Tag: relationship

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.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Important things divorce attorney clients need to know but would easily and freely be forgiven for not knowing without being told. No. 4:

Your attorney cannot do what only you can do. Your attorney cannot answer questions posed to you until you provide your attorney with the information and facts needed to answer the question. Your attorney cannot produce your documents requested in the discovery process without you first producing those documents to your attorney.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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How do you get pet custody after a breakup?

I cannot speak on what the law is in every jurisdiction, but according to Utah (Utah is where I practice divorce and family law), the answers are: 

If by “breakup” you mean the breakup of a marriage by divorce: 

Pets are property, and so they are treated like property, although because they are living creatures they are not treated as a coffee table or money in a bank account would be, obviously. 

And usually pets are not an asset but are more of a liability. In other words, while I can sell a used coffee table and while I can spend my half of the money I was awarded out of the joint marital bank account, owning and caring for a pet costs money. If one spouse is willing to take on the liability associated with caring for a pet and the other spouse is not, then who gets the dog or cat or iguana won’t be in dispute. 

But if both spouses love the dog and both of them want to keep the dog for himself/herself, then who is awarded this particular piece of property can lead to a vicious and expensive fight. We can’t split the dog in half, as we could with money in the bank. But we could award one spouse the dog and then compensate the other spouse with an award of other marital property equal to the value of the dog. That often happens. 

But what about the intangible factors of pet ownership? While I can go out and buy a replacement coffee table if my spouse gets in divorce the one we bought together, it’s not as easy simply to buy a replacement dog. People become emotionally attached to pets and certain kinds of pets (especially dogs, I hear), and that emotional bond is often unique to that animal. Just as losing a child is not “cured” simply by adopting a “new” one, the relationship one formed with a pet is sometimes impossible to replace like one would replace a lightbulb. 

Still, there is only so much a court can do when faced with who gets Fido. What options are there? 

If the court decides that one spouse must be awarded the sole ownership and control of the pet, then the court will usually award the pet to one spouse and award the other spouse marital property of equal value. 

If the court decides that the parties to the divorce will “share custody” of the pet as if it were a child who spends time in the custody of both parents, the court can do that too. The court could order that Fido spends a week with ex-wife, then a week with ex-husband (or impose some other schedule). 

If by “breakup” you mean the breakup of a cohabitant (unmarried) relationship: 

If two people cohabit (that means “live together and have a sexual relationship without being married”), and if during that relationship: 

  • the couple both contribute money toward the purchase of a dog (or cat, or iguana, etc.) so that it’s a joint purchase and they are co-owners, and then the couple breaks up and they can’t agree who gets to keep the dog, then they could go to court to have the matter resolved. The judge could either order the dog sold and the proceeds of sale divided equally between the owners or award the dog to one of the parties and order that party pay the other half the value of the dog. 


  • one member of the couple buys a dog to which the other member of the couple becomes attached, and then the couple breaks up, the other member of the couple has no ownership rights in the pet. 

Had the couple been married when the pet was purchased—even if it was not a joint purchase—then because the couple was married when the property (i.e., the pet) was acquired, the pet is marital property. But when a couple is not married, if one member of the couple purchases something in his/her individual/separate capacity, then that person is the only owner. It’s not “joint” property. 

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

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What are marriages that are exempted from marriage license requirements?

What are marriages that are exempted from marriage license requirements?

Technically speaking, the only marriage that could be considered “exempt” from a marriage license requirement (meaning free from the requirement to obtain a marriage license as a condition of marrying) would be a common law marriage (in jurisdictions where common law marriage is still allowed and recognized).

To understand what a common law marriage is, you would need to understand what it is not. A common law marriage is not a “solemnized” marriage. A “solemnized” marriage is a marriage performed according to a formal, official, legally recognized marriage ceremony by one vested with authority by the state to perform marriages.

A common law marriage is a marriage that, unlike a solemnized marriage, which arises upon the completion of the formal, legally recognized wedding ceremony, is recognized by the law retroactively, long after two people have been living together in a conjugal relationship (i.e., living in a relationship like that of a married couple without being formally and legally and lawfully wedded). Not all states in the U.S.A. recognize common law marriage. The state where I practice family law (Utah) does.

Here are the requirements for having a relationship recognized as a common law marriage as they are provided in Utah Code § 30-1-4.5:  A marriage which is not solemnized according to this chapter shall be legal and valid if a court or administrative order establishes that it arises out of a contract between a couple where both are of legal age, capable of giving consent, legally capable of entering a solemnized marriage, have cohabited, mutually assume marital rights, duties, and obligations, and hold themselves out as and have acquired a uniform and general reputation as spouses. The determination or establishment of a marriage under this section must occur either during the relationship or within one year following the termination of that relationship.

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

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Why is it difficult for a father to get child custody?

Why is it difficult for a father to get child custody?

Because there is a pernicious and false belief in far too many of the courts (not, notably, in society at large) that generally:

  1. mothers are better parents than fathers;

and thus

  1. children need the care of their mothers more than the care of their fathers;

and thus

  1. children should spend most of their time in the care of their mothers but have “a relationship” with their fathers by seeing them every other weekend, once a week, and on alternating holidays.

