Tag: financial

What happens after an affair when you have kids?

What happens after an affair when you have kids?

I’ll answer as if this question were asked in the belief that the affair will have a profound effect upon child custody, child support, and/or alimony.

If you’ve had an extramarital affair, it generally won’t do your divorce case any favors, won’t win you any sympathizers.

But will it generally result in you being “punished” by the divorce court? The answer to that question is, in my experience as a divorce lawyer: probably not (unless your affair could be shown to have done your spouse and kids egregious financial, physical, or emotional harm) and/or you were a serial, unrepentant adulterer/adulteress).

Child custody: in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce law (Utah), it has been my experience that extramarital affairs are rarely seen as rendering a parent “unfit” to exercise sole or joint custody of his/her children.

While the court is required to consider “the past conduct and demonstrated moral character of the parent” (Utah Code § 30-3-10(2)(d)) in making its child custody evaluation and award, usually the court will reason that an adulterous parent is not inherently any worse as a parent than one who is not.

If the affair cause the parent to spend excessive time away from the children, caused the parent to neglect the children, or if the children’s knowledge of the affair caused the children serious psychological or emotional harm and/or the children distrust or hate a parent because of the affair, then it’s not really the affair that is the problem itself, but the effects of the extramarital affair.

Child support: I have never seen an extramarital affair cited as a reason for awarding more or less child support had the child support payor not committed adultery.

Alimony: in Utah (where I practice divorce law), adultery can affect the alimony award, but will not automatically have an effect on the alimony award. Here is what the Utah Code contains:

(b) The court may consider the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and the terms of the alimony.

(c) “Fault” means any of the following wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship:

(i) engaging in sexual relations with an individual other than the party’s spouse[.]

(See Utah Code § 30-3-5(9)(c))

What does this mean? The Utah Supreme Court construed that section of the Utah Code in the case of Gardner v. Gardner (2019 UT 61, 452 P.3d 1134 (Supreme Court of Utah 2019)):

¶ 26 As with harm in a negligence case, a “great number of events” may have contributed to a divorce. In fact, we have previously recognized “that it is seldom, perhaps never, that there is any wholly guilty or wholly innocent party to a divorce action.” So in almost all divorce cases, it could be argued that each spouse contributed in some way to the breakup of the marriage. But some causes are clearly more substantial, or significant, than others. So even though it may be impossible to state with certainty a sole, or even the first, cause leading to the breakup of the marriage, it will certainly be possible in many cases for a court to determine the significant or important causes of the divorce.

¶ 27 Accordingly, we conclude that “substantially contributed” to the breakup of the marriage is conduct that was a significant or an important cause of the divorce. Under this definition, conduct need not be the sole, or even the most important, cause for it to substantially contribute to a divorce. So when an important or significant cause falls into a category of conduct specifically identified in section 30-3-5(8), courts are authorized to consider it in an alimony determination, even if the at-fault party can point to other potential causes of the divorce.


¶ 53 Section 30-3-5(8)(a) requires district courts to consider the financial situations of both spouses as part of its alimony determination. Additionally, section 30-3-5(8)(e) urges district courts to “look to the standard of living, existing at the time of separation, in determining alimony in accordance with Subsection (8)(a),” and section 30-3-5(8)(f) provides that the “court may … attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.” Together these provisions codify the default rules that an alimony award should be crafted to “provide support for the [receiving spouse] as nearly as possible at the standard of living [he or] she enjoyed during marriage,” and, “to the extent possible,” to “equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.”

¶ 54 As we have explained, these default rules tend to further the court’s aim of achieving “a fair, just, and equitable result between the parties” because they typically put the parties in the best possible position to “reconstruct their [separate] lives on a happy and useful basis.” So the economic factors, and the general aim of placing the parties in the same position they enjoyed during the marriage, stand as an important starting point in any alimony determination.

¶ 55 But section 30-3-5(8) also provides courts the flexibility and discretion to depart from these default rules in certain situations where fairness demands. For example, in addition to the economic factors listed in section 30-3-5(8)(a), section 30-3-5(8)(b) also authorizes courts to consider “the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and the terms of the alimony.” So the statute expressly provides district courts with the discretion to consider fault in determining whether to award alimony, as well as in determining the terms—the amount and length—of the alimony award.

