Proposed bill would have assigned ‘fault’ in divorce settlements

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-30 00:00:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Divorce took center stage at a committee hearing at the State Capitol Tuesday afternoon, and in the meeting they discussed whether or not a spouse who cheats should have to pay more in alimony.

The current statute awards alimony in a divorce settlement based on the financial capability of the spouses, but Senate Bill 11 would have taken it a step further and assigned “fault” to the person responsible for ruining the marriage.

The bill was voted down in committee on a 4-3 vote.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-District 25, gave an example of when he said a wife may deserve more money in a divorce settlement.

“You get a woman who is a stay at home mom,” he said. "She's been married for maybe 20 years. She got married at age 18. She's now 38. She's got six children, and maybe she's gained 30 or 40 pounds from where she was before. She's a stay-at-home mom taking care and raising these children. She has no job occupation, and her husband's divorcing her because he had an affair with a 19-year-old secretary.”

Bill Duncan is the director of the center for family and society at the Sutherland Institute, and he agreed with Hillyard on this bill.

"We think it's just fair to allow people who've had their marriage disrupted by the behavior of another spouse, to be able to have that taken into consideration," he said. "If not, it's unjust."

Others, like Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-District 29, were not immediately persuaded.

"This is something that will have to be proven with considerable amounts of discovery,” he said.

Another piece of legislation up for debate would lower the age limit for children who testify in custody battles from 16 to 14. The bill’s sponsor is Luz Robles, D-District 1.

“If anything I think it’s just an opportunity for them to be heard, and I think judges should be able to listen to their perspective, not only the two parties that are in contradiction of what should be the case.” 

That bill will be decided on later.