All other “reasons” for presuming that sole or primary custody of a child or children should be awarded to the mother derive from these three false premises, which premises/presumptions are extraordinarily difficult for a father to overcome, even if all he seeks is an award of joint equal child custody.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Do GALs or custody evaluators do a better job of interviewing children than judges do?

This post is the tenth in series of 15 posts on the subject of custody evaluations and the appointment of guardians ad litem (“GALs” for short) in Utah child custody cases when the judge could simply interview the children instead. You do not have to read all 16 posts to benefit from this series. Read as many or as few as you wish.

The purpose of this series is to make the case for the proposition that an interview by the judge is a faster, more accurate, more particular, more reliable, and less expensive form of evidence than what a GAL and/or custody evaluator provides.

But do GALs or custody evaluators do a better job of interviewing children than judges do?

When the “judges interviewing children harms children” argument is finally abandoned by those who acknowledge it’s a silly and patently invalid argument, the next argument to which some cleaning in their efforts to prevent judges from talking to children directly is this one: GAL’s and/or custody evaluators develop a much deeper understanding of the child circumstances, needs, and desires than would a judge interviewing a child. But a guardian ad litem does not spend that much time learning about a child, his parents, or his environment, and does not establish an especially trusting or otherwise meaningful relationship with the child either. I’ve talked with GALs and custody evaluators and with people who had them appointed to speak to them as children; the guardian and/or custody evaluator may have spoken to them for an hour or so. No more than the amount of time a judge could and should spend speaking to a child as well. To assert that guardians ad litem and/or custody evaluators do a better job of interviewing children than a judge can because GALs inherently care more or put more effort or time into it is demonstrably false.

First, if there are any private guardians ad litem out there who spend more than an hour or so talking to their child clients before going before the court and making recommendations based upon the interview with the child, I don’t know who they are. I have never had a guardian ad litem do that in the cases I’ve handled. And if any of you claim that you generally spend or need to spend more than an hour or so interviewing the child, please provide some independently verifiable proof.

I have never witnessed a private guardian ad litem meet or speak with the children multiple times. Even if they did, how would we ever know? None of their conversation(s) is/are made part of the court’s record.

How could a GAL speak with the parents (unless the parents are proceeding pro se) without violating the rule against communicating with a represented party? On the extraordinarily rare occasion that the guardian ad litem has sought permission to speak with my client, the conversation has been brief and not in depth. And in a way that doesn’t come as a surprise. The guardian ad litem doesn’t speak for the parents. The parents can do that for themselves. Come to think of it, except where child is too young to communicate effectively, children don’t need a guardian ad litem or a custody evaluator to speak for them either. They have their own voice and should be permitted to voice their experiences, observations, feelings, concerns, opinions, needs, and desires by themselves, in their own words, unfiltered and unadulterated. But what do I know?

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

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Are your in-laws still your in-laws if your spouse passes away?

Are your in-laws still your in-laws if your spouse passes away?

One’s marriage does not bestow any kind of secular/civil legal relationship or status of any kind upon the family members of one’s spouse. One’s status as an “in-law” is not a secular/civil legal status of any kind.

From Word Detective I found this:

In any case, “in-law” is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “A phrase appended to names of relationship, as father, mother, brother, sister, son, etc., to indicate that the relationship is not by nature, but in the eye of the Canon Law, with reference to the degrees of affinity within which marriage is prohibited.” Anyone with in-laws knows that the relationship is not natural, but the relevant bit of that definition is the fact that it is “Canon law,” rather than civil law, that made the original rules about “in-laws.” Canon law is the internal law of churches, in the case of “in-law” in English, specifically the Church of England.

While Canon law today deals primarily with the internal workings of the church (ordination of clergy, etc.), in past centuries Canon law had the force of civil law, and in ruling on the legality of marriages the church considered what is called the “affinity” of the parties. Two people getting married created various degrees of “affinity” between their families, and there were specific rules about who in those families could, thereafter, marry whom. The rules varied over time, but at one time it was not legal under Canon law, for instance, for your brother to marry your wife’s sister, or your father to marry your wife’s mother (even presuming the relevant spouses were no longer around to object, of course). The suffix “in-law,” therefore, was a sort of marker declaring certain relatives by marriage to be “off limits.” Interestingly, at one time “in-law” was also used to denote the relationship we signify with “step” (“step-son,” etc.) today.

Most of these “in-law” restrictions have been abolished today, and I actually happen to know someone whose sister married his wife’s brother years ago. But none of those people speak to each other any longer, so maybe those “in-law” rules were a good idea after all.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of the term is:

The earliest recorded use of the formation is in brother-in-law (13c.); the law is Canon Law, which defines degrees of relationship within which marriage is prohibited. Thus the word originally had a more narrow application; its general extension to more distant relatives of one’s spouse is, according to OED “recent colloquial or journalistic phraseology.” Middle English inlaue (13c.) meant “one within or restored to the protection and benefit of the law” (opposite of an outlaw), from a verb inlauen, from Old English inlagian “reverse sentence of outlawry.

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

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