and soon after, the district court granted Rhonda’s motion for default judgment. The court then entered a divorce decree based on the parties’ Stipulation and Settlement Agreement (the stipulation). The record reflects that when the stipulation was entered, each party was represented by counsel. Christopher’s counsel withdrew after the stipulation was filed, just prior to entry of the decree.

The Stipulation and the Decree

¶4        The stipulation included an integration clause indicating that it was the parties’ final agreement. Specifically, it was “a complete settlement of all rights either party may have in the other’s property” and any “valid” modification or waiver of the stipulation’s terms must be “in writing and signed by both parties before a notary public.” The stipulation provided that neither party would receive alimony. Pursuant to the stipulation, the district court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and a divorce decree that mirrored the provisions of the stipulation.

¶5        At the heart of this matter is section 9(B) of the decree. First, it awarded Rhonda the salon property and ordered Christopher to “execute a quit claim deed” in her favor. Second, it reserved for Christopher “an equitable lien for one-half of the net equity in the property when the property is sold.” Third, it defined net equity as “the gross selling price less realtor commissions and normal closing costs.” And fourth, it reiterated that Christopher “shall only be entitled to his equity when the property is sold.” The preceding section—section 9(A)—awarded Rhonda the parties’ home “free and clear from any claim by” Christopher and instructed that Christopher was to “execute a quit-claim deed in favor of” Rhonda within ten days following entry of the decree. It is noteworthy that section 9(B), in contrast to section 9(A), did not include a specific timeframe related to Rhonda’s satisfaction of Christopher’s equity interest in the property.

The Petition to Modify the Decree

¶6        In October 2018, over fourteen years after the decree was entered, Christopher filed a petition to modify the decree, claiming “a material and unforeseeable substantial change of circumstances.” Specifically, the petition indicated that “the parties did not anticipate that fourteen years would pass” during which Christopher’s equity interest in the property would go unpaid. Christopher sought an order compelling Rhonda to either sell or refinance the property and to satisfy Christopher’s outstanding interest.

¶7        In response, Rhonda moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that Christopher had failed to support his assertion of a material and unforeseeable change in circumstances warranting the requested modification of the decree. Rhonda acknowledged that Christopher would be entitled to have his equity interest in the property cashed out, but she argued that under the plain language of the decree, he was entitled to payment only when the property was sold, which had not yet occurred. Rhonda noted that the parties’ circumstances had not materially changed since the court entered the decree in 2004—she had not sold or refinanced the property and she continued to operate her salon on the property. Quoting Land v. Land, 605 P.2d 1248 (Utah 1980), Rhonda argued that “when a decree is based upon a property settlement agreement, forged by the parties and sanctioned by the court, equity must take such agreement into consideration.” Id. at 1250–51. She noted our Supreme Court’s position that “[e]quity is not available to reinstate rights and privileges voluntarily contracted away simply because one has come to regret the bargain made.” Id. at 1251. Rhonda asserted that the decree does not impose a deadline by which she had to sell the property and “clearly withholds distribution” of Christopher’s interest in the property until it is sold. Thus, she maintained that Christopher “failed to demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that was not [contemplated] by the parties at the time the decree was entered.”

¶8        In his opposition to the motion to dismiss, Christopher claimed that he was not represented by counsel during the divorce action and thus was not involved in drafting the decree.[2] He also claimed that he relied on representations Rhonda made both before and after entry of the decree that she would refinance or sell the property “in the very near future to pay him out.” Christopher asserted that prior to the divorce, the parties had received an $84,000 loan from his parents to purchase the property and that when his parents passed away some years later, $84,000 was taken out of his inheritance to pay the obligation. Christopher argued that under the plain language of the decree and under Rhonda’s suggested interpretation of section 9(B), he “could die and not receive any benefit from the agreement” and he could potentially lose his interest in the property if Rhonda were to pass away or transfer the property to someone else, thereby avoiding the satisfaction of Christopher’s equity interest.

¶9        Rhonda responded that the petition before the court was one to modify the decree based on a theory of material change of circumstances—not one to enforce the decree. She argued that this was really a situation of unilateral mistake on his part, and she reiterated her position that hindsight and dissatisfaction with a prior stipulation are not adequate grounds for relieving parties of their contractual obligations. Rhonda again acknowledged her obligation to pay Christopher his share of the equity when the property is sold, but she pointed out that the decree did not specify a sale deadline. She also noted that it would have been very easy to incorporate such a date into the stipulation and the decree if that had been the parties’ intention. To support this position, Rhonda pointed out that section 9(A) of the decree imposed a ten-day deadline for Christopher’s delivery of a quitclaim deed to the parties’ home, while section 9(B), which dealt with the sale of the salon property, included no provision concerning the time for performance.

¶10      Christopher requested that the court hold an evidentiary hearing concerning Rhonda’s motion to dismiss. But the district court denied this request and also denied Rhonda’s motion to dismiss. Eventually, a trial date was set. And at the ensuing bench trial,[3] at which both Christopher and Rhonda testified, the district

court granted Rhonda’s motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the petition on the ground that Christopher had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the petition.[4]

The Motion to Enforce the Decree

¶11      In July 2021, Christopher filed a motion to enforce the decree in a renewed effort to compel Rhonda’s sale of the salon property. Christopher argued that under the principles articulated in New York Avenue LLC v. Harrison, 2016 UT App 240, 391 P.3d 268, cert. denied, 393 P.3d 283 (Utah 2017), the decree’s lack of an “expressly-stated time[] for performance” signified that the court should impose a “reasonable time under the circumstances” by which Rhonda had to sell the property and that such a time had already passed. See id. ¶ 32 (quotation simplified).

¶12      In response, Rhonda argued that the motion to enforce was simply Christopher’s attempt to get a “third bite at the apple.” Similar to her response to the petition to modify, Rhonda argued that Christopher failed to present sufficient credible evidence to support his contention that the parties’ intent was anything other than to afford Christopher his interest in the property when Rhonda sold it. She contended that because the salon on the property was her “sole source of income,” the parties deliberately omitted any specific performance deadline, providing instead— and explicitly emphasizing—that Christopher would be entitled to payment for his interest when, and only when, the property was sold. Rhonda asserted that it would therefore be inappropriate for the court to impose a reasonable time by which she had to sell the property when the decree’s plain language was straightforward and explicitly did not include one.

¶13 In October 2021, Commissioner Russell Minas heard argument on the motion. The commissioner concluded that “[b]ecause there [was] no deadline provided by the parties, Utah law implies a reasonable time under the circumstances,” see id., which he determined to be “until [Rhonda] ceases to use the Property to operate a business.” The commissioner thereafter issued his recommendation in the matter. See Utah R. Civ. P. 108(a) (“A recommendation of a court commissioner is the order of the court until modified by the court.”).

