Tag: family law

Artificial Fraudulence

Seth Godin stated it well when he wrote, “The ease with which someone can invent and spread lies [with advancing technology] is going to take most of us by surprise. It’s going to require an entirely new posture for understanding the world around us.”

This is especially true in family law.

We will soon reach the point (some are there already) in family law where a spouse or parent can create fake email, text, and audio and visual “records” of spousal and child abuse, substance abuse, infidelity, assets and debt, property damage, diminution and dissipation of assets, scientific data, etc. that is all but indistinguishable from the genuine article. The level and volume of fakery will be impossible for all but the wealthiest of litigants to discern (and even then, if a duped judge is too proud or to biased to acknowledge and remedy the fraud, all the proof in the world won’t protect the innocent). When truth is practicably impossible to verify in the legal process, truth becomes meaningless to the process.

I don’t know how best to address this problem (it may already be too late). Unless the profession takes immediate and wise action, the liars will make such a mockery of the legal process so fast and so pervasively that trust in the system will be irreparably destroyed (and with good reason). We may reach a point where society at large gives up on the notion of justice being a function of truth (reality).

One concern I have is members of the profession (both opposing counsel and judges) acting “offended” for outraged or “concerned” if somebody claims that deepfakes and other similar tactics are being engaged. I’m concerned that someone who may in the utmost sincerity raise legitimate concerns about the authenticity and veracity of certain evidence being ridiculed as paranoid, a vexatious litigator, unprofessional, etc. Not out of a genuine belief, but in the hopes that shaming or even persecuting the whistleblower will result in the claims being retracted so that the hard work of getting to the truth can be avoided and or so that the desired outcome is not impeded by the facts. When that happens, then who will judge the judges, and by what standard?

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Should I file for a no-fault divorce or for an uncontested divorce? 

My spouse and I have no children together and own no property together. Should I file for a no-fault divorce or for an uncontested divorce? 

It’s not a question of choosing between “no-fault divorce” and “uncontested divorce”. These two terms are not opposites. 

No-fault divorce means that you don’t have to accuse your spouse of committing some kind of marital fault before you can seek a divorce from your spouse. The reason no-fault divorce is called no-fault divorce is because prior to the creation of no-fault divorce laws, you could not get divorced unless you are able to prove your spouse committed some kind of marital fault during the marriage. And what does “marital fault” mean? Marital fault includes things like adultery, desertion and abandonment, physical abuse, extreme mental and emotional cruelty, habitual drunkenness or impairment from the abuse of other substances, conviction of a serious crime or incarceration, failure to provide one spouse with the necessities of life, and insanity. 

Back in the late 60s, various governments in the United States realized that there are many miserable marriages that could and should end in divorce but that did not qualify under any of the fault bases for divorce. That is what led to the creation of no-fault divorce, by which one can obtain a divorce simply by asserting that there are irreconcilable differences between spouses that render the marriage irretrievably broken prevent the marriage from continuing. 

An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which all of the issues in in the divorce action, including child custody and visitation (parent time), division of marital assets and responsibility for marital debts, etc. are resolved by the agreement of the parties through settlement as opposed to litigating those issues and having the matter decided by a judge after a trial. 

So if you and your spouse both agree that you don’t want to stay married and believe that you can agree to resolve all of the issues in your divorce without needing to fight with each other and litigate at trial, you can drop a settlement agreement and base your divorce upon the terms of your settlement agreement, without having to go to trial and have the judge determine the outcome. 

No-fault divorces can be uncontested divorces. That stated, not all no-fault divorces are uncontested, as one can file for divorce on a no-fault basis, but may still find himself or herself arguing with his or her spouse over various issues that will end up decided by a judge, if the parties cannot settle those issues by agreement between themselves. 

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

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Is 50/50 custody likely when the parents live in the same neighborhood?

What is the likelihood of reverting to 50/50 custody when the parents live in the same neighborhood? Mom still cares for the child over 80%

Your question states in part, “What is the likelihood of reverting to 50-50 custody.” Your use of the word “reverting” implies that at one time in the past you and the other parent exercised joint equal (50/50) custody of the child. It appears that at some point one or both of you moved away from each other such that 50/50 custody could not be practicably exercised anymore, at which point sole or primary custody of the child was awarded to the mother. 

It appears that either the mother has moved into your neighborhood or you have moved into the mother’s neighborhood, such that 50/50 custody can now be practicably exercised again.  