¶ 56 Section 30–3–5 also provides guidance for how a court may adjust the amount and length of an alimony award in the event the court determines that one spouse’s fault necessitates a departure from the default economic alimony factors. For example, although section 30-3-5(8)(e) urges district courts as “a general rule,” to “look to the standard of living, existing at the time of separation,” it also instructs courts to “consider all relevant facts and equitable principles,” and grants courts “discretion” to “base alimony on the standard of living that existed at the time of trial.” When section 30-3-5(8)(e) is read together with section 30-3-5(8)(b)’s fault provision, it is clear that where a court determines that one spouse’s fault would make it inequitable to maintain both parties at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the court has the discretion to lower the award to an amount sufficient to sustain the at-fault spouse at a reasonable standard of living post-marriage, rather than the standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage.

¶ 57 Similarly, section 30-3-5(8)(f) authorizes courts to depart from default alimony awards where fault contributed to the break-up of the marriage. It instructs courts to “attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.” But it also notes that courts should do so only “under appropriate circumstances.” So once again, when this provision is read together with section 30-3-5(8)(b)’s fault provision, it is clear that courts need not attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living where one spouse’s fault would make equalization inappropriate.

¶ 58 Therefore, under the plain language of section 30-3-5(8), courts have discretion to depart from the default economic rules where one party’s fault makes it appropriate to do so. Because the district court determined that Ms. Gardner’s conduct qualified as fault under the statute, the court was authorized to depart from the default alimony rules by reducing Ms. Gardner’s alimony award by some amount.

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

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Does the high U.S. divorce rate pose any problems to the economy?

Does the high U.S. divorce rate pose any problems to the economy?

Divorce is unquestionably an economic detriment to individual family members and to the public at large. While the odd man, woman, or child may financially benefit from divorce, the overall impact of divorce is adverse for families and for society. The evidence is overwhelming. No question about it. Here are excerpts from numerous articles on the subject:

How Divorce Can Adversely Affect The Economy

Divorce Slows Economic Growth

There are few things that can slow economic growth like a high divorce rate. According to a study performed by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, marriage is an important contributor to economic growth. Healthy marriages have been proven to promote economic growth, while divorce adversely impacts the economy.

The Bottom Line

While the divorce rate in the U.S. has certainly decreased in recent years, divorce continues to play its part in dragging down the country’s economy. With divorce comes the need for more housing, energy, transportation, and other important resources. If the changing family dynamic continues to improve divorce statistics, the U.S. may experience the financial benefits that come from a healthy marriage—financial stability over a long period of time.

How Marriage and Divorce Impact Economic Opportunity

Single parents have much lower incomes and much higher poverty rates than their married counterparts. Some of this, to be sure, is because they also have other characteristics such as less education that limit what they can earn. But two incomes, even if they are low, are always better than one. Two full-time $10-an-hour jobs bring in roughly $40,000 a year, hardly a princely sum but enough to support a family well above the poverty line, even after child care or other expenses. For better or worse, the days when a typical family with children could get by with just one income are over.

Effects of Divorce on U.S. Economic Growth

Marriage is a causal agent of economic growth. It constitutes one-third to one-fourth1) of the human capital contribution of household heads to macro-economic growth (Chart 1).2) 3) Divorce removes this agent of economic growth.

Divorced men become less productive through divorce (Chart 8 and 9).20)

    1. Effects on the U.S. Economy

The divorce revolution has undermined growth in the U.S. economy.21) Since marriage has a “remarkably large”22) accruing effect on a worker’s productivity, divorce eliminates this agent for growth. Besides for population effects originating in the 1960s and 1970s, there are no other consequences of policy change that have had a greater effect in slowing economic growth than the divorce revolution. Divorce, having now become acculturated, perpetually inhibits growth of the U.S. economy.23)

Is Divorce Good For The Economy?

A common misconception is that a higher divorce rate will lead to a stronger economy. This is simply not true. Divorce rates have an inverse relationship with the economy, as they go begin to decrease, the economy will begin to rise.

Effects of Divorce on Financial Stability

    1. Link Between Divorce and Economic Stability

Almost half of American families experience poverty following a divorce,1) and 75 percent of all women who apply for welfare benefits do so because of a disrupted marriage or a disrupted relationship in which they live with a male outside of marriage.2)

Although a household’s income substantially diminishes following a divorce, little public attention is paid to the relationship between the breakdown of marriage and poverty. Consider, by comparison, the reaction to a comparable decrease in the national economy. When America’s economic productivity fell by 2.1 percent from 1981 to 1982, it was called a recession. And when the economy contracted by 30.5 percent from $203 million to $141 million (in constant 1958 dollars) from 1929 to 1933,3) it was called the Great Depression. Yet each and every year for the past 27 years, over one million children have experienced divorce in their families with an associated reduction in family income that ranged from 28 percent to 42 percent.