¶14 Christopher subsequently filed an objection to the recommendation pursuant to rule 108 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. See id. (“A party may file a written objection to the recommendation within 14 days after the recommendation is made in open court[.]”). Christopher acknowledged that the commissioner correctly determined that the reasonable-time rule articulated in New York Avenue applied to this case. But he challenged the commissioner’s application of the rule. He argued that the “reasonable time under the circumstances is determined by looking to the intention of the parties at the time of the formation of the contract” and that in so doing, it is clear the reasonable-time threshold had already passed because neither the stipulation nor the decree intended for Rhonda “to retain the Property and all equity so long as she operated a business.” Rhonda yielded to the commissioner’s interpretation of a reasonable time, arguing that the commissioner correctly defined a reasonable time under all the circumstances.

¶15 The district court heard argument on Christopher’s objection.[5] The court overruled Christopher’s objection from the bench and modified the commissioner’s recommendation. The court concluded that a reasonable time for performance should not be implied here because, per the language of the decree, Rhonda’s deadline to sell the property was whenever she chose to sell it and that “it would be inappropriate for the Court to impose a date by which the Property must be sold.”

¶16      Christopher appeals.

ISSUES AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW

¶17 Christopher primarily argues that the district court erred in concluding that the reasonable-time rule was inapplicable here. “We interpret a divorce decree according to established rules of contract interpretation.” Mitchell v. Mitchell, 2011 UT App 41, ¶ 5, 248 P.3d 65 (quotation simplified), cert. denied, 255 P.3d 684 (Utah 2011). Accordingly, we review the district court’s interpretation of the decree for correctness. See Mintz v. Mintz, 2023 UT App 17, ¶ 14, 525 P.3d 534, cert. denied, 531 P.3d 730 (Utah 2023).

¶18 Christopher also argues that the court “exceeded the scope” of his objection when it addressed “matters not before the court.” The scope of a court’s review of a commissioner’s recommendation turns on the correct interpretation of the applicable rule of civil procedure. Cf. Zions Bancorporation, NA v. Schwab, 2023 UT App 105, ¶ 12, 537 P.3d 273 (holding that the district court’s “statutory interpretation” is reviewed “for correctness”) (quotation simplified); Bermes v. Summit County, 2023 UT App 94, ¶ 28, 536 P.3d 111 (stating that a district court’s “interpretation of a set of statues or ordinances” is reviewed “for correctness”) (quotation simplified), cert. denied, 2023 WL 9058850 (Utah 2023).

ANALYSIS

I. Reasonable Time Under the Circumstances

¶19      Christopher first challenges the district court’s conclusion that “it would be inappropriate for the Court to impose a date by which the property must be sold.” He asserts that the court’s conclusion is incorrect, that the reasonable-time rule is applicable here, that a reasonable time has long since elapsed, and that Rhonda should be compelled to sell the property and satisfy his equity interest. We determine that the district court’s conclusion was incorrect and conclude that the reasonable-time rule is applicable in this matter. We then determine what constitutes a reasonable time for Rhonda’s performance under the circumstances.

¶20 A stipulated divorce decree represents an enforceable contract between divorcing spouses, and so “we interpret the parties’ decree according to established rules of contract interpretation.” Thayer v. Thayer, 2016 UT App 146, ¶ 17, 378 P.3d 1232 (quotation simplified). Of course, “the cardinal rule in contract interpretation is to give effect to the intentions of the parties as they are expressed in the plain language of the contract itself,” and “we construe a contract to give effect to the object and purpose of the parties in making the agreement.” New York Avenue LLC v. Harrison, 2016 UT App 240, ¶ 21, 391 P.3d 268 (quotation simplified), cert. denied, 393 P.3d 283 (Utah 2017). Key to the issue before us, our principles of contract interpretation further provide “that if a contract fails to specify a time of performance the law implies that it shall be done within a reasonable time under the circumstances,” id. ¶ 32 (quotation simplified), which analysis entails a question of fact, see iDrive Logistics LLC v. IntegraCore LLC, 2018 UT App 40, ¶ 55, 424 P.3d 970, cert. denied, 425 P.3d 803 (Utah 2018).

¶21 The parties agree on the basic meaning of the terms contained in section 9(B) of the decree. They accept that under section 9(B), Rhonda was awarded ownership of the property, Christopher was required to “execute a quit claim deed” in Rhonda’s favor while reserving for himself “an equitable lien for one-half of the net equity of the property when the property is sold,” and that Christopher would “only be entitled to his equity when the property is sold.” Further, both parties acknowledge that section 9(B) does not include a date by which the property was required to be sold. Based on this understanding, Christopher argues that the district court’s conclusion was incorrect, that the reasonable-time rule does apply, and that Rhonda should be compelled to sell the property immediately, a reasonable time having long since come and gone, or else his interest “could remain trapped forever.”

¶22 Christopher asserts that under our decision in New York Avenue, the district court should be required to apply the reasonable-time rule based on the reality that section 9(B) did not include a specified time of performance. In that case, a seller contracted with a buyer for the sale of certain real estate. 2016 UT App 240¶ 3. Due to unforeseen complications, the transaction was not settled on the date intended by the contract. Id. ¶¶ 5–6. The buyer, still desiring to be bound by the terms of the contract, elected to begin making monthly settlement extension payments to the seller, as provided for in the contract, thus advancing the contract’s intended settlement date to the last day of the month associated with the buyer’s settlement extension payment. Id. ¶ 6. While the contract provided terms to extend the settlement date, it failed to specify a final date regarding the ultimate settlement of the contract or to define the maximum number of settlement extensions available to the parties. Id. ¶ 5. After numerous settlement extensions, the seller sought to terminate the contract. Id. ¶¶ 8–9. Following a summary judgment hearing, the district court determined that the contract entitled the buyer to extend the settlement deadline indefinitely, “so long as valid tender of the extension payment was made.” Id. ¶ 12 (quotation simplified).

¶23 On appeal, we held, in relevant part, that because the contract did “not limit the number of extension payments,” it did “not provide a date by which [seller] must perform its core obligation to complete the purchase of the Property.” Id. ¶ 34. Accordingly, we noted “that if a contract fails to specify a time of performance the law implies that it shall be done within a reasonable time under the circumstances.” Id. ¶ 32 (quotation simplified). And we concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment that countenanced an indefinite extension of the time for performance. Id. ¶¶ 29, 32.

¶24 Similar to the seller in New York Avenue, Christopher is concerned that if we conclude that the reasonable-time rule does not apply to section 9(B) of the decree, there exists a possibility that Rhonda could opt to never sell the property and thereby retain all of the equity indefinitely. In reviewing the conclusions of the court, we must evaluate the plain language of section 9(B) of the decree to determine if the district court correctly held that the reasonable-time rule did not apply.

¶25 Based on the plain language of section 9(B), it is obvious that nowhere in its four sentences is there any provision regarding a specific date by which Rhonda must sell the property. Rhonda argues on appeal that it would be improper for the court to impose a reasonable time for performance because, unlike the contract at issue in New York Avenue, section 9(B) did not intend to “create an obligation” for the sale of the property. She further contends that sale of the property is a condition precedent, and thus, she is not required to sell the property but that if she does, Christopher would then be entitled to receive his share of the equity. We are not persuaded by Rhonda’s argument. The intent of the decree was to “resolve all issues between” the parties. Therefore, while section 9(B) was not intended to be a sales agreement, it was also not intended to allow Rhonda to indefinitely prevent the satisfaction of Christopher’s interest. See Brady v. Park, 2019 UT 16, ¶ 53, 445 P.3d 395 (“When we interpret a contract we first look at the plain language of the contract to determine the parties’ meaning and intent.”) (quotation simplified). Accordingly, we agree with Christopher that a reasonable time for performance should be implied. Thus, we conclude that the district court incorrectly determined that the reasonable-time rule was inapplicable here. We next determine what the reasonable time should be, and here we part ways with Christopher and endorse the view adopted by the commissioner.

