Does cohabitation before marriage affect how long alimony is awarded?
How can cohabitation and marriage be calculated to determine the terms of a divorce judgment?
How long can alimony be awarded?
In Utah, where I practice divorce and family law, alimony cannot (except in rare extenuating circumstances) “[a]limony may not be ordered for a duration longer than the number of years that the marriage existed” (Utah Code § 30–3–5(8)(j)).
Can alimony take into account any period of time we cohabited before marriage?
No. If, for example, you cohabited without being married for 5 years, then married and divorced after being married for, say, 4 years, the period of time for which alimony could be paid is 4 years, not 9, even though you cohabited for 9 years (five years before your marriage ceremony, then 4 years after your marriage ceremony).
The duration of alimony in Utah can only be, with rare exception, no longer than the number of years of marriage. This does not mean that alimony “shall be” equal to the length of the marriage, only that alimony can be awarded for a period equal to the length of the marriage, but it can also be (and usually is) awarded for a period less than the length of the marriage.
But what if you could claim that you entered into a common law marriage when you cohabited and then you later participated in a solemnized marriage ceremony?
Would a previously existing common law marriage mean that the subsequent solemnized marriage ceremony “revoked” the previous common law marriage? Would that mean that your “marriage clock” started over upon entering into the solemnized marriage? Or would the solemnized marriage have no effect on the existence of the common law marriage? It’s a very interesting question, and one that I’m not sure Utah case law has yet addressed or resolved.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277