Unless you have an unusual case in which the court does not allow the parents to determine what the custody and parent time schedules are, you and the mother could agreed to resume a 50/50 custody and parent time schedule, if you wanted. If you want to do that, it would be wise to write up a new agreement indicating that you and the mother agree to exercise 50/50 custody and parent time and have that agreement made the new order of the court. 

If the mother refuses to agree to resume a 50/50 custody and parent time schedule, the question then becomes whether the court would grant your petition to revert back to a 50/50 schedule and resume that schedule for you and the child. 

I cannot speak for all jurisdictions and the laws that apply in each of them, but I can tell you that in the state of Utah, where I practice divorce and family law, simply moving closer to the other parent, so that joint equal (50/50) custody could be practicably unsuccessfully exercised, is usually not enough of a reason to modify the child custody and parent time order: 

Huish v. Munro, 191 P.3d 1242 (2008 UT App 283): 

To demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances . . . the asserted change must, therefore, have some material relationship to and substantial effect on parenting ability or the functioning of the presently existing custodial relationship. 

Thorpe v. Jensen, 817 P.2d 387, 391 (Utah Ct.App. 1991): 

[The] need for caution was emphasized in Kramer v. Kramer, 738 P.2d 624 (Utah 1987), where the court noted that “a central premise of our recent child custody cases is the view that stable custody arrangements are of critical importance to the child’s proper development.” Id. at 626 (citations omitted). The “change of circumstances” threshold announced in Hogge and Becker is elevated to discourage frequent petitions for modification of custody decrees. The Hogge test was designed to “protect the custodial parent from harassment by repeated litigation and [to] protect the child from ‘ping-pong’ custody awards.” Hogge v. Hogge, 649 P.2d at 53-54. This policy is soundly premised. 

But there is this (from the case of Miller v. Miller, 480 P.3d 341 (2020 UT App 171): 

[I]f a court determines a petition as a whole clearly does not allege a change in circumstances that has any relation to the parenting skills or custodial relationship or the circumstances on which the custodial arrangement was based, it may dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim. See O’Hearon v. Hansen, 2017 UT App 214, ¶ 10, 409 P.3d 85; cf. Becker v. Becker, 694 P.2d 608, 610 (Utah 1984) (stating that, to meet the materiality requirement, the change in circumstances must “have some material relationship to and substantial effect on parenting ability or the functioning of the presently existing custodial relationship” or “appear on their face to be the kind of circumstances on which an earlier custody decision was based”). 

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

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Who do you pick between a present father and an absentee mother?

Who do you pick, your father who has been there your whole life or your mother who was never there until now and wants custody of you? 

Assuming that 1) custody of you must be awarded to one parent or the other; and 2) your father didn’t obtain/exercise custody over you by withholding shared custody from your mother (because your mother was an absentee parent by choice), the answer is obvious: your father. 

Why? At the very least, he’s proven to be the consistent, dependable parent. 

As much as you may ache for your mother’s love, her track record shows that odds are she’s a bad bet as a custodial parent. Odds are she’ll break your heart again, if you let her. 

But this does not appear to be a zero-sum kind of problem. Why not have the court award custody to your father and then award your mother visitation with you on as liberal a basis as is safe and beneficial for you? 

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

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Can a child who wants to, testify of his/her desires regarding the child custody award?

Am I, as an 11-year-old, allowed to go to court in a situation where my parents are divorced to see if I can get my dad to have full custody of me even though my mom doesn’t abuse me? 

What actually happens when a child wants to be heard on the subject of his/her desires regarding the child custody award? 

Great questions. I can’t speak for all jurisdictions, but I can tell you 1) what the law is for the state of Utah; and 2) what (in my experience) actually happens when a child wants to be heard on the subject of his/her desires regarding the child custody award. 

The law for the state of Utah. A child can testify as to the child’s preferences regarding the child custody award, if the court allows the child to testify: 

30-3-10(5). Custody of a child — Custody factors. 


(a) A child may not be required by either party to testify unless the trier of fact determines that extenuating circumstances exist that would necessitate the testimony of the child be heard and there is no other reasonable method to present the child’s testimony. 


(i) The court may inquire of the child’s and take into consideration the child’s desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules, but the expressed desires are not controlling and the court may determine the child’s custody or parent-time otherwise. 

(ii) The desires of a child 14 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single controlling factor. 


(i) If an interview with a child is conducted by the court pursuant to Subsection (5)(b), the interview shall be conducted by the judge in camera. 

