Two bills that would affect divorce proceedings in Utah were heard in House committees today.
The first, HB 290, would require a married person seeking a divorce to take the state’s mandatory divorce orientation course before filing for divorce, and then that person’s spouse would be required to take the course within 30 days after receiving a petition. It would also make the orientation course free and stop allowing couples who take the course to forgo the current 90-day waiting period.
The sponsor, Rep. Jim Nielson (R-Bountiful), explained the bill and had Dr. Alan Hawkins of Brigham Young University testify about why he supports this bill based on his research. He said that many couples considering divorce report they would have liked to have taken the orientation course earlier so they would have been more informed earlier in the process about what divorce entailed.
Stan Rasmussen, Sutherland’s director of public affairs, testified in favor of the bill. He said that HB 290 is “a helpful contribution as it addresses the serious problem of no real waiting period prior to divorce.”
Because the committee believed the bill warranted further discussion, they voted to hold the bill and will continue discussion of it tomorrow at 2 p.m.
The second bill, HB 88, could influence how often men have an opportunity to obtain custody of their children after a divorce. The bill would insert one short phrase into law that would prohibit a court from discriminating against a parent “due to color, national origin, gender, race, religious preference, or age” when determining custody.
Julie Anderson testified before the committee, saying that her daughter-in-law received custody of her grandchild Aubrey Jo even though she had drug problems and her son was a “model father.” Later on, Aubrey Jo died in a car accident after her mother blacked out on the road.
The sponsor, Rep. Ryan D. Wilcox (R-Ogden), said that Aubrey Jo’s case was what brought his attention to this issue and that when the state gets involved in determining custody it should not base its decision on anything other than the best interest of the child.
The bill passed the committee with an 11-0-2 vote.