Can I file for divorce and spousal support after being separated from my husband for 5 years?

This is an interesting question because if you have been financially independent of your spouse during your five year separation that implies that you don’t need financial support from your spouse.

Contrastingly, if for the past five years you have been destitute, have made requests of your spouse for financial support that your spouse has rejected, and have run up debts and other liabilities to meet your reasonable living expenses, then you would likely have a very strong basis for seeking alimony.

If, however, you have been separated from your spouse for five years and counting without having to rely for your financial support on a source other than your own income or other earnings in all that time, it is hard to imagine how you could make a compelling argument for deserving and alimony award.

One exceptional situation needs to be mentioned: if you have been self-supporting, but at a greatly reduced/lesser lifestyle, (i.e., you went from living at a certain level with your spouse because of your spouse’s affluence and ability to afford such a lifestyle to living more modestly on a modest income), then it may be possible for you to argue that you are entitled to alimony so that you can reach, or at least get as close as reasonably possible to, the lifestyle to which he became accustomed while married. One counter argument you could encounter (and I believe this argument would have merit) is that you have been self-supporting for so long — albeit at a lower level of income than you enjoyed before separation — that one can reasonably conclude that your change in lifestyle is no longer involuntary imposed upon you but a matter of your own personal choice.

And let’s and on a note of adding insult to injury: imagine that you had no choice but to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps after separation because your spouse refused to provide any financial support for you. Could you make some kind of argument that but for your spouse’s greedy neglect, you would have never needed to become self-supporting? In my legal opinion, the answer is: probably not. The court would not be looking to how or why you became self-supporting, and whether the circumstances under which you became self-supporting were “fair,” but only that you are now currently self-supporting.

Bottom line: if you have been living financially independent of your spouse for the past five years and counting, and if you are not living hand to mouth, it is unlikely that you will succeed in seeking and alimony award.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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