Monday, January 18, 2010

Proposal to Revise Utah's Custodial Interference Statute

Among the bills proposed during the Utah State Legislature's 2010 session is H.B. 197, which proposed to repeal and replace the current criminal code section dealing with custodial interference. The link to the bill is

I have prepared this side-by-side comparison of the current version § 76-5-303 and of the proposed the revisions of H.B. 197, with my comments.

To continue reading, please visit

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Period of Minority - Duration of Child Support in Utah

So how long does child support have to be paid in Utah?
Utah Code § 15-2-1 (Period of minority) provides:
The period of minority extends in males and females to the age of eighteen years; but all minors obtain their majority by marriage. It is further provided that courts in divorce actions may order support to age 21.
Special findings of mental or physical disability are sufficient to warrant extension of child support beyond age eighteen. See Jackman v. Jackman, 696 P.2d 1191, 1192-93 (Utah 1985); Dehm v. Dehm, 545 P.2d 525, 527 (Utah 1976).
Moreover, orders extending child support until the anticipated date of high school graduation are upheld. See, e.g., Thornblad v.Thornblad, 849 P.2d 1197, at 1199 (Utah Ct. App.1993).
The courts can also enforce an agreement by the parties in a divorce action to continue support beyond that allowed by statutory law. See Despain v. Despain, 627 P.2d 526, 528 (Utah 1981); see also Balls v. Hackley, 745 P.2d 836, 837-38 (Utah Ct.App.1987) (affirming trial court's enforcement of parties' stipulation that child support would continue after eighteen years under specified circumstances).
However, in Kerr v. Kerr (610 P.2d 1380 (Utah 1980)), the husband was only required to pay child support until the minor child's 18th birthday, at which time if support was still needed, wife could petition for continuation of support based on circumstances existing at that time. Since the child’s 18th birthday was at the time of trial more than three years in the future, the court could not know and therefore could not find what his specific needs would be at age 18 or beyond.
Purpose of statute authorizing court in a divorce action to order support of child to age 21 is to give court latitude in determining whether exigent circumstances exist necessitating further support of dependent child rather than allowing him to become dependent on state. Court in a divorce proceeding has power to order continued support for child until age 21 when it appears to be necessary and when court makes findings of any special or unusual circumstances to justify order. Harris v. Harris, 585 P.2d 435 (Utah 1978).

Monday, January 11, 2010

France Mulling Making "Psychological Abuse" a Crime

The French parliament is mulling a law that would recognize a new crime of “psychological violence.”
Among the provisions is Article 17, which provides (translated):
“To submit a spouse to acts or words repeated with the effect of degradation of living conditions of the victim that may affect his rights and dignity and bring about a deterioration of his physical or mental health is punishable by three years of imprisonment and a € 75,000 fine.
NPR reported on this development, then held an interview with Dr. Steven Stosny, a psychologist.
The following is my transcript of a January 8, 2010 interview broadcast on NPR between Michele Norris and Dr. Stosny. Here is the link to this interview:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Utah Supreme Court Standards of Professionalism and Civility - an assertion to which I welcome reasoned responses

Utah Supreme Court Standards of Professionalism and Civility - an assertion to which I welcome reasoned responses:
I was recently asked this question: What's the most effective way to deal with fellow lawyers who exploit my good will and generally lie and cheat their ways through a case?
My answer:
Grab the bull by the horns and take these shysters to task. You’ll do more for professionalism and civility than any list of 20 commandments alone could ever do.
The Utah Supreme Court and the Utah State Bar apparently believe that by calling the shyster problem a matter of "professionalism and civility," we miraculously dispose of shysters by relabeling them as merely "uncivil" and/or "unprofessional."
The problem with this kind of thinking is that shysters by any other name still stink as much as ever, and if we think we can solve the problem by writing aspirational, non-binding "Standards," all we succeed in doing is sending the tacit--though very clear--message that while shysterism may be eloquently condemned, it will not be actively hunted down and eradicated. If shysters remain unchecked, and even allowed to wield the Standards as swords in the service of their sharp practices, the shysters win, and propogate.