¶26      Due to the nature of these proceedings and Christopher’s decision not to request transcripts of the prior hearings, we are unable to consider the parties’ presentations before the commissioner or the district court, including not only the arguments they made but also any evidence they introduced or evidentiary proffers they made. Even so, Christopher contends that “[a] reasonable time is defined by the parties’ intentions at the time the contract is formed, not when the dispute arises,” and that because the parties did not intend for his interest to remain unsatisfied this long, a reasonable time has long since elapsed. Conversely, Rhonda contends that “[t]he language of the Decree demonstrates that the Parties intended for [her] to be able to operate her business from the Property to support herself indefinitely.”

¶27 In consideration of what constitutes a reasonable time under the circumstances, we must discern the parties’ intentions from the language of their contract—the stipulated decree—and the relevant circumstances, but in the absence of whatever evidence might have been adduced or proffered at the hearings as we have not been favored with the transcripts. We are mindful that neither party was awarded alimony in this case, meaning Rhonda’s livelihood depended on her continued ability to operate her salon business. And it is significant that not only was no time for Rhonda‘s performance specified, but it was emphasized that Christopher shall be entitled to his equity only “when the property is sold.” The conclusion is inescapable, as determined by the commissioner, that the intention of the parties, as reflected in the language they employed, was that Rhonda’s obligation to sell the property and cash out Christopher would be triggered when she ceased to operate the salon business. That occurrence would equate to the reasonable time for her performance under the unique circumstances of this case.

II. Scope of District Court Review

¶28      Christopher next challenges the district court’s expansive consideration of the commissioner’s recommendation, arguing that the court “exceeded the scope” of his objection by addressing “matters not before the court.” We disagree with Christopher’s position. A plain reading of rule 108(f) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure requires the district court to make “independent findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence.” And our jurisprudence makes clear that a district court has plenary responsibility for “what is essentially its own order.” Somer v. Somer, 2020 UT App 93, ¶ 12, 467 P.3d 924 (quotation simplified). Accordingly, we conclude that the court did not exceed the scope of its authority in reviewing the commissioner’s recommendation without being confined to the contours of the objection made by Christopher.

¶29      “We interpret court rules, like statutes and administrative rules, according to their plain language.” Day v. Barnes, 2018 UT App 143, ¶ 12, 427 P.3d 1272 (quotation simplified). Rule 108 provides a procedure by which a party may object to a commissioner’s recommendation and request that the district court review the recommendation. Within this framework, subsection (a) first indicates that a commissioner’s recommendation “is the order of the court until modified by the court” and that “[a] party may file a written objection to the recommendation.” Utah R. Civ. P. 108(a) (emphasis added). Next, subsection (b) explains that any objection “must identify succinctly and with particularity the findings of fact, the conclusions of law, or the part of the recommendation to which the objection is made and state the relief sought,” and it also provides that the accompanying memorandum of support “must explain succinctly and with particularity why the findings, conclusions, or recommendation are incorrect.” Id. R. 108(b). Lastly, subsection (f) directs that “[t]he judge will make independent findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence, whether by proffer, testimony or exhibit, presented to the judge, or, if there was no hearing before the judge, based on the evidence presented to the commissioner.” Id. R. 108(f) (emphasis added). Thus, the plain language of the rule “does not provide for an appeal-like review of a commissioner’s decision, but instead requires independent findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence.” Day, 2018 UT App 143, ¶ 16 (quotation simplified).

¶30 In the case at hand, after the commissioner made his recommendation, Christopher filed an objection wherein he explained that while the commissioner “correctly found” that the reasonable-time rule applied to section 9(B) of the decree, he erred because the recommendation was not based on evidence that, at the time the decree was entered, the parties intended that Rhonda would “retain the Property and all equity so long as she operated a business.” After a hearing on Christopher’s objection, the court modified the recommended order based on its independent determination that it would be “inappropriate” to apply the reasonable-time rule and “to impose a date by which the Property must be sold.” Christopher now argues that the court’s decision to modify the recommendation concerning the reasonable-time rule “exceeded the scope” of his objection because, as the objecting party, he “was entitled to define the scope of his objection, and he did so narrowly.”

¶31 We reject this argument. As just explained, when faced with an objection to a commissioner’s recommendation, the responsible district court judge is expected to make “independent findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence.” Utah R. Civ. P. 108(f) (emphasis added). We have previously explained that because a commissioner’s recommendation is “the order of the district court until modified by that court,” “it would make little sense that the district court would be limited in reviewing what is essentially its own order.” Day, 2018 UT App 143, ¶ 18 (quotation simplified). Therefore, while rule 108 provides that the objecting party must proceed with “particularity” concerning the basis of the objection, Utah R. Civ. P. 108(b), that same particularity does not circumscribe the authority of the reviewing court and does not limit the reviewing court’s ability to make its own findings and conclusions, see id. R. 108(f). Thus, notwithstanding Christopher’s “narrowly” defined objection, the court’s modification of the commissioner’s recommendation did not exceed the appropriate scope of review in a procedural sense, even though we conclude that the court’s substantive conclusion was incorrect.

CONCLUSION

¶32 The district court erred because the reasonable-time rule should have been applied in this case, and the reasonable time to be imputed is essentially the time as determined by the commissioner, namely when Rhonda ceases operating her salon on the property. We remand so the court can adjust its order accordingly. At the same time, we conclude that the court did not exceed the scope of its review authority under rule 108.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277


[1] Because the parties share the same last name, we refer to them by their first names, with no disrespect intended by the apparent informality.

[2] Christopher, then represented by new counsel, may have been confused about this because the decree was entered on the basis of his default. But the record in this case demonstrates that Christopher was represented by counsel right up until the time the decree was entered on the basis of his stipulated default.

[3] With no transcript of the bench trial submitted by Christopher, we rely on the minutes of the proceedings found in the record. Cf. In re A. Dean Harding Marital & Family Trust, 2023 UT App 81, ¶ 85, 536 P.3d 38 (stating that “when an appellant fails to provide an adequate record on appeal, we presume the regularity of the proceedings below”) (quotation simplified).

[4] In May 2021, Christopher appealed, requesting that this court review the dismissal of the petition to modify and “all subsidiary rulings and orders leading to final judgment,” but he moved to voluntarily dismiss this appeal shortly thereafter, which motion this court granted.

