Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Utah Bill to Eliminate No Fault Divorce Tabled

Excerpts below, full article at the Salt Lake Tribune

Divorce proposal heads to counseling Withdrawn: A lawmaker's plan to eliminate no-fault breakups is referred to a task force for study

A Utah lawmaker who wanted to eliminate most no-fault divorces has dropped her legislation. Instead, West Jordan Republican Rep. Peggy Wallace plans to send the contentious issue to a state task force for further study.

"Sometimes, when you get into a bill, you realize there are other issues that need to be looked at," Wallace said Tuesday.

As originally written, her House Bill 56 would have blocked couples who had been married for more than 10 years or who had minor children from divorcing for "irreconcilable differences" - the most common grounds for dissolving a union. They still could have divorced, but only for explicit reasons, such as spousal abuse or adultery.

Since the legislation was unveiled at an open house of the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute in December, Wallace has fielded dozens of calls and e-mails from Utahns. Some were outraged about her idea, while others suggested their own changes to state divorce statutes. A hefty fiscal note of nearly $1 million in estimated additional court costs also weighed the bill down.

Tuesday, the lawmaker, who never has been married, introduced a substitute bill establishing a "Divorce Task Force." The group would consider expanding grounds for divorce, including "pornography in the home with minors."

Task force members also would review divorce waiting periods and the fees charged for filing divorce papers. Wallace says state courts may be "subsidizing" the cost of divorce: Utah spends $2.7 million handling divorce cases, but collects just $690,000 in fees. Divorcing couples pay about $90 in court filing fees.

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