Lindsay Marsh remembers feeling shocked and confused when she looked at the list of items her ex-husband wanted as part of their divorce. He was asking for boudoir albums, intimate images she had taken years earlier in their marriage and given to him as a gift.
They had been married for 25 years. But after filing for divorce last April, Marsh couldn’t wait to get rid of the albums — and didn’t understand why he would want them.
Her ex-husband, Chris Marsh, said he wanted to keep the loving messages she wrote to him inside those bound books.
So a Davis County judge made an unusual order that the woman said made her feel violated: He directed her to give the boudoir albums to the original photographer to be edited and then give them to her ex-husband.
“That person is to do whatever it takes to modify the pages of the pictures so that any photographs of [Lindsay Marsh] in lingerie or that sort of thing or even without clothing are obscured and taken out,” 2nd District Judge Michael Edwards wrote in a ruling shared with The Salt Lake Tribune, “but the words are maintained for memory’s sake.”
‘The judge has ordered me to give nude photos ... to a third party?’
The Marshes had been able to negotiate the splitting of the rest of their assets, according to the wife, and this was the only dispute that Edwards had ruled on.
But Lindsay Marsh said when she went back to the person who took the images, who was her close friend, the photographer refused to make the edits. It felt like a violation, she recalled her friend telling her, and it could damage her business and legitimacy as a boudoir photographer.
So in August, Edwards instead ordered that the wife give the albums to a third party, a man Lindsay Marsh didn’t know, who was a graphic designer. It’s not clear from Edwards’ handwritten order why this man was chosen to make the edits.
When Marsh read the August order, she panicked and called the judge’s clerks’ office.
“I just want to clarify,” she recalled saying. “The judge has ordered me to give nude photos of my body to a third party that I don’t know without my consent?”
The answer was yes.
After hearing of the judge’s order, the original photographer agreed to alter the photos, Lindsay Marsh said. Her friend took photographs of each page, and digitally altered them, putting large black boxes over any part of the woman’s body. The inscriptions and notes remain.
“That’s even violating,” Lindsay Marsh said, “because these are things that were sensual and loving that I wrote to my husband that I loved. You’re my ex-husband now.”
The woman said the digital copies were printed out on paper, stapled together, and given to her ex.
Chris Marsh said in a statement to The Tribune the books were full of memories, inscriptions and photos — categorizing them as not “inappropriate-type books.” He added that some of the photos that were in the books have been posted online, or hung in their home during the time they were married, suggesting that the images were not as “intimate” as his ex-wife has said.
“I cherish the loving memories we had for all those years as part of normal and appropriate exchanges between a husband and wife,” he said, “and sought to preserve that in having the inscriptions.”
Chris Marsh doesn’t believe the judge acted inappropriately, but added that this dispute in their divorce does raise a larger societal question.
“As boudoir photography becomes a more common way for a couple to share intimacy,” he wondered, “where is the line of appropriate[ness] when they split up?”
How photographs are handled in divorce cases
Aaron Harris, a Utah divorce attorney, said one former partner typically keeps original family photos and then scans or makes digital copies for their ex.
There are limitations though, he said — if the photos are of a wife and her extended family, a husband wouldn’t be expected to receive a copy of those unless there is a good reason. The same usually goes for a photo that shows a former spouse alone, he said.
“The issue with divorce cases is coming up with a ‘typical,’ because the judge is supposed to do what’s equitable,” he said. “And in my mind, equitable is the same as arbitrary. It’s really hard to predict sometimes what a judge thinks is fair.”
Harris said he’s never dealt with a divorce dispute centering around intimate images in his 14 years practicing in Utah.
Lindsay Marsh said she’s not trying to attack her ex in going public with her story, but said she wanted people to know about the decisions that Edwards, the judge, made in her case.
“It’s violating and it’s incredibly embarrassing and humiliating,” she said. “The only way I can hopefully protect someone else from going through the same situation is to tell my story and expose that these are the types of things that he thinks are OK.”
Lindsay Marsh is legally required to keep the boudoir albums until December, according to the judge’s order, so Chris Marsh has the time to object in court to the alterations if he feels they were unfair.
She’s already envisioned what she wants to do with the photo albums when she is allowed to get rid of them. She concedes that she has mixed feelings about the boudoir books — the photos capture a time in her life when she felt proud of her body, she said, but she added that the court process has brought trauma and mental anguish that has tainted any good memories she associated with the albums.
She said she plans to have a burning party, to rid herself of those memories once and for all: “It’s going to be amazing.”