[5] As with the bench trial, Christopher did not request a transcript of this hearing and we therefore rely on the minutes of the proceedings found in the appellate record to understand what occurred during the hearing. See supra note 3. While it perhaps is not always necessary to include a transcript of hearings in the appellate record, we have previously determined that a transcript “is necessary in cases where the court issued an oral ruling at the conclusion of the hearing and where the court’s eventual written order is silent with regard to the matter being challenged.” In re A. Dean Harding Marital & Family Trust, 2023 UT App 81, ¶ 86, 536 P.3d 38“In such cases, a transcript of the hearing is necessary for us to effectively review the challenged issue” because without it “we do not know what evidence or argument the court relied on in rendering any decision.” Id. While we do have a spartan description of the hearing included in the court’s minutes, which is not without utility, we discourage parties from relying wholly on the court’s minutes when a transcript is readily available.

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Why would a co-parent suggest using a parenting app

I will start out my answer by acknowledging that reasonable minds can differ on the merits of a “parenting app,” also known as a “co-parenting app”.

I will continue my answer by stating that while I can see some exceptional circumstances where a parenting app might be just the ticket, for most people, using a parenting app is an implicit admission of various forms and degrees of parental and personal dysfunction.

Before we go any further, we first need to know what the definition of what a “parenting app” is. According to the makers of parenting apps (i.e., those who would tell a 79-year-old spinster she needs one, if they thought she’d pay for one), they are defined as follows:

Custodyxchange.com* (From $8/month)

*Their website is a great resource for divorced or separated parents, by the way.

“The best co-parenting apps (also called custody apps) offer shared calendars, printable messaging, customizable court documents and other tools. They help co-parents collaborate calmly and can keep lawyers or other professionals in the loop automatically.

“Why co-parenting apps are important

“Co-parenting apps store and organize large amounts of information, making custody less complicated for you.

“A parenting app gives you a permanent digital account of all things custody-related, allowing you to:

Ÿ Keep child custody information in one place’

Ÿ Make changes without starting from scratch

Ÿ Collaborate with the other parent rather than return to court.”

Talkingparents.com ($10 – $25/month)

Co-parenting apps help parents with joint custody communicate better when it comes to raising their children.

Co-parenting apps make it possible to share parenting responsibilities and information in a secure, neutral environment. Many family courts and professionals recommend co-parenting communication apps or services for families to mediate their conversations and create accountability for parents with joint custody. While there are many tools available for separated and divorced parents, it’s important to understand the true value of co-parenting apps, specifically.

2houses.com ($170/year)

Co-parenting apps can’t magically make your relationship and interactions with the other parent perfect and conflict-free, but they can help streamline communication, help you keep track of paperwork and make it a little easier to deal with a tenuous situation. Below we’ve covered just a few of the main benefits you can get from using a co-parenting app.

Ourfamilywizard.com* ($144/year)

Parents, children, grandparents, and other family members can all use OurFamilyWizard as their central platform to connect and share their most important family information within one a secure space.

* I’m a little surprised by how uninformative Ourfamilywizard.com’s “elevator pitch” definition is, given that they are one of the most popular “parenting apps”

But based on what the co-parenting app makers say, what’s not to like about co-parenting apps, right?

Well, right.

There’s nothing wrong with improving communication and reducing conflict with your co-parent. Nothing at all.

The problem lies in believing that an app can make the difference.

As they used to say in the early days of computer programming (back when it was called computer programming), “Garbage in, garbage out.” Even the best designed, best produced tool is only as good has the people who use it. A hammer won’t make a skilled carpenter out of a smash and grab thief. The best fitness app can’t run those miles and lift those weights for you. A co-parenting app can’t transform a vindictive, difficult co-parent into a trustworthy and cooperative “partner” or “teammate.”

Co-parenting app developers aren’t selling a solution (they can’t), they’re selling dreams. If they can get you to believe that using their app will make it easier for you to deal with a fiend, will tame a vicious beast, or will neutralize a sadist, of course you’re going to buy it.

Otherwise stated, bad co-parents aren’t bad for lack of an app.

There are rare circumstances where a co-parenting app maybe useful for a co-parent who isn’t evil, but just inept. For those kinds of parents, if they’re willing to use or will remember to use the co-parenting app, co-parenting apps can be a useful way to help parents communicate better, coordinate and schedule child custody and parent time exchanges and activities better and keep track of expenses and reimbursements. But those kinds of parents don’t need a dedicated parenting app, they just need to be more on the ball. Even the best app is useless if a parent can’t remember to use it or bother to learn to use it correctly.

So, in answer to the question, “Why would a co-parent suggest using a parenting app?,” The answer is one of the following possibilities (in the following order of most to least common):

  • the bad co-parent is making the other parent’s and/or the children’s life/lives miserable, and the hapless co-parent is desperately seeking a savior;

  • the parent who is proposing use of a co-parenting app is the bad co-parent and sees in the co-parenting app a potential new weapon to exploit against you;

  • you’re an out to lunch parent whose heart is in the right place, but whose head is empty, and the Co parent is hoping this app might help compensate for your weaknesses in communication and scheduling.

For normal people, they can do what co-parenting apps can do without having to incur the costs of and learn how to use yet another app. To wit:

  • We already have numerous ways to communicate; phone, video chat, e-mail, text messaging. In fairness, some co-parenting apps have what are known as “tone meters” that will take your first draft of a message you’ve written for a co-parent and point out where your message might be needlessly hostile or prone to misinterpretation and then suggest revisions to correct these errors. But this technology already exists in many e-mail and text messaging apps, without having to pay an additional fee for them. Besides, if you need a machine to tell you the difference between a courteous and a rude tone, you probably don’t care (and cannot be made to care) about being courteous in the first place.

  • Need to coordinate child healthcare appointments and athletic events and school plays and family Christmas parties? Create a shared Google Calendar. It’s free.

  • Need to document child health care, educational, athletic, club and other expenses that the other parent needs to reimburse you a portion of? Snap a picture of the bill and the receipt with your smartphone then e-mail or text message those documents to the other parent along with the request for reimbursement. Need to be reimbursed? Need to pay a reimbursement? Get a Venmo account. It’s free.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

Eric Johnson’s answer to What are some reasons why a parent will suggest speaking on a parenting app in a joint custody order? – Quora

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Why do attorneys tell people not to talk to the police? What if I’m innocent or just want to help them?

Let’s discuss this principle in the context of DUIs, but the principle applies in any situation in which you could be questioned in regard to any crime.

What is hard for many people to believe is that quite often (more often than decent people want to believe) the police aren’t in fact trying to catch drunk drivers (‘nothing wrong with catching drunk drivers—more power to them for it) but trying to make bogus arrests for DUI, so that the city can collect the fines and so that officers can advance their careers (‘nothing right about that).

You need to know that while all decent and law-abiding people want to help decent and law abiding law enforcement officers do their jobs well, not all officers are decent and law abiding. Unfortunately, 1) it’s impossible to distinguish a good officer from a corrupt one when you’re being questioned, until it’s too late; and 2) corrupt officers exploit innocent people by getting them to talk. This is why the innocent don’t talk to the police (about anything, not just at traffic stops): the more the innocent talk (and the more guilty talk, but that’s not the point here), the more rope they give corrupt law enforcement officers to twist and to hang them with.