(ii) The prior consent of the parties may be obtained but is not necessary if the court finds that an interview with a child is the only method to ascertain the child’s desires regarding custody. 

So what do the words of § 30-3-10 mean? How does § 30-3-10 work (or how should it work)? Get ready to be upset. 

§ 30-3-10 provides that a child can testify, but only under circumstances that most Utah courts construe so restrictively as to make it all but impossible for a child to testify. How?  

Most Utah courts will say (I know because I am one of the few attorneys who thinks children who are smart enough and emotionally tough enough to testify intelligibly should be heard on the subject of the child custody award) that 1) the “extenuating circumstances that would necessitate the testimony of the child be heard” do not exist (and will, if the court has anything to say about it, essentially never exist under any circumstances); and 2) there is always another “reasonable method” to present the child’s testimony without actually presenting the child’s testimony directly from the child’s mouth to the judge’s ear. Generally, courts in Utah will bend over backward to avoid hearing from the child directly. And the “other reasonable method” means ensuring the questions posed to the child on the subject of child custody are not recorded, that the child’s purported answers are not recorded, that the child’s testimony is filtered through a third party, such as a guardian ad litem and/or a custody evaluator.  

If a court in Utah has ever found “that an interview with a child is the only method to ascertain the child’s desires regarding custody,” I am not aware of such a case. What is so frustrating to me is why would such a law exist? Why isn’t the law just the opposite, i.e., “Unless the evidence shows that the judge interviewing the child will not ascertain or at least help the court to ascertain the child’s desires regarding custody, the court shall interview the child to ascertain the child’s desires regarding custody.” 

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

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What can I do if my ex won’t stop taking me to court?!

My ex has been taking me to court for over 4 years to get my joint custody taken away. Her father worked for the courts for 25 years so she hasn’t had to get a lawyer and it’s obviously harassment but they still allow it. What can I do? 

This question comes up a lot (in slightly different forms, but the core question, i.e., “At what point will the courts say ‘enough’ to my ex’s incessant litigating (typically over child custody and/or parent-time)?” remains the same). 

Because I am a divorce and family lawyer in the state of Utah, I will answer your question in the context of the law and rules governing the state of Utah. 

There are many approaches that one can take in response to an ex-spouse or coparent who litigates incessantly and for no good reason. One thing that I didn’t know about as an attorney until late in my career was a motion to have your ex-spouse found to be and then treated as a vexatious litigant under Rule 83 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Here is an excerpt from that rule: 

Rule 83.  

Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 83. Vexatious litigants. 

(a) Definitions. 

(1) The court may find a person to be a “vexatious litigant” if the person, with or without legal representation, including an attorney acting pro se, does any of the following: 

(A) In the immediately preceding seven years, the person has filed at least five claims for relief, other than small claims actions, that have been finally determined against the person, and the person does not have within that time at least two claims, other than small claims actions, that have been finally determined in that person’s favor. 

(B) After a claim for relief or an issue of fact or law in the claim has been finally determined, the person two or more additional times re-litigates or attempts to re-litigate the claim, the issue of fact or law, or the validity of the determination against the same party in whose favor the claim or issue was determined. 

(C) In any action, the person three or more times does any one or any combination of the following: 

(i) files unmeritorious pleadings or other papers, 

(ii) files pleadings or other papers that contain redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter, 

(iii) conducts unnecessary discovery or discovery that is not proportional to what is at stake in the litigation, or 

(iv) engages in tactics that are frivolous or solely for the purpose of harassment or delay. 

(D) The person purports to represent or to use the procedures of a court other than a court of the United States, a court created by the Constitution of the United States or by Congress under the authority of the Constitution of the United States, a tribal court recognized by the United States, a court created by a state or territory of the United States, or a court created by a foreign nation recognized by the United States. 


(b) Vexatious litigant orders. The court may, on its own motion or on the motion of any party, enter an order requiring a vexatious litigant to: 

(1) furnish security to assure payment of the moving party’s reasonable expenses, costs and, if authorized, attorney fees incurred in a pending action; 

(2) obtain legal counsel before proceeding in a pending action; 

(3) obtain legal counsel before filing any future claim for relief; 

(4) abide by a prefiling order requiring the vexatious litigant to obtain leave of the court before filing any paper, pleading, or motion in a pending action; 

(5) abide by a prefiling order requiring the vexatious litigant to obtain leave of the court before filing any future claim for relief in any court; or 

(6) take any other action reasonably necessary to curb the vexatious litigant’s abusive conduct. 

