A lot of people go into divorce ready to see their attorney tear their ex to pieces. Many divorcing people want to see a judge admonish their spouse for being so terrible. However, this is almost never the case. Utah’s divorce laws aren’t generally designed to punish your spouse for being a bad spouse, even in cases of abuse or infidelity. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to have realistic expectations of what your attorney can do for you in your divorce. Anything can happen during the divorce process. A good attorney can help you understand what you can realistically expect no matter what twists and turns you experience.
Decisions regarding custody are normally based upon the best interests of the child. For the most part, it is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents. This means that you can expect your ex to have some custody, assuming your ex wants it. A person can be a really terrible spouse but a really good parent. In Utah, it is very difficult to completely remove a parent from a child’s life when the parent wants to be involved. Even parents who are unfit to have custody may be able to get supervised visitation. You should not go into the divorce process with the expectation that you can make sure your children never see your spouse again.
If you have children, you may have to pay child support even if you have 50/50 custody. As a public policy, the court will not allow you and your spouse to waive child support as it belongs to the child, not the parent. Child support is largely based upon both parties’ incomes and how many overnights the children have with each parent. Your income can be imputed if you’re voluntarily unemployed or under-employed. There are some other factors that may affect the calculation that don’t often make significant changes to the calculation. The child support amount can be calculated online. It isn’t uncommon for a person to attempt to get out of paying child support. However, if it’s ordered by the court it must be paid. The state has an agency, The Office of Recovery Services, that was established to help parents collect child support payments. Other than not having children, there is not a reliable way to avoid paying child support in Utah.
Few things are more devastating than finding out your spouse had an affair. The unfortunate reality is that this fact has very limited relevance in a divorce. Utah law restricts the court’s consideration of this fact to its alimony analysis if the court finds that the infidelity substantially contributed to the break-up of the marriage. Even if the court does determine that, it then has the discretion as to whether that fact should factor into the alimony calculation. Many judges don’t want to deal with it. If they do, it’s hard to determine what effect it will have on the alimony order.
Utah law does not address infidelity in relation to custody and parent-time. A person’s moral conduct can be looked at in a best interest analysis, to which this may apply. Generally, bad behavior like cheating won’t be relevant if that behavior didn’t affect that parent’s ability to be a good parent to the child or the child wasn’t exposed to the behavior.
Whether or not your spouse was faithful will not impact your divorce, especially if your partner is not asking for alimony.
Alimony is more difficult to predict. It’s based on multiple things such as the recipient’s need, the paying spouse’s ability to pay, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, and the length of the marriage. If you make significantly more than your spouse, there’s a good chance that you will have to pay alimony if your spouse will need it to maintain the same, or similar, standard of living. In most cases there is generally not enough income to allow both parties to maintain the same standard of living after their divorce. In those cases the court looks to other methods of fashioning an alimony award such as income equalization or equalizing the poverty or monthly loss of the parties. Courts will generally not order alimony for the length of the marriage. This depends on the facts of the case. As previously mentioned, cheating can affect alimony in some cases. In order to have your alimony reduced based on your spouse’s infidelity, you have to file for a fault divorce. These analyses can be complex and very fact specific. An attorney can help you better understand the laws and how they apply to your specific situation.
When there are disputes over custody, it’s common for both parties to accuse each other of alienating the children—especially in high conflict divorces. However, judges don’t often modify custody due to alienation, even when there’s proof. Modifying custody can disrupt a child’s sense of stability, and thus the court’s are hesitant to make changes if the child is relatively well-adjusted and happy. If the alienation is ultimately less harmful than a change of custody, the court may be unlikely to change custody. That does not mean the court would not afford the alienated parent more parent-time or other relief to address the alienating behavior. If your ex is alienating your child, the judge will likely give them multiple chances to change their behavior, provided you have proof your child is being alienated. In some extreme cases, a judge may order custody to be modified immediately. But such a modification would be an exception, not the norm.
When You’re Ready to File
Utah’s laws are designed to issue equitable awards, not punitive awards. Because of that, many people don’t feel like they have received justice. Finding an experienced and competent attorney will help you get the best advice available and can help you protect yourself and your rights. At CoilLaw, we advise all of our clients to seek a mental health provider to help them through the emotionally difficult realities of divorce. Our experienced legal team is here to help you with any questions you have about the divorce process. If you’re ready to begin the divorce process, contact CoilLaw today.