Professor James Duane puts it even better here (these are excellent videos, very engaging, and the advice could literally protect you and your loved ones from being abused by corrupt police officers and prosecutors):

https://youtu.be/d-7o9xYp7eE?si=V5baCl5dMTsxgKZ9

https://youtu.be/-FENubmZGj8?si=4Wgg71H5XbNIBsEZ

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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When my BPD ex filed for divorce, she went silent on me (provocations, mixed or erratic social media behavior stopped). I counter filed for divorce. Now she’s back to old behavior, unblocked me, jealousy baiting me (bluffing). What is her goal?

If you described your wife accurately, she’s probably trying to do to you exactly what you suspect: annoy, worry, anger, embarrass, and provoke you. You’re wiser than most to ask 1) whether you should be concerned and if so, 2) what to do about it.

I just received the book “Splitting” by Randi Kreger, Bill Eddy, William Eddy, and I’ve heard it’s an excellent description of what is happening, why it is happening, and what you can and should do about it. Let me know if you read it and whether you found it helpful. I’d love to trade notes with you about it.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/When-my-BPD-ex-filed-for-divorce-she-went-silent-on-me-provocations-mixed-or-erratic-social-media-behavior-stopped-I-counter-filed-for-divorce-Now-shes-back-to-old-behaviour-unblocked-me-jealousy-baiting-me-bluffing/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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I Can Prepare a Prenuptial Agreement for You, but With Rare, Particular Exception, I Advise Against It.

Most attorney websites that contain “articles” on prenuptial agreements aren’t really articles but thinly veiled sales pitches for prenuptial agreements. This post is not one of those.

I have always believed and still believe that prenuptial agreements breed distrust, disloyalty, and defeatism in marriage for young people who contemplate marriage for the first time. That stated, at this point in my career as a divorce attorney (27 years), I struggle more than ever over the value and appropriateness of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Why?

One reason: if you trust the legal system to do right by you and your family, your trust is misplaced. So very many family law attorneys are profiteers. Courts are understaffed, judges and commissioners get jaded, expedience too often substitutes for evidence. I cannot put it more clearly and concisely than this: “Extricate yourself from the system, don’t try to vindicate yourself within it” (Peretz Partensky). A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may (may) have value if it keeps the control of your divorce in your and your spouse’s hands instead of in the hands of a court.

Another reason: divorce laws and their application are unfair to men. Now, certainly there is plenty of unfairness to go around in the court’s treatment of women too, men generally get treated worse. Permit me to explain my perspective.

Men still generally have greater incomes and greater wealth than women generally. In no-fault divorces, men generally get soaked far more often than women. There are good men out there who married in the utmost good faith whose wives did more than simply use them up and cast them aside by divorcing them; they essentially enslaved their husbands for the rest of their good years (and into their not so good years) by stripping them of at least half of all they had, driving their husbands into debt, and burdening them with oftentimes ludicrous child support and alimony obligations. Because the law permits it.  A YouTuber named Pearl (https://www.youtube.com/@JustPearlyThings) and her guests discuss this at length. As a result of the sheer volume of discussion alone, they do a good job of examining the problem. Although her content is principally light and entertaining, the reality and the cognitive dissonance underlying her content is compelling.

The solution to the misery of divorce does not lie, however, in “making divorce laws fairer.”

Ensuring fairness and equity in divorce is important, no question, but the “divorce problem” is much greater than a legal problem and its solution does not even begin to lie in merely changing laws or enforcing them better. Obviously, divorce needs to exist to remedy serious threats and injustices that cannot be remedied any other way. But divorce is far too easy now, and marriage is criminally undervalued. It’s destroying our culture.

This may seem odd coming from a divorce attorney, but I believe to my core in marriage and family. We all need to devote ourselves to fostering and preserving and improving marriage and family life as the greatest source and protector of personal and societal purpose, peace and prosperity. There are causes bigger than ourselves and that are worthy of our sacrifices to see them succeed. Marriage and family are two of them. We are better individually by being loving and devoted members of a nuclear family. Even Kramden (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Honeymooners)- or Bickersons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bickersons )-style marriage and family life is far better than a world littered with broken marriages and families, self-absorption, and loneliness. Children need and deserve (it is their right!) to be reared in a nuclear family by a loving mother and father.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Do you think the child support laws in your state are fair? If no, then describe the changes that you would make.

I can’t speak for all jurisdictions, but in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah), child support awards are generally, in my opinion, 1) too high, 2) often wrongfully misused by those seeking child support (and by the courts that award child support) as a means of providing financial support for a parent (not just the child(ren)), and 3) not subject to enough (if any) oversight regarding their properly use.

One factor that can cause child support to be awarded unfairly to the child support recipient is this: I’ve attended the meetings of the committee that sets child support guidelines in my state. It was clear in my observations of the committee’s work that some on the committee don’t see child supporters as financial support exclusively for children, but for the parent receiving the child support payments also. I’ve seen courts award sole or primary child custody to a parent not because that was in the best interest of the child, but because the court wanted to ensure that the parent awarded custody got the extra child support money that comes with a sole or primary custody award. In my view, that is unfair. There are many times when a judge will award child support (and the associated child custody) not strictly for the purpose of providing some financial support for the children but for the custodial parent as well. When they do, it is manifestly inequitable and unjust (to child and parent alike), and a violation of the public trust, but it still happens. Not in every child support case, but it happens.

One factor that can cause child support to be spent unfairly by the child support recipient is: no accountability on the part of the child support funds recipient for the expenditure of the child support funds. Once the parent who was awarded child support receives the funds, he/she can spend them however he/she wants. If the child support recipient (also known as the child support obligee) does not actually spend the child support on the financial needs of the children, he/she gets away with it.

In my jurisdiction (Utah), while the law provides for accountability as to how child support funds are spent, that law is literally never applied (Play 26 years of practice I have never seen it ordered). There is no accountability for how child support funds are paid. That is not opinion, that is fact. About the only way to get accountability for use of child support funds is if the child support recipient so grossly and obviously misspends them that it cannot be denied, in which case the court may make some changes to the child support award as a result.

In fairness, while it may be a little easier to devise a means for a fairer calculation of needed child support than it is to devise a workable, reliable means of holding child support obligees accountable, both tasks are extremely difficult. Everyone has a different opinion of what is a “fair calculation,” and where there’s a will to misappropriate the child support funds with which one is entrusted without being detected, there’s a way (multiple ways, in fact, the number of which is limited only by the imagination).

In my jurisdiction, there are different kinds of child support. Three different kinds, to be exact (sometimes four, under certain circumstances). What most people consider child support is known as base monthly child support in Utah. That is the amount that is paid directly to the custodial parent. But child support also includes sharing equally the cost of the child’s health, medical, dental, and hospital insurance premiums, and half of all uninsured medical, health, dental, and hospitalization expenses. Child support also includes the responsibility that the parents share equally the cost of all work-related childcare expenses. And in joint physical custody cases, often the court will order that the parties share equally the costs of certain expenses for the child in addition to base monthly child support to cover things like mandatory school expenses and cost of reasonable extracurricular expenses.

