Marital Violations in Utah

Utah has some well-known laws regarding marital violations, yet there are others that may surprise even long-time residents.

Offenses against the Family

Photo by: Abhishek Jacob

Utah is known to be a family-friendly state and as such has certain laws in place to protect families by criminalizing “Offenses against the Family” as described in Chapter 7 of the Utah Criminal Code. This chapter includes laws pertaining to abortion, failure to support a family, sale of children, as well as marital violations.

Marital violations

Many of the listed marital violations found in Utah Criminal Code are understandably punishable by law, however there are some that are notably dated. Bigamy, child bigamy, and incest are all felony marital violations that are noted by the general public as being punishable criminal offenses. The other two sections listed as marital violations pertain to adultery and fornication-two areas that may not be viewed by everyone as being criminal in nature.

Adultery

According to Utah Code 76-7-103 “A married person commits adultery when he voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a person other than his spouse.” While most agree with this definition of adultery, many are shocked to hear that it is against the law in Utah. That section regarding marital violations goes on to note that “Adultery is a class B misdemeanor” which Utah Courts state is punishable with a county jail term of “up to six months in jail [and] up to $1,000 fine or compensatory service.

Fornication

Photo by: Pete Birkinshaw

The following section goes one step further by not only punishing unfaithful spouses, but consenting adults who consummate their relationship prior to marriage. 76-7-104 states: “Any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication. Fornication is a class B misdemeanor.” This law which was enacted in the 1973 General Session was likely approved by a generation where such actions were abhorrable.

Socially unacceptable, not criminal

Just because something seems wrong, does not mean it is necessarily criminal. While most Utah residents frown upon cheating spouses, not all agree that couples should save themselves for marriage. Some issues are better left for couples to decide for themselves.


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