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

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Why are so many attorneys seemingly against legal separation?

Why are so many attorneys seemingly against legal separation? I truly feel in my circumstance its best for me/us. Is it because they wont make as much money? We have already started the divorce process. Can it be switched? 

I can’t speak for all divorce attorneys, and I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois (I practice divorce and family law in Utah), but I can tell you why I personally don’t like going the temporary separation route. 

Too many people divorce needlessly. Too many people divorce only to discover that their spouses and marriages weren’t their problem and/or that divorce wasn’t the solution. I support desires and efforts to save marriage. While legal separation may sound to some like a good way to “get some space” to contemplate whether one should stay married or should divorce, I’ve found that: 

legal separation tends to damage a marriage far more than fostering its survival; and  

by the time one wants a legal separation, he or she really wants a divorce and is only postponing divorce out of fear or laziness or for the sake of appeasing the other spouse or “letter him/her down easy”.  

While I am sure there are people out there whose legal separation proved that “absence makes the hear grow fonder” and helped them “wake up” and realize that their marriage is worth saving, I know no such people. 

If I recall correctly, I’ve seen one legal separation end with the couple later reconciling. In every other legal separation situation, the couple has eventually divorced. So you can see where this is going: why go to the additional trouble, expense, and emotional ordeal of obtaining a legal separation order if you’re going to end up divorcing anyway and having to go through more of the same kind of effort, wait, expense, and pain again? 

I understand the desire to give the marriage every last reasonable opportunity to survive. I understand the desire to take every reasonable effort to save it. But at the same time, I don’t see the point in pouring time, effort, care, and money into what is for most a hopeless cause. **That stated,** I would much rather “waste” time, effort, care, and money on taking every reasonable effort to save my marriage if it meant having the peace of mind that I gave saving my marriage everything I could in an effort to save it before deciding that it was not worth saving or that I alone could not save it and concluding that divorce was the only remaining option. 

Are there divorce lawyers who discourage legal separation because they make (or believe they make) less money working on a legal separation instead of a divorce? I’m sure there are. But not all of us are out to take the client for all he or she is worth (you’d be wise to ensure you don’t hire a greedy lawyer, but there are some among us who are decent, caring, trustworthy professionals worth seeking out). In my experience, if one wants to do all he or she can to save his or her marriage, then working to improve yourself as a spouse, making changes in your family environment, and giving your best efforts to some good marriage counseling are certainly worthwhile. Legal separation rarely, if ever, helps improve a marriage. It tends to weaken and destroy a marriage.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Are financial interrogatories relevant in my contempt case? 

Are financial interrogatories relevant in my contempt case against my sister for violating my visitation order? 

While I’m sure something seeming like an argument could be made for their relevance, it’s hard to imagine such an argument or to imagine that such an argument would hold any water. 

A fact is relevant if it: (a) has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action. 

Unless your sister can show that your income, financial obligations, and business and/or personal expenses are somehow more or less likely to prove the allegations that you violated a visitation order, inquiries into your facts pertaining to your finances are clearly not relevant.  

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

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Is child marriage legal in the United States?

Of a sort, and depending upon the particular state, yes.  

In some places children (minor children, those who are by law deemed incapable of consenting to marry) can marry with their parents’ permission, under certain conditions.  

For example, in Utah (where I practice divorce and family law), the Utah Code provides: 

30-1-9. Marriage by minors — Consent of parent or guardian — Juvenile court authorization. 

30-1-9.1. Parental consent to prohibited marriage of minor — Penalty. 

It used to be that minor girls as young as 14 could marry in many U.S. states (including Utah), with parental permission. That is no longer true in Utah; the minimum age is now 16. 

According to this webpage, Marriage Age by State 2022, the state with the lowest minimum marriage age with parental consent in the U.S.A. is Massachusetts, which allows a child of 12 years of age to marry. New Hampshire comes in second at 13 years of age, and Hawaii and Missouri are tied at 15 years of age. Every other state sets the minimum at 16 years of age. 

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


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New Laws Affecting Utah Divorce and Family Law in 2022

Here is a summary of new law affecting divorce and family law that was created by the Utah State Legislature in 2022: 

HB (House Bill) 122 1st Substitute, entitled “Family Terminology Amendments.” This bill amended language regarding marriage and legitimacy. That means terms like “legitimate” or “illegitimate” in the context of children born out of wedlock have been replaced with “legally recognized relationship.” As I’ve always said, why use one word when you can use three? And as I’ve also always said, “I know how to prevent stigmas attached to words: change the word!” Look how well that’s worked in the past! Your tax dollars at work.  