Divorce has many harmful effects on the income of families and future generations. Its immediate effects can be seen in data reported in 1994 by Mary Corcoran, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan: “During the years children lived with two parents, their family incomes averaged $43,600, and when these same children lived with one parent, their family incomes averaged $25,300.”4) In other words, the household income of a child’s family dropped on average about 42 percent following divorce.5) By 1997, 8.15 million children were living with a divorced single parent. As the Chart below illustrates, there has been an increase of 354 percent since 1950.6)

The Effects of Divorce on Society

Impact on Finances

Divorce—during and after—takes a toll on a family’s income. When couples get divorced, it’s important that the custodial parent understand that child support eventually ends. Also, courts don’t always award alimony. And recent tax laws ending deductibility for alimony payments may result in a downward trend in alimony awards.

Divorced women and their children are more likely than divorced men to receive public assistance while living in poverty. Further, even if women don’t drop into extreme debt, their standard of living decreases more so than divorced men. Although both spouses are worse off financially after divorce, research shows that women’s finances are negatively impacted at a higher rate.The Economics of Marriage and Divorce: Those who get hitched are more likely to get rich

The Economics of Marriage and Divorce: Those who get hitched are more likely to get rich

Among its many advantages, marriage is a potent anti-poverty strategy.

Perhaps the most cited study on the economics of divorce is Jay Zagorsky’s 2005 “Marriage and Divorce’s Impact on Wealth.” Zagorsky used data that tracked Americans in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s, and found that “single respondents slowly increase their net worth. Married respondents experience per person net worth increases of 77 percent over single respondents.”

Married couples’ “wealth increases on average 16 percent for each year of marriage. Divorced respondents’ wealth starts falling four years before divorce and they experience an average wealth drop of 77 percent.” In terms of percentage, women were more likely than men to be harmed by divorce, but the absolute difference between the two was “relatively small.” More recent research supports Zagorsky’s basic insights.

Marriage and divorce’s impact on wealth – Jay L. Zagorsky, 2005

First Published December 1, 2005 Research Article


What impact do marriage and divorce have on wealth? US data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), which tracks individuals in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, show that over time single respondents slowly increase their net worth. Married respondents experience per person net worth increases of 77 percent over single respondents. Additionally, their wealth increases on average 16 percent for each year of marriage. Divorced respondents’ wealth starts falling four years before divorce and they experience an average wealth drop of 77 percent. While in percentage terms divorce hurts women more than men, the absolute difference is relatively small in the US.

Divorce Is Destroying the Finances of Americans Over 50

Splitting up after age 50 — often called “gray divorce” — may be particularly hazardous to your emotional and financial health, far worse than doing so at younger ages. A wave of new research is quantifying the damage.


The economic effects are even more stark. As more and more Baby Boomers end marriages, sometimes for the second or third time, they’re wrecking their finances on an unprecedented scale. “Getting a gray divorce is a major financial shock,” Brown said.

If you get divorced after age 50, expect your wealth to drop by about 50%, Brown and her colleagues found in yet-to-be-published research that analyzed a long-running longitudinal survey of 20,000 Americans born before 1960. That’s not really a surprise: After all, any divorce involves dividing a family’s resources.

But incomes also collapse after a gray divorce, particularly for women. The researchers looked at standard of living — income adjusted for household size — reflecting the fact that a solo adult needs less income than a single parent with two children still at home. They found that when women divorce after age 50, standard of living plunges 45%. That’s about double the decline found in previous research on younger divorced women.

Even more troubling is that older people aren’t bouncing back from these financial shocks. Brown and her colleagues were able to follow survey respondents’ finances for up to a decade post-divorce. “There is no appreciable recovery on the wealth front,” she said. “There’s no appreciable recovery in standard of living.”

Late in their careers, older Americans simply don’t have time to undo the financial destruction that a divorce causes. Women who spent years at home caring for children find it difficult to re-enter the workforce.

By retirement age, they can be in dire straits. Another 2017 study by Brown and colleagues found U.S. women 63 and older who went through a gray divorce have a poverty rate of 27%, more than any other group at that age, including widows, and nine times the rate of couples who stay married.


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


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How did you cleanly separate your online accounts with your divorce?

This comes up most commonly in two scenarios:

1) non-financial online accounts (like Netflix, Amazon, a social media account, etc.) and 2) separating financial accounts.

