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Arizona lawmaker wants text messages kept out of divorce

Arizona -- like most other states -- follow no-fault divorce laws. That means a couple does not need a reason to file for divorce. Instead, just one spouse needs to assert that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." (Unless it involves a covenant marriage, which is a topic for another day.)

As a result, it is often unnecessary to address issues such as infidelity during the divorce process. Even so, many parties to divorce proceedings in Arizona still attempt to present evidence of affairs and other bad behavior in effort to make the other spouse look bad.

An Arizona lawmaker said this is what her husband was trying to do in their ongoing divorce proceedings, and she attempted to stop him by invoking a rare defense.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, a Republican from Scottsdale, argued that her estranged husband should not be allowed access to her phone records because of legislative privilege and attorney-client privilege.

Apparently, late last month Rep. Ugenti's husband of nine years sent a subpoena to Verizon asking for several months of worth of the lawmaker's text messages.

According to court filings, Rep. Ugenti's attorney alleges that the husband only planned to prove that an affair had taken place in order to "harass and embarrass" the lawmaker.

Because the lawmaker uses her cellphone for business, her attorney asked a judge to block the subpoena based on legislative privilege as well as attorney-client privilege.

Before the judge had an opportunity to decide on the issue, the husband's attorney reportedly withdrew the subpoena. However, it is likely that the judge would have agreed to block the subpoena even without the legislative privilege as evidence of an affair would be irrelevant to the case.

Typically, the only situations in which such evidence would be relevant to a divorce proceeding is if a spouse attempted to argue that an affair affected the best interests of the child in a custody matter, or if a spouse wanted to show that marital funds were spent on an affair.

It appears that this case didn't involve either issue.

Source: AZ Central, "Rep. Michelle Ugenti claims legislative privilege in divorce proceeding," Alia Beard Rau, June 9, 2014

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