- When does adultery matter in a divorce case?
- What to prove in fault divorce
- Why people choose fault divorce
- Changes in Utah law
Adultery is a fairly common reason for divorce, although it matters much less in the case of a no-fault divorce. For an at-fault divorce, it can help establish that a particular party is at fault for the divorce, which can have significant implications for how assets are split, child custody is decided, and more.
When does adultery matter in a divorce case?
From a legal perspective, divorce doesn’t matter in no-fault divorce cases. Even if someone committing adultery may be the reason one or both parties decided a divorce was necessary, a no-fault divorce definitionally establishes neither party as “at fault” for the divorce.
There are a number of reasons a party might seek a no-fault divorce, one of the most common being simplicity. It’s often easier for two parties to agree that a divorce is simply necessary without declaring one party as the primary reason for that divorce. This generally means the divorce is less likely to be contested and that the entire process can go much more quickly.
However, adultery does matter in the case of a fault-based divorce. Adultery is considered grounds for divorce under Utah law. This means that proving or otherwise showing strong evidence that a party has committed adultery can potentially greatly influence an at-fault divorce case.
Note that adultery isn’t the only grounds for divorce and that one may benefit from being able to prove an individual has met multiple grounds for divorce if possible. This will produce a stronger at-fault case that is much more resilient. Even if you cannot fully prove a person has met one divorce criteria, you can potentially prove they have met another.
What do you have to prove in fault divorce cases in Utah?
Proving adultery in a divorce case generally requires direct evidence. While one doesn’t need photographic or video evidence of a person in the act of committing adultery, they will need stronger evidence than simple hearsay.
Common types of direct, usable evidence include eyewitness testimony or an admission by the adulterer. It’s even better to have photographic or video evidence of adultery being committed, but make sure such evidence is collected legally. Collecting it in the wrong way could easily violate privacy laws.
Circumstantial evidence may also help prove adultery. For example, one may prove their spouse had both the opportunity to cheat and a willingness or desire to do so. Chat logs of them acting flirtatiously with another party or photographs of them acting affectionately with another party, even if they don't capture the act of adultery, can help one’s case.
Also useful is establishing that they weren’t where they said they were at a particular time, especially if you can prove they were with the party they had committed adultery with rather than where they said they were.
Why do people choose a fault divorce?
In divorce cases, people may opt for an at-fault divorce over a no-fault divorce for a variety of reasons. One common reason is the effect on matters like dividing property and determining alimony. In Utah, an at-fault divorce may result in a better distribution of assets or higher alimony payments compared to the usual results that are obtainable through no-fault divorce.
Child custody arrangements might also be influenced in these cases, although courts generally prioritize the interests of the child over fault-based grounds. For individuals pursuing an at-fault divorce, the process can bring a sense of closure or validation, particularly if they have been hurt or wronged by their partner's actions.
Moreover, cultural or religious beliefs can impact the preference for at-fault divorces within communities. Some individuals may also believe that proving fault will give them advantages during proceedings, such as a quicker resolution or a stronger position during negotiations.
Changes in Utah law
For a while, no-fault divorce wasn’t an option in Utah. There was a time when the law was more closely tied to religious principles, but views on divorce have changed significantly over the past few decades. This means that in the past if one wanted divorce, it had to be an at-fault divorce.
In 1987, Utah updated its laws to allow for irreconcilable differences as a ground for divorce. This is the most common reason cited for divorce in Utah. Since no-fault divorces generally take less time, cost less, and involve less stress than fault divorces, this is usually the preferred course of action.
30-3-1. Procedure – Residence – Grounds. (1997) Utah State Legislature.