In Utah, couples seeking a divorce are required to complete an orientation course, as many of our readers know. The purpose of the education course is to help parents understand the divorce process and its alternatives. Topics covered in the course include strengthening a marriage, resolving child custody and support issues outside of litigation, the consequences of divorce, and alternative processes for working out disagreements in divorce.
While many see the requirement as just a hoop to jump through, one which will have little effect on most of its participants, others focus on the fact that it does have a positive effect on a minority of marriages. A Brigham Young professor even feels strongly enough about this to have suggested to the Utah Legislature that the requirement be completed before a divorce petition is filed. That proposal has not been particularly popular, and some have even called into question whether passing such a requirement would be constitutional. Privacy concerns have also been expressed.
Part of the proposal is to provide a waiver for victims of domestic violence. The proposal currently under consideration would exempt those who can show documented evidence of abuse. Critics argue, though, that a lot of abuse is not reported and it would be unfair and potentially life-threatening to withhold a waiver from an individual who could not provide documentation of abuse.
Understanding alternative options to litigation is not at all a bad thing. For some couples this is a way to avoid unnecessary strife and costs. More people should understand these options before they dive into the adversarial process.
Still, it isn’t clear just yet how far the proposal will make it in the Utah legislature.