A parent has his/her own living expenses. While it is true that in some cases a parent may incur housing expenses greater than what they would be were there no need for extra room to house the child or children, child support is not needed for “extra” housing expenses if the size of the parent’s residence would have been the same regardless of the child custody award.

The problem with thinking that “half of all living expenses are the child’s”) is that rarely are half of all living expenses are, in fact, the child’s. For example, if a parent would have been residing in the same sized residence with or without the child present, then the “child’s portion” of rent is $0. Even if the residence is a 2-bedroom house/apartment, the second bedroom is not equivalent to half the cost of the residence. Children don’t eat as much food until they are older (and even so, they are not eating on the custodial parent’s dime every day because they eat some time meals the noncustodial parent). I cannot speak for all jurisdictions, but in Utah child support is usually more than what the child (the child, not the custodial parent, the child) needs to be sufficiently financially supported).

All common expenses clearly do not divide perfectly equally between the parent and child. A parent whose residence would have been the same size regardless of whether he/she shared it with a child would have $0 in child housing expenses, $0 in certain utilities expenses (i.e., heating, garbage removal, cable TV, internet), for example. So, the idea that child support must take into account that a child’s “shelter” expenses are equal to half the parent’s rent or mortgage payment is false on its face. If a court wants to indulge such a fiction for the sake of making it easier to calculate child support, that’s a different matter. A child’s transportation needs are not necessarily equal to half or 25% of those of the parent either.

In Utah, work-related daycare is an expense shared equally between the parents and is separate from the base monthly child support amount. To be clear: a noncustodial parent pays base monthly child support in addition to sharing half the costs of work-related child care expenses.

While it is true that a child’s food consumption changes as the child ages, that’s built in to the child support calculations, so that it averages out—child support is more than necessary to feed a 5-year-old and less than necessary to feed a 17-year-old, but the average child support amount accounts for both scenarios as the child ages. I have never, in 26 years of practice in Utah, personally witnessed a case (nor have I heard of any other case in which) child support was ordered increased for a teenaged child on the basis of “additional food and clothing expenses of a teenager”. Child support calculations are the same for all children, regardless of age.

The “poor hapless custodial parent” story is tired and not credible. Of course, there are many deadbeat noncustodial parents to pay less than full court-ordered child support and many deadbeats who pay none. But that is not the discussion here. The idea that child support that is awarded is somehow insufficient to meet a child’s needs (needs) is bunk. All the arguments that “child support is too low” are bunk too. Consider this: in Utah, both parents have a child support obligation (that includes the custodial parent). That means that that the custodial parent has an obligation to spend his/her own money on the child’s support in addition to the money he/she receives in child support from the noncustodial parent. So, if we have John and Jane Doe as parents, they have two minor children, John’s gross monthly income is $6,500 and Jane’s gross monthly income is $2,400, and John is the noncustodial parent, then John’s monthly child support obligation is $1,111. That’s $555.50 per child, per month, that John pays. Jane’s child support obligation is less, but still $411 per month (see the Utah child support worksheet below, calculated on a sole custody basis in this hypothetical scenario). That’s an additional $205.50 per child per month. Don’t tell me that $761 per month isn’t enough to provide for a child’s needs monthly. Remember: base monthly child support does not include both parents sharing the costs of child health insurance equally, uninsured child health care equally, and work-related daycare equally. That’s all in addition to the base monthly child support amount. In other words, the custodial parent doesn’t have to spend out of that $761 per month for child health insurance, uninsured out of pocket health care, and daycare (the parents bear those expenses separately on an equal shares basis). $761 is likely more than what the parents would have spent on the child’s support had the parents resided together with the children under the same roof.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/Do-you-think-the-child-support-laws-in-your-state-are-fair-If-no-then-describe-the-changes-that-you-would-make/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

 

 

Don’t tell me that $761 per month isn’t enough to provide for a child’s needs monthly. Remember: base monthly child support does not include both parents sharing the costs of child health insurance equally, uninsured child health care equally, and work-related daycare equally. That’s all in addition to the base monthly child support amount. In other words, the custodial parent doesn’t have to spend out of that $761 per month for child health insurance, uninsured out of pocket health care, and daycare (the parents bear those expenses separately on an equal shares basis). $761 is likely more than what the parents would have spent on the child’s support had the parents resided together with the children under the same roof.

Don’t tell me that $761 per month isn’t enough to provide for a child’s needs monthly. Remember: base monthly child support does not include both parents sharing the costs of child health insurance equally, uninsured child health care equally, and work-related daycare equally. That’s all in addition to the base monthly child support amount. In other words, the custodial parent doesn’t have to spend out of that $761 per month for child health insurance, uninsured out of pocket health care, and daycare (the parents bear those expenses separately on an equal shares basis). $761 is likely more than what the parents would have spent on the child’s support had the parents resided together with the children under the same roof.

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What happens in court if I file for divorce but my husband has an active case on me for child support? Will I get the child?

Whether you “get the child” (meaning whether you will be awarded physical custody of the child) has little to no relevance to the fact that your spouse is seeking child support from you.

My guess is, based upon the way you phrased your question, that 1) you and your husband are separated and were separated before you filed, or before you have contemplated filing, for divorce; 2) the children have been, on an informal basis (i.e., no court order) your spouse has been exercising sole or primary custody of the children for a while since the separation occurred; and 3) your spouse has applied for an administrative order or court order for child support without having filed for a divorce. Under such circumstances, what would weaken your case for awarding custody to you would be the fact that the children have been in the sole or primary custody of your spouse during separation (and thus, the argument would go, that is the way it should stay, if and when a court issues a decree of divorce), not that he/she has sought child support from you.

If the children have been in the sole or primary custody of your spouse since separation and this is not due to your spouse having concealed the children from you, having absconded with the children, or having otherwise not obtained and exercised this de facto sole/primary custody wrongfully, then it’s not the fact that your spouse is seeking child support from you that hurts your case for custody. What hurts your case for custody being awarded to you is the fact that your spouse stepped up to take care of the kids and you did not.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

Eric Johnson’s answer to What happens in court if I file for divorce but my husband has an active case on me for child support? Will I get the child? – Quora

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How does filing for divorce affect relationships with family members and friends who don’t agree with the decision? Do people tend to choose sides?

How does filing for divorce affect relationships with family members and friends who don’t agree with the decision? Poorly, generally. That should come as no surprise.

Do people tend to choose sides? Yes. That should come as no surprise.

Decent people will generally be polite and courteous toward you at best, a little detached and standoffish at worst. Immature and petty people will behave worse than that, to varying degrees. Some may betray you, abandon you, and break your heart.

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https://motherinlawmysteriesandconflicts.quora.com/?__ni__=0&__nsrc__=4&__snid3__=62217722111&__tiids__=133735822#anchor

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Divorce Mediation – To Good to Be True (For Most People)

I know you want to believe that divorce mediation is the trick to a fast, easy, cheap, amicable divorce. I know you want to believe this, and we know why. But if it sounds to good to be true, it likely is. So it is with mediation.

Divorce mediation won’t work unless you and your spouse trust each other to negotiate in good faith and honor any settlement agreement reached. You cannot get out of mediation any more than you put into it.

