Why no-one wants to get married.
When I started my own firm here in Salt Lake City, I did what I knew how to do, criminal and family law. With family law, there is tons to do, but no one has the means to do it? Why, because the legal system is out of synch with the current market and needs for family law. It is easy to get married. You just got to the county, file a fee and get a certificate. It is a much bigger headache to get out of a divorce.
To some, many people see this as a good idea as they want to ensure that a big mistake isn’t being made that will have lasting effects on the couple and more especially on their children and other family members around them. As a result, there is a whole line of fiery hoops that individuals have to jump through in order to jump out. The first hoop is figuring out what to do and how to do it. There is paperwork that needs to be filled out.
There are legal edges that need to be interpreted in order to make sure that you are doing everything right. Also, there are attorneys that demand a high-retainer fee to even get started on the work. Usually, if one person lawyers up, the other person lawyers up too. What does that mean? The attorney fees for both parties have just doubled. Most people don’t even have the money to begin with let alone afford an attorney. The problem there is they try and navigate their own way through a foreign legal system and find themselves trapped in a whirlpool of clerks that reject paperwork or a decree that they should have never entered because they didn’t know what they were entitled to.
The biggest problem is that when two people fall in love and the county declares them as one, that means that everything they obtain that point moving forward is theirs. The cars, the bank accounts, the home, the retirement accounts, the businesses the life insurance policies. With just 5 - 10 years of marriage, that can account for a whole heap of money. As a result, an attorney has to gather every shred of evidence you have on your financials, go through it and then somehow find a way to convince the other attorney on the other side on how to unravel the money. That process can cost the parties easily tens of thousands of dollars.
That also doesn’t include the most-important heart-wrenching part of the whole separation. Who gets the kids? Where will the kids go? Who will pay child-support for the kids? The biggest reason why this gets so messy sadly is the latter question. No-one wants to pay the spouse they just left money. Child-support becomes a contentious matter. Not only do you have to figure out all of the financials, on top of that, you have to figure out how child-support will get worked out. Did I mention that the tens of thousands of dollars spent is money that is paid before a case goes to trial if the case goes to trial? Trials in themselves are money-suckers.
The attorneys must now take all of the evidence they have gathered and mark them and see what they want to use at trial, provide copies for both parties to use at trial and make that evidence persuasive and know how and when it will presented with the characters that will testify. The attorney also has to prepare for each witness, know what they will testify to, prepare questions to examine them and prepare questions for opposing parties to cross-examine them. Also, if one party will not settle on a matter, that other party is also forced to go to trial to figure things out. It is all one big headache.
That is also not to mention the 90-day waiting period that Utah has implemented when you first file your divorce. Meaning, that once you have found the funds for an attorney, or a way to somehow file by yourself, after trying to work on the marriage, and knowing that it will just not work out the court wants you to sit on this and give you an additional 90-days to see if this is really what you want to do. In essence, the court is a babysitter and says, we know better than you and we know better than your circumstance and we want you to go and sit in the corner and think about what you just did despite all the steps you have already taken to decide you want a divorce.
Then, once the green light is given and things are finalized and the parties have come to an agreement, someone has to file the final papers. Most of the time the papers are rejected for whatever reason. A lot of times the parties don’t know they were rejected, or don’t know how to fix the problem so they are again stuck in a vicious whirlpool and still married to their partner, because you’re not divorced when you file, your divorced when it’s all over. Sometimes these cases last years and months. At that point, the parties have moved on with their lives. But the courts haven’t moved on with them.
Attorneys, that understand the complexities of the cases and how to negotiate deals and balance all of the money issues, also have issues filing with the courts the final papers because the papers they file are too complex for the clerks to process. Most clerks just have a checklist to go off to make sure that all the papers are there. However, some papers aren’t necessary or other arrangements have been made which the clerks may not understand. As a result, an extra headache is added and extra money to try and explain to the clerks why it is filed the way it is and try to explain to them the legal basis for the agreement.
So from just a legal standpoint, that is why no one gets married anymore. It costs an average person $10,000 to get married and more than doubled to get out of being married. Many people see their parents and what they had to suffer while going through a divorce so it turns their children off from ever having a desire to enter that kind of legal relationship. It is setup to the point now where many people say to themselves, why bother?
In the end, the State of Utah’s purpose is probably to deter people from getting divorced, however, the outlook as a whole shows that purpose is defeating the entire meaning of why the State wants to keep individuals in marriages in the first place. Something has to change to streamline the process or the problem will continue to degenerate and quite frankly, as an attorney, it also makes it for a headache for me that I would just rather not deal with.
With the U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, the decision in essence decreed that the state cannot tell a person who they can and cannot marry because it is a fundamental right. However, if that is true, then is the red-taped process of divorce in Utah also saying that the state is telling people that they can and cannot get divorced and when and how they can get divorced?