HB 175, entitled Protection of Animals Amendments. This bill modified the definition of “emotional distress” related to the offense of stalking to include significant mental or psychological suffering resulting from harm to a household pet. But wait, there’s more: it also provides that protection of an animal can be requested certain protective order request forms and protective orders, and it permits the court, when issuing certain protective orders, to enjoin the respondent from injuring, threatening to injure, or taking possession of certain animals.  

HB 231 1st Substitute, entitled “Fishing and Hunting Restrictions for Nonpayment of Child Support.” This bill: amended the restrictions for a license, permit, or tag related to fishing or hunting when an individual is delinquent in child support and makes certain accommodations for obtaining a hunting or fishing license if a child support payor is temporarily unable to pay child support due to transition to new employment. 

SB 74 3rd Substitute, entitled “Alimony Modifications”. This bill defined the term, “length of the marriage” to mean the  number of years from the day on which the parties are legally married to the day on which the petition  for divorce is filed with the court; it provides that if a party is ordered to pay temporary alimony during the pendency of the divorce action, the period of time that the party pays temporary alimony shall be counted towards the period of time for which the party is ordered to pay alimony. It also provides that if a party establishes that a current spouse cohabits with another individual during the pendency of the divorce action, the court: may not order the party to pay temporary alimony to the current spouse; and shall terminate any order that the party pay temporary alimony to the current spouse. 

SB 85 4th Sub, entitled “Protective Order and Civil Stalking Injunction Expungement”. This bill defined terms relating to the expungement of protective orders and stalking injunctions; makes statutory provisions for the expungement of protective orders and stalking injunctions retroactive; allows for the expungement of certain protective orders and stalking injunctions; provides the requirements for expunging certain protective orders and stalking injunctions; and addresses the distribution and effect of an order for expungement of certain protective orders and stalking injunctions. It’s about time. If the courts are going to hand out protective orders like stale candy, consistently flout the preponderance of evidence standard in favor of a “ 

SB 164, entitled “Marriage Solemnization Amendments”. This bill amended the list of individuals authorized to solemnize a marriage to include the state attorney general, the state treasurer, the state auditor, and members of the state’s congressional delegation. After all, haven’t we all felt it just plain common sense that the state treasurer, the state auditor, and members of the state’s congressional delegation ought to have the power to perform wedding ceremonies? I mean, how did we get along without this to this point? 

SB 217, entitled “Protective Order Revisions”. This bill clarifies that a protective order or civil stalking injunction may be filed in the county where a party is temporarily domiciled. 

SB 242, 1st Sub, entitled “Child Support Amendments”. This bill modifies the child support tables; provides the effective dates of the child support tables. 

SB 243 1st Sub, entitled “Parent-Time Amendments”. This bill: defines terms; modifies and clarifies parent-time schedules. More particularly, it specifies transfer time for Christmas holiday on December 27th at 7 p.m. Creates summer parent-time notice dates of May 1st and May 15th. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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How can I make sure father won’t gain custody?

My husband cheated on me and we’re getting a divorce. He begged me not to take his children away, but I want him to suffer. How can I make sure that he won’t gain custody or even visitation rights? 

Surely you jest. Right? 

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

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When do courts value the marital estate?

When do courts value the marital estate? At time of separation, or at the time the court enters the Decree of Divorce? 

This is a question that often causes divorcing people’s heart to sink. I’ll tell you why, but first, let’s answer the question of whether courts value the marital estate in a divorce action: at time of separation, or at the time the court enters the Decree of Divorce? 

The first answer to this question is: the court can value the marital estate at any time, if it can articulate a good reason for doing so.  

“Generally, the marital estate is valued at the time of the divorce decree or trial.” Jacobsen v. Jacobsen, ¶ 39, 257 Pacific.3d 478 (cleaned up). However, as with alimony, the court has broad discretion to use a different date so long as its decision it supported by “sufficiently detailed findings of fact explaining its deviation from the general rule.” Id.; see also Rayner, 2013 UT App 269, ¶ 19, 316 P.3d 455 (“A trial court has broad discretion to deviate from [the] general rule when circumstances warrant.” (cleaned up)). “As a general rule, the marital estate is valued at the time of the divorce decree,” Rappleye v. Rappleye, 855 P.2d 260, 262 (Utah Ct.App.1993); see also Berger v. Berger, 713 P.2d 695, 697 (Utah 1985), and that “any deviation from the general rule must be supported by sufficiently detailed findings of fact that explain the trial court’s basis for such deviation,” Rappleye, 855 P.2d at 262. 