Divorce mediation was a good idea that the legal profession spoiled by making it mandatory.

Divorce mediation is a good idea when it’s done at the beginning, but divorce lawyers put it off until they’ve squeezed a hefty profit out of their clients through a bunch of pretrial motions and discovery. Thus, mediation typically “succeeds” because by the time the parties get to mediation they’re so emotionally and financially spent that they settle out of resignation and exhaustion; “think win-win” had nothing to do with it.

Mediation worked well when it was voluntary and between two people who both believed they might reach an agreement they trusted each would honor. Now mediation is just one more of the “dumb [and expensive] things I gotta do” before I can get divorced.

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Some hard truths about divorce litigation in Utah.

To those of you who ask, “How did I lose that argument in my divorce case? The judge couldn’t say why he/she believed my witness(es) over my spouse’s witness(es)!”:

A district court “may make findings, credibility determinations, or other assessments without detailing its justification for finding particular evidence more credible or persuasive than other evidence supporting a different outcome.” Shuman v. Shuman, 2017 UT App 192, ¶ 6, 406 P.3d 258 (quotation simplified), cert. denied, 412 P.3d 1257 (Utah 2018).

To those of you who ask, “How could the court dismiss the opinions of my expert witness?”:

“Courts are not bound to accept the testimony of an expert and are free to judge the expert testimony as to its credibility and its persuasive influence in light of all of the other evidence in the case.” Barrani v. Barrani, 2014 UT App 204, ¶ 4, 334 P.3d 994 (quotation simplified).

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Are couples with prenups more likely to divorce?

Research is hard to come by. Reliable research even harder. But here is what I could find in short order (how accurate it is I cannot say):

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-23543-004

Maybruch, C., Weissman, S., & Pirutinsky, S. (2017). Marital outcomes and consideration of divorce among Orthodox Jews after signing a religious prenuptial agreement to facilitate future divorce. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58(4), 276–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/10502556.2017.1301152

Abstract

This study examined marital satisfaction, marital adjustment, and consideration of divorce among Orthodox Jews in North America (N = 2,652). These marital outcomes were compared for individuals who signed or did not sign a religious prenuptial agreement that facilitates a woman’s future ability to receive a religious divorce from her husband. Results indicated a higher level of marital satisfaction among those who signed the religious prenuptial agreement, and no significant difference in marital adjustment or tendency to consider divorce between groups of individuals who signed or did not sign the religious prenuptial agreement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/olin_center/papers/pdf/436.pdf

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2003/10/for-many-prenups-seem-to-predict-doom/

This paper did not address the question of whether prenuptial agreements lead to divorce, but, among the other subject it touches, “discusses two major explanations for the paucity of prenuptial agreements: underestimation of the value of prenuptial agreements, especially due to false optimism that marriages will last; and a belief that discussing prenuptial agreements would signal uncertainty about marriage.”

In the event of divorce – statistically, the reality for nearly half the marriages in America – a prenuptial agreement has the potential to save the divorcing couple anguish, arguments, and thousands of dollars. It may represent an exit agreement far closer to their wishes than the court-ordered divorce. A good prenuptial agreement can even exert a positive force on a healthy marriage.

https://sccur.csuci.edu/abstract/viewabstract/fear-and-loathing-in-marriage-the-psychological-and-financial-destruction-caused-by-prenuptial-.htm

Fear and Loathing in Marriage: The Psychological and Financial Destruction Caused by Prenuptial Author: Anne Cominsky Mentor: Kurt Meyer, Professor of English, Irvine Valley College Historically, prenuptial agreements as a condition of saying “I do” were sought out by the economically stronger partner as financial protection from divorce. Currently, legal experts and financial advisors agree the general use of prenuptial agreements is on the rise. A random poll suggests that over half of the general public view prenuptial agreements favorably.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/03/21/the-power-of-the-prenup/if-you-want-a-prenup-you-dont-want-marriage

If You Want a Prenup, You Don’t Want Marriage

If you’re thinking about a prenup, or — worse yet — your intended is pushing a prenup on you, you might as well go ahead and just cancel the wedding. There’s an easier way to keep your assets and income separate: it’s called cohabitation. In most states, cohabiting partners are free to walk away from their relationship with their income and assets intact, all without the hassle and expense of a divorce. There’s an easier way to keep your assets and income separate: it’s called cohabitation. But if you’re truly in love, and you wish to share your life, your body, your children and your checkbook with your beloved “till death do you part,” marriage is generally the ticket. Marriage is about establishing a common life together, about putting someone else ahead of yourself, and sharing the things that mean the most to you, including your money. And, paradoxically, if you take this other-centered approach to marriage, you’re not only less likely to divorce, but also to enjoy a happier relationship. My research suggests that couples who embrace a generous orientation toward their marriage, as well as those who take a dim view of divorce, are significantly more likely to be happy in their marriages. A National Center for Family and Marriage Research study finds that couples who share joint bank accounts are less likely to get divorced. In fact, married couples who do not pool their income are 145 percent more likely to end up in divorce court, compared to couples who share a bank account. So, the kind of partners who wish to hold something back from their spouse in a marriage — emotionally, practically and financially — and to look out for No. 1 instead are more likely to end up unhappy and divorced. If that is your aim in marrying, go ahead and get a prenup. But if you wish to experience the best that marriage has to offer, find a partner who is willing to give everything to you, and do the same for them. Your odds of finding wedded bliss will be higher than your peers with prenups. Join Opinion on Facebook and follow updates on twitter.com/roomfordebate .

https://www.divorcenet.com/states/nationwide/five_realities_about_prenuptial_agreements

5 Prenuptial Pitfalls to Consider — Having One May be Bad for Your Marriage | DivorceNet

For what it’s worth, now that you have some research data: in the course of my cursory research I noticed a distinct bias in the articles that claim that prenuptial and postnuptial agreements do not encourage divorce/discourage marriage. I believe that any intellectually honest person would conclude that for the vast majority of young, unmarried people contemplating marriage for the first time and who aren’t celebrities, or rich or in some other exceptional category contemplating marriage, a prenuptial agreement raises red flags and tends to raise doubts as to the other party’s commitment to marriage.

Pro-prenuptial agreement articles gloss over the red flags. They claim prenuptial agreements “”clear the air, “help break the ice about discussing finances”, and “reduce acrimonious litigation in the event of divorce” rather transparently strain credulity to make those arguments stick.

(48) Eric Johnson’s answer to Are couples with prenups more likely to divorce? – Quora

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Have there been any studies of the impact of divorce on children distinguishing between those whose parents divorced after they left home and before?

That’s a good question. One that I’ve wondered about myself, but I don’t know of any such studies. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it’s just that I don’t know whether they do.

(48) Eric Johnson’s answer to Have there been any studies of the impact of divorce on children distinguishing between those whose parents divorced after they left home and before? – Quora

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Evidence and Honesty By Braxton Mounteer

You have just decided to file for divorce. Or perhaps you have been served with divorce papers. At some point early on in the process you will likely think to yourself, “I have so many text messages that clearly prove my spouse is terrible,” or “I have videos of my spouse behaving badly.” You could be right. But do you know what kind of evidence is relevant and that the court finds persuasive? And have you considered the implications of what your “evidence” actually says about you? For every gotcha text message or video you have, does your spouse have similar dirt on you?

