In 1994, Utah was the first state in the U.S. to pass a statute requiring that all couples seeking divorce complete a seminar on its effects on the splitting family. Now, 20 years later, the course is two-hours long, $55 and potentially required to be completed much earlier in the divorce process. As the Las Vegas Sun explores what this might mean for parents, couples realize that the new law could also impact how Salt Lake City divorce lawyers schedule their fees and advise their clients.
Utah’s line of reasoning is pretty straightforward: when couples are better equipped to emotionally, psychologically and socially handle divorces, the process is smoother and less fraught with conflict than it otherwise could be. But Salt Lake City divorce lawyers think there might be another underlying motive for the law as well: keeping families together. As a state, Utah is known for its commitment to family values and prides itself on its low rates of intoxicated driving and underage drinking and smoking. But the fact that Utah’s divorce rate is slightly above the national average may be troubling for some of its leaders.
Proponents of the law like Alan Hawkins, a professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, cite studies that argue that 1 in 10 divorces “are a mistake for everyone involved,” and that “repairing the marriage would be a better option.” While the qualifiers for “better” go undefined, it is clear there is a strong statewide investment in keeping families together, a cultural undertone that Salt Lake City divorce lawyers become familiar with in court. Still, there are some parents who have taken the divorce class who have said it has helped—though not to reconcile their marriage. Parents who’ve completed the class report being more confident in seeking grief counseling and dealing with concerns that come up within their family over the split, which is ostensibly what the class is meant for in the first place.
Utah isn’t alone in its requirements of this class before finalizing a divorce. According to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, 48 states offer such classes, and 27 require that parents take the class. Oklahoma is considering a bill that would prolong the divorce waiting period to six months; North Carolina to two years. While these statutes presumably support the retention of family structure and undergird society’s values of staying married, some individuals find their choices hindered by the requirements of classes and even residency. Utah divorce class teacher Dianne Passey argues that the requirements just make a tough time even harder: “It’s the last thing you need at that point and it’s unlikely to do anything good.” The changes in these statutes can certainly affect the counsel that Salt Lake City divorce attorneys are able to give, as well—while in some states these classes are only strongly recommended, in Utah, divorces can’t be finalized without them.
The value of such classes remains on the table for debate, with attendants citing benefits -becoming empowered and feeling better able to cope with the split – and opponents of the bill citing its oppressive definitions of and tyrannical restrictions in choices regarding family and marriage.