Utah case law suggests a number of factors that may be relevant to determining whether a party should be held accountable for the dissipation of marital assets: how the money was spent, including whether funds were used to pay legitimate marital expenses or individual expenses, Parker, 2000 UT App 30, ¶¶ 13, 15, 996 P.2d 565; Thomas, 1999 UT App 239, ¶ 20, 987 P.2d 603; Shepherd v. Shepherd, 876 P.2d 429, 433 (Utah Ct.App.1994); Andersen v. Andersen, 757 P.2d 476, 480 (Utah Ct.App.1988); the parties’ historical practices, Thomas, 1999 UT App 239, ¶ 20, 987 P.2d 603; the magnitude of any depletion, Shepherd, 876 P.2d at 433; the timing of the challenged actions in relation to the separation and divorce, id.; and any obstructive efforts that hinder the valuation of the assets, Goggin, 2013 UT 16, ¶¶ 49, 53, 299 P.3d 1079; Andrus v. Andrus, 2007 UT App 291, ¶ 13, 169 P.3d 754. After an “initial showing of apparent dissipation” by one party, the burden shifts to the other party “to show that the funds were not dissipated, but were used for some legitimate marital purpose.” Parker, 2000 UT App 30, ¶¶ 13, 15, 996 P.2d 565. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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What is MyCase and why should I care?

MyCase is an online system developed by the Utah State Courts system that you can sign up for free of charge and use in your family law case and certain other kinds of cases, but because this is a divorce and family law blog/video, we’ll focus on its features in a divorce and family law context. You can use MyCase to:  

  • view your case history (a record of what has happened in your case)  
  • see the date and time of your next scheduled court appearance 
  • view the documents that the opposing party and the court have also filed in your case 
  • pay fees  

Can a pro se party (meaning a party who is not represented by an attorney) file a divorce complaint or petition using MyCase? No, not currently. As of now there is no case filing available through MyCase. 

Can a pro se party file documents with the court through their MyCase account? No, not currently. As of now divorce is not a case type that is active for accepting electronically filed (also known as “e-filed”) documents through MyCase. 

Only those who are parties to a case can use MyCase. MyCase cannot be used to look up information about other cases. Even if you are represented by an attorney in your divorce or separation case, you look up information about your case on MyCase, if you have a MyCase account. To learn more about other features of MyCase and to create your own MyCase account, go to:  


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

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What will the court do if I do not sign a letter sent by my ex-husband?

What will the court do if I do not pick up a letter my ex-husband sent that needs to be signed by me from the courts about his back court ordered alimony of $20,000.00 that he is in default already and has been ordered by the courts several times? 

This is a question you need to ask of a local divorce attorney in your jurisdiction. 

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


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Can a parent with full custody deny visitation due to unsanitary conditions?

Can a parent with full custody refuse to allow visitation due to unsanitary living conditions?

Good question.

I will answer this question in the context of some applicable law for the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah).

There are many ways to approach this question, but briefly one thing you need to be aware of are the custodial interference laws.

Under the custodial interference laws (76-5-303. Custodial interference), A parent can refuse to comply with a child custody and/or parent time order under certain circumstances:

(a) the action is consented to by the person whose custody or visitation of the child was interfered with; or


(i) the action is based on a reasonable belief that the action is necessary to protect a child from abuse, including sexual abuse; and

(ii) before engaging in the action, the person reports the person’s intention to engage in the action, and the basis for the belief described in Subsection (6)(b)(i), to the Division of Child and Family Services or law enforcement.

See also 76-5-305. Defenses:

(a) the actor was acting under a reasonable belief that:

(i) the conduct was necessary to protect any person from imminent bodily injury or death; or

(ii) the detention or restraint was authorized by law; or

(b) the alleged victim is younger than 18 years of age or is mentally incompetent, and the actor was acting under a reasonable belief that the custodian, guardian, legal guardian, custodial parent, or person acting in loco parentis to the victim would, if present, have consented to the actor’s conduct.

There is no hard and fast rule you could apply in this situation, of course, but I think it’s reasonable to say that if the living conditions that the other parent’s house were so unsanitary as to pose a serious risk of harm to the child’s life or health, refusing to comply with parent time on that basis might not result in criminal guilt.

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

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Can a 16-year-old child choose not to have visitation with a parent?

