New developments in Utah case law governing the termination of alimony with the case of Scott v. Scott. In this case, the ex-husband moved to terminate alimony and won.
The ex-wife claimed that her relationship with her post-divorce boyfriend did not rise to the level of cohabitation required by law to terminate her alimony award.
The district court terminated alimony by finding that the ex-wife’s relationship exhibited many of the hallmarks of a marriage relationship that Utah’s case law recognizes. Like a married couple, ex-wife and her boyfriend (a) engaged in an extended and exclusive sexual relationship; they spent a significant amount of time together at the boyfriend’s homes and elsewhere, including on vacations and holidays; they established a common household involving shared expenses and shared decisions, boyfriend authorized ex-wife as a user on his credit cards, and the two participated jointly in financial and other decisions related to the purchase of a home together, a house where Jillian acted like a spouse, made decorating decisions, to which she and her boyfriend agreed she had her own a key. Ex-wife’s boyfriend gave her “family status” at a country club based on his representation that the couple was “living together and maintaining a common household. When boyfriend broke up with ex-wife he paid her a financial settlement on the condition that she “sign a release from all future claims.”
Ex-wife claims that the determination of “shared residence” was a threshold legal requirement that must be established before any other “hallmarks” of marriage are considered in the cohabitation analysis. The Utah Supreme Court disagreed.
Ex-wife took the view that the home the couple shared was not the legal domicile for either her boyfriend or her. The Utah Supreme Court disagreed.
Ex-wife argued that the shared-residence threshold requires a couple to live together for a longer period of time than she and her boyfriend did. The Utah Supreme Court disagreed.
Shared residence is not a threshold element that must be met before other hallmarks of marriage may be considered in the cohabitation analysis. The key hallmarks of a marriage-like relationship under Myers go to the “nature and extent” of a couple’s “common residence, relationship, and interactions.” These considerations are assessed in a holistic inquiry that recognizes that there is no single prototype of a relationship akin to marriage.
Moreover, the term “shared residence” does not mean legal domicile.[The Utah Supreme Court did not delve into the distinction between domicile and residence, but in a nutshell: essentially domicile involves one’s intent while residence is where one actually is.]
The home in question in this case may not have been the prototypical “principal domicile,” but it was a common residence or dwelling. Neither ex-wife or her boyfriend were visitors in that home. It was a common residence—albeit one of several.
The Supreme Court acknowledged that “shared residence” implies some period of time that is indicative of a marriage-like relationship, but declined to endorse a hard-and-fast rule as to a precise minimum number of days to establish shared residency in all circumstances.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277