Bill Description: House Bill 622 would allow a judge in a divorce case to approve an unequal distribution of assets based on unproven accusations.
Does it violate the principle of equal protection under the law? Examples include laws which discriminate or differentiate based on age, gender, or religion or which apply laws, regulations, rules, or penalties differently based on such characteristics. Conversely, does it restore or protect the principle of equal protection under the law?
Idaho law requires that in divorce cases, "unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, there shall be a substantially equal division in value, considering debts, between the spouses."
The court is given limited leeway to consider matters such as the length of the marriage, "any antenuptial agreement of the parties," and the "present and potential earning capability of each party."
House Bill 622 would amend Section 32-712, Idaho Code, to allow the court to take into consideration "fault-based grounds for divorce as defined in sections 32-604, 32-605, 32-606, 32-607, and 32-608, Idaho Code."
These sections deal with "adultery," "extreme cruelty," "willful desertion," "willful neglect," and "habitual intemperance" respectively.
It is important to understand that a spouse who files a petition for divorce can list any one of these accusations without providing substantial proof to support it. If the other spouse does not contest the filing (and even in some contested cases), the court is likely to grant the petition, with the accusation included. This step does not constitute a conviction of wrongdoing, however. There is no jury of one's peers and requirement that the filing party establish a contention beyond a reasonable doubt. As a matter of principle, the accused spouse still has a right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.
House Bill 622 would treat divorcing spouses unequally, giving legal weight to the unproven accusations levied by the spouse who filed for divorce, and using those accusations as a pretext for distributing community property in an unequal and inequitable way.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 622 violates at least two fundamental principles of justice. These are the right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
This bill would allow the state to order property to be taken from an accused spouse who had never been found guilty of the offenses levied against him or her.
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