1) Non-financial online accounts (like Netflix, Amazon, a social media account, etc.):

The problem that arises with online accounts such as these are many. Sometimes you cannot cancel them at will (because the subscription may be for a year when you’re only partway through the year, for example).

Another problem is worrying that if the right to the use and possession of the joint account is awarded to just one ex-spouse, then he or she might fail to pay the fees or may abuse the account in a way that exposes you to liability.

If the account cannot be divided into two separate accounts, sometimes both members of the couple may want the benefits of the account so much (and can’t replace those benefits with a new account) that they cannot agree who will get to keep the account.

If you and your ex-spouse cannot divide a single account into two separate individual accounts, then the best practice is (even though easier said than done): cancel the joint account and reopen a new one, if you want to continue using the account in the future.

2) Financial accounts:

Typically it’s as simple as withdrawing the money from the accounts and dividing it between you as agreed or as ordered (as the case may be) and then closing the accounts. It would be wise for you and your ex-spouse together (or at least you, if your ex-spouse won’t work together with you) to send to the financial institution a certified letter and e-mail with a read receipt a brief, clear message that you and your ex-spouse are divorced and that in connection with the divorce you and your ex-spouse agreed/were ordered to empty the joint account, close it, and not re-open it and that the account is not authorized to be re-opened or otherwise utilized by either of you in the future.

If that doesn’t work because, for example, your ex refuses to cooperate in then you may have to get a court order to have the money withdrawn and divided and then have the accounts closed. In Utah (where I practice divorce law), the rule for this is Rule 70 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure:

Rule 70. Judgment for specific acts; vesting title.

If a judgment directs a party to execute a conveyance of land or to deliver deeds or other documents or to perform any other specific act and the party fails to comply within the time specified, the court may direct the act to be done at the cost of the disobedient party by some other person appointed by the court and the act when so done has like effect as if done by the party. On application of the party entitled to performance and upon order of the court, the clerk shall issue a writ of attachment or sequestration against the property of the disobedient party to compel obedience to the judgment. The court may also in proper cases adjudge the party in contempt. If real or personal property is within the state, the court in lieu of directing a conveyance thereof may enter a judgment divesting the title of any party and vesting it in others and such judgment has the effect of a conveyance executed in due form of law. When any order or judgment is for the delivery of possession, the party in whose favor it is entered is entitled to a writ of execution or assistance upon application to the clerk.

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

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Should we put divorcing couples in an adversarial divorce court system?

People who are getting divorced fall into one of two categories:

  • those who want to divorce while doing each other as little harm as possible; and
    those who don’t care what happens to their spouses in divorce and who are driven by self-interest, vengeance, and/or malice.
  • Couples in the first group are not forced into being adversarial with one another or forced to process their divorce to completion through an adversarial system. If and when they simply treat each other as each of them wished to be treated, they can dissolve their marriage and divide their property and responsibility for debts between them in a fair, expeditious, and economical manner, without having to involve the court other than having the judge approve their divorce settlement.

Most divorcing couples would choose—and correctly choose—to be nonadversarial if they understood that our adversarial system is an emotional and financial meat grinder.

But, as is typical of human nature, almost everybody going through a divorce for the first time doesn’t believe the horror stories they are told about divorce, or if they do believe the stories (and these stories are true, folks), nevertheless believe that they are exceptional. Their fear, anger, and avarice blind them to reality, causing them to believe that their divorce experience will beat the odds. Fools. Damn fools (and I’m a divorce lawyer, but that doesn’t mean I want to see anybody spend money on my services needlessly). Sometimes you need to go through the court system for a divorce. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. But if you can, for the sake of you, your kids, and yes, even your terrible spouse, don’t seek to vindicate yourself in the court system, seek to extricate yourself from it as much as you effectively can.

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

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Does anyone secretly want a divorce?

Of course. Tens of thousands. Many of such people do not go through with divorce for various reasons. Some include:

  1. Fear of retaliation (whether in the form of physical, emotional, and/or financial abuse or hardship)
  2. Fear of being left financially destitute after divorce
  3. Resignation to the status quo/fear of the unknown future that a divorce would bring
  4. Fear of disapproval from one’s family, close friends, fellow church members, and other important communities in one’ s life
  5. Fear of embarrassment and humiliation
  6. Adherence to one’s religious beliefs that prohibit divorce except in rare and severe circumstances

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

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What are some of the major causes behind a divorce?

Lack of commitment/incompatibility.

“Marriage is a counter-cultural act in a throwaway society.”

—Dr. William H. Doherty, noted marriage scholar and therapist

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

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