Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) is an extensive uniform law which provides standards governing marriage, divorce, property distribution, alimony, child support, and custody. Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and Washington have adopted it. The major provisions eliminate fault divorces, eliminate traditional defenses to divorce, provide for equitable distribution of property in non-community property states, provide for distributing community property, provide for alimony only in specific circumstances, and base child support and custody on certain factors.

Elimination of Fault Divorces

Under the UMDA, fault divorces are eliminated. The only ground permitted is irretrievable breakdown, defined as either living apart for 180 days or a serious marital discord adversely affecting the attitude of one or both spouses toward the marriage.

Elimination of Traditional Divorce Defenses

The UMDA eliminates traditional defenses to divorce. The best known and most frequently used traditional defenses that have been eliminated by UMDA are recrimination, condonation, reconciliation, collusion, and connivance.

Provisions for Equitable Distribution in Non-Community Property States

The UMDA provides for equitable distribution of property in non-community property states. The factors that are included in making an equitable distribution are the following:

  • length of marriage and any prior marriages;

  • agreement before marriage;

  • age, health, station, occupation, income, vocational skills, employability, property and debts of each spouse;

  • needs of the parties, including any future opportunities to acquire assets;

  • who has custody;

  • any economic misconduct; and

  • whether the property distribution is in lieu of, or in addition to, alimony.

Provisions for Distributing Community Property

Also, the UMDA provides for distributing community property. The factors to include in making a distribution are the following:

  • non-monetary contributions to the marriage,

  • value of property distributed to each spouse,

  • length of marriage, and

  • any other economic circumstances including the need to award the family home to the custodial parent.


Under the UMDA, alimony is only awarded if the supported spouse lacks property to provide for reasonable needs and is unable to support himself or herself through employment or is a custodial parent unable to seek employment outside the home.

Child Support

The UMDA bases child support on resources of the child and the custodial parent, the standard of living the child enjoyed before the divorce; the physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child; and resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.


The UMDA bases child custody on the preferences of parents and children; the relationship of a child with his or her parents, siblings, and others affecting the child; and the mental and physical health of everyone involved.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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