Technically, no. Practicably/pragmatically, yes. 

Technically, a minor child (even a child of 16 years of age) does not have the legal right to choose whether he or she will comply with the parent time “visitation” scheduling orders that a court issues in a divorce or child custody case. But the courts find it difficult to enforce these parent time schedule orders as to the children. In other words, if a child won’t comply with the court’s parent time orders, usually courts do one of two things. Some courts “find” that they don’t have the power to compel a child to comply. This is not true, but by making such a finding that it has no power to coerce and compel a child to comply, the court is able to wash its hands of dealing with the enforcement question. More honestly, other courts find that using the powers of the state, such as arrest and incarceration, to coerce and compel a child to comply with its parent time orders does more harm than good, is more trouble than it’s worth. And it’s not like the parents have any realistic options to enforce parent time orders either. If a parent were to bar the door to his or her home to a child to compel that child to go spend parent time with the other parent, that child could simply dial 911 and report the parent for child abuse and neglect. So in short, if a 16-year-old child doesn’t want to comply with the court’s parent time schedule orders, that child will probably get his or her wish. 

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

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Can you go back to your ex-spouse after a divorce?

Yes, there is no law (I know of in any jurisdiction of which I am aware, but check in your jurisdiction to be sure) against a divorced couple resuming a romantic relationship or from remarrying. 

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

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If each parent is fully capable, will the court still give full custody to mom?

If both parents are wonderful, will the court still lean towards full custody to the mother?

[Note: I am a divorce lawyer of 25 years. I am not bitter about “what happened to me in my divorce” as I am not divorced. I have no axe to grind with women or mothers (I love my mother, sisters, wife, and daughters dearly and without reservation). With these facts in mind, I answer your question as follows below.] 

Not exactly. But close. 

While the courts are finally starting to confront and slowly abolish discrimination against fathers when it comes to making the child custody and parent-time awards, the odds are still ludicrously in the mother’s favor when both parents are fit and loving parents. 

No question about it. The exceptions prove the rule. 

“All things being equal,” the mother is favored (yes, I know that’s illogical, but the courts find ways to justify or to appear to justify illogical thinking, especially in making child custody and parent-time awards). 

It’s grossly unfair to children and to fit, loving fathers alike, but it’s what courts frequently (more often than not) do. 

Now clearly there are times when, even though Dad’s a wonderful parent, circumstances (such as the parents living too far apart or having an unorthodox/inflexible work schedule) may render impractical or impracticable the exercise of joint equal physical custody and/or result in joint equal custody arrangements doing the children more harm than good. But far, far too often fit, loving fathers are denied joint equal custody by virtue of plain old sexual discrimination. 

What does “favoring the mother” (prejudicing the father) look like nowadays? Here are few of the most common situations: 