You may think to yourself, “I’ll just delete the messages that cast me in a bad light,” or “I’ll edit the videos a certain way to make myself look better” and engage in other cherry picking. This rarely works. Indeed, it often backfires. Manipulating the facts is a form of lying. And it’s not that hard to spot or expose.

Understand what kinds of evidence the court needs and what is useless to a court. The court’s jobs are clearcut: 1) end the marriage 2) divide the marital assets, 3) divide responsibility for marital debts, 4) deal with custody of the children (if any), parent-time, and child support, and 4) determine whether to award alimony, and if so, how much and for how long based upon the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay. That’s it. It is not the purpose of the divorce court to settle scores between you and your spouse or to declare who’s worse than the other. While spousal or child abuse can be relevant in a divorce case, stories about shouting matches and squabbles are nothing new or compelling in a divorce case.

Take a businesslike approach to your divorce case. You have to work out your feelings in a divorce case, just not in court. Don’t dwell on your feelings too much when dealing with the court; it’s a waste of your time and energy.

What should you do, then? You need to face the truth and deal with the truth. Submit the relevant evidence and concede your flaws and faults along with it. Your credibility is more important than trying to put up a false front. Your credibility is easier to show and maintain when you’re honest. Courts are more sympathetic with honest people than with liars.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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The Difference Between IRAs

In divorce actions, be sure to distinguish between the different tax treatment of Roth and traditional IRAs. Investopedia.com stated it clearly and concisely: “The traditional IRA allows you to contribute a portion of pre-tax dollars. That reduces your taxable income for the year while setting aside the money for retirement. The taxes will be due as you withdraw the money. The Roth IRA allows you to contribute post-tax dollars. There are no immediate tax savings, but once you retire, the amount you paid in and the money it earns are tax-free.”

https://www.investopedia.com/retirement/roth-vs-traditional-ira-which-is-right-for-you/

This means that a dollar in a traditional IRA is not worth the same as a dollar in a Roth IRA. Bear the tax consequences of funds in traditional IRAs and in Roth IRAs when you divide marital assets.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Special masters, parent coordinators, and the infantilization of parents

Special masters and parent coordinators (and co-parenting therapists, co-parent coaches/consultants, and their ilk) were invented for the purpose of unburdening courts from some of the conflict associated with domestic relations litigation. They fail to fulfill their purpose. They do not provide value for the money they charge. The parent(s) end up wasting money on a special master, parent coordinator, etc. while the disputes either persist or get worse (and sometimes it’s the involvement of the special master and parent coordinators who are to blame, either in full or in part). Besides, for most litigants a special master, parent coordinator, etc. is an expense they cannot (or should not) financially bear.

The idea that divorced parents need more than the laws currently on the books, the (lawful) orders in their divorce and child custody decrees, and the sensible use of law enforcement officers when warranted is to infantilize divorced and separated parents.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, anyone trying to sell you on a special master, parent coordinators, co-parenting therapist, co-parent coach, consultants, blah, blah, blah is either someone who offers such “services” and who is trying to sell them to you or a is a court trying to take the dispute out its lap and place it in someone else’s.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Evidence and Honesty By Braxton Mounteer

You have just decided to file for divorce. Or perhaps you have been served with divorce papers. At some point early on in the process you will likely think to yourself, “I have so many text messages that clearly prove my spouse is terrible,” or “I have videos of my spouse behaving badly.” You could be right. But do you know what kind of evidence is relevant and that the court finds persuasive? And have you considered the implications of what your “evidence” actually says about you? For every gotcha text message or video you have, does your spouse have similar dirt on you?

You may think to yourself, “I’ll just delete the messages that cast me in a bad light,” or “I’ll edit the videos a certain way to make myself look better” and engage in other cherry picking. This rarely works. Indeed, it often backfires. Manipulating the facts is a form of lying. And it’s not that hard to spot or expose.

Understand what kinds of evidence the court needs and what is useless to a court. The court’s jobs are clearcut: 1) end the marriage 2) divide the marital assets, 3) divide responsibility for marital debts, 4) deal with custody of the children (if any), parent-time, and child support, and 4) determine whether to award alimony, and if so, how much and for how long based upon the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay. That’s it. It is not the purpose of the divorce court to settle scores between you and your spouse or to declare who’s worse than the other. While spousal or child abuse can be relevant in a divorce case, stories about shouting matches and squabbles are nothing new or compelling in a divorce case.

Take a businesslike approach to your divorce case. You have to work out your feelings in a divorce case, just not in court. Don’t dwell on your feelings too much when dealing with the court; it’s a waste of your time and energy.

What should you do, then? You need to face the truth and deal with the truth. Submit the relevant evidence and concede your flaws and faults along with it. Your credibility is more important than trying to put up a false front. Your credibility is easier to show and maintain when you’re honest. Courts are more sympathetic with honest people than with liars.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Divorce and Identity, by Braxton Mounteer.

Divorce is corrosive. What it does not destroy it almost always affects adversely whatever it touches. The things that survive divorce’s initial devastation are forever changed. This effect is seen most starkly in children. Regardless of your reasons for a divorce, it fundamentally changes the trajectory of a child’s life. In my own experience I can tell you what happens to a child whose parents went through a pretty amicable divorce when I was about 6 years old. This is the story for many children and isn’t all that special. Thankfully for me and my siblings, my parents didn’t have much to fight over by way of property. Most of the contention was over alimony and child support. I did not notice much change in my life initially after the divorce decree was issued. I hadn’t worn much of a path in my own mind or in my own life yet. Being a young child of divorce meant living out of a suitcase as I moved between mom’s house and dad’s house for visitation (which is now called parent-time). As I reached my teenage years, I found that divorce had made me into two different people. I am not talking about a dissociative identity. I am talking about two different paths divorce placed me on. I wore different clothes and used different toothbrushes and combs when with each parent, I had different friends in different neighborhoods, and ate different things depending which house I found myself at on a given day. That wasn’t inherently bad. I still had the same ups and downs most teenagers have; I, however, always had two sets. You probably don’t see the problem at this point. So, what if you had two of everything? ‘Better than none, right? But I was two subtly different people at a time when I was still trying to figure out who I was. It is hard enough coming to terms with one idea of your identity as a teen, let alone two. It was confusing. It was exhausting. It hurt sometimes. It didn’t seem fair. I wish I knew then what I know now. If you are a child in this situation, which path do you choose? If you are a parent, how do you help? My parents supported me but largely let me figure it out on my own. As for a child dealing with this problem, I can offer my advice based upon my own experience and perspective. You have to be one person, not who you believe your parents want, or, in some cases who one or both parents act like they need you to be. You do not have two lifetimes to live. You owe your parents respect. You need to obey their rules, but you have no obligation to be anyone but yourself. Be your best self too, even in the face of life’s disappointments, challenges, and betrayals. You owe it to yourself.

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