  • Rather than awarding joint equal physical custody to both parents, awarding “just a little more time” to Mom than to Dad. Case in point: I worked a case where both Mom and Dad had full-time jobs, but the court awarded Mom more time with the children than with Dad anyway (8 out of every 14 days on a 14-day repeating schedule—the trial court even stated that denying the kids and dad that one day every two weeks would enable dad to have more time to get his work done). This was the case where I reached my breaking point (about three years ago). To his credit, my client agreed to appeal (and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege), and he won, with the appellate court ordering the trial court to award equal child custody and parent time. If you believe that happens in every case like his, you would be mistaken. 
  • Finding that, even in situations where the children are preteens or older, the mother was (past tense) the children’s primary caregiver when they were infants and toddlers, and therefore she always has that “advantage” over the father in the here and now. I have this case where mom had been working full-time for the past four years. The youngest of the couple’s children could take care of himself and did not need a full-time caregiver. Worse, mom worked outside the home full-time, while dad’s full-time job permitted him to work from home. At the temporary orders phase of the case, the court awarded mom primary physical custody of the kids because (and the court made no secret of the basis for its decision) she hadbeen (past tense) the per children’s primary caregiver. Dad Wasn’t even seeking sole or primary custody; he was seeking joint equal physical custody, but he lost. Such an outcome is ridiculous and tragic, but not surprising. 
  • Rejecting Dad’s claims that the mother is so lazy and that Dad not only works full-time each day outside the home, but then spends the rest of his time at home taking care the housekeeping and taking care of the kids as well. Why? Because (in my experience) in the minds of most judges it is unthinkable for a stay-at-home mother to be a lazy and inattentive parent (while at the same time it is easy for judges to believe—just believe—that a father doesn’t pull his weight when it comes to fulfilling child caregiving). 
  • Penalizing the father for being the only full-time employed (in many cases the only employed) parent and awarding sole or primary physical custody of the children to the mother because she doesn’t work outside the home. Never mind (apparently) the fact that if the parties share joint equal custody, that would enable both parents to provide as much personal care to the children as possible and also allow them to work full-time jobs for their children’s financial support. Nope. Now clever courts will “acknowledge” and “praise” Dad for being a responsible and devoted breadwinner, but won’t award joint equal custody, justifying the unequal award of child custody with assertions such as: 
    • Spending equal time in both parents’ Respective residences creates an “unstable” residential circumstance for the children. 
    • The fact that unemployed Mom spends more of the waking hours with the children than does Dad (until the children start school, in which case the amount of time mom spends with the kids during waking hours is negligible compared to the time the children are with Dad while he’s at work) means that dad should spend even less of the children’s waking hours with them when he gets home from work. Otherwise stated, because Dad can’t be with the kids during the eight or nine hours that he is at work each day, that means that he should not spend the hours that he does have available to be with the children when the children could be spending that time or “consistently” in the custody and care of their mother. If you don’t understand this reasoning the first time you read through it, you’re not alone. 
  • Courts will still indulge in blatantly discriminating against fathers: 
    • by citing to the “fact” that women/mothers are “born nurturers”; 
    • by citing to the “fact” that children are more closely bonded with, and thus need more time with, their mothers than with their fathers; 
    • by claiming “it’s not the quantity of time but the quality of time” that children spend with their fathers that matters most, failing to concede that the quality of the time is a function of the quantity of time when it comes to parent-child interactions. How did the term “Disneyland Dad” evolve? Not by assuming the responsibilities and “heavy lifting” parental duties of day to day living. No, but by spoiling the child when they have such disproportionately little time on alternating weekends and one weeknight. It creates a warped sense of the father-child relationship and of reality for the kids in general, leading to the kids becoming self-absorbed, worldly, and feeling entitled around their fathers. 

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

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Can you get a post-judgment interest rate higher than the statutory rate?

Did you know you can request a post-judgment interest rate that is higher than the default statutory rate? 

It’s true.  

While the court does not have the discretion to lower, stay, or waive statutory interest rate, it does have discretion to exceed statutory interest if equity so requires. 

Please don’t make me regret sharing this by asking for crazy amounts of interest now.  

A judgment for child support arrearages is a “judgment” within meaning of statute providing that, unless otherwise specified by contract, judgment shall bear interest at rate of 12% per annum; thus, custodial spouse is entitled to statutory rate of interest on the judgment until paid in full; although trial court may, in its discretion under divorce statute, raise statutory interest if equity so requires, court does not have the discretion to lower, stay, or waive interest. Utah Code Ann. §§15-1-4, 30-3-5(1). Stroud v. Stroud, 738 P.2d 649 (Utah Ct. App. 1987), judgment aff’d, 758 P.2d 905 (Utah 1988). Osguthorpe v. Osguthorpe, 804 P.2d 530 (Utah Ct. App. 1990). 

Interest accruing to wife on monies due from husband in property division in divorce judgment was at statutory rate, rather than the lower rate ordered by trial court. U.C.A.1953, 15-1-4. Marchant v. Marchant, 743 P.2d 199 (Utah Ct. App. 1987).  

A higher interest rate than statutorily allowed may be equitably imposed in divorce action under where, “under the circumstances, that award is reasonable,” and, second, that an increase of 2% over the statutory interest rate imposed on the amount not paid to the receiving party within six months was not an abuse of discretion. Pope v. Pope, 589 P.2d 752, 754 (Utah 1978). In divorce action, trial court did not err in ordering that if husband failed to pay wife specified sum of cash within six months of trial court’s order that such amount would bear interest at the rate of 10% per year. Pope v. Pope, 589 P.2d 752 (Utah 1978).  

Section 15-1-4 provides the “minimum interest allowable.” Id. (emphasis added). The statute “does not preclude a District Court, under [section 30-3-5] from imposing an interest rate of more than [the statutory postjudgment rate] where, under the circumstances, that award is reasonable and equitable.” Wadsworth v. Wadsworth, — P.3d —-, 2022 WL 130617, 2022 UT App 5 (citing Stroud v. Stroud, 738 P.2d 649, 650 (Utah Ct. App. 1987) (quoting Pope v. Pope, 589 P.2d 752, 754 (Utah 1978)).  

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

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