Terminating Alimony Because of Cohabitation

Terminating alimony can be a complicated issue. In most circumstances, it terminates in only a few ways:

  1. The recipient spouse remarries.
  2. They no longer have need.
  3. They cohabit with another person.

If the recipient spouse remarries, alimony typically terminates automatically, unless the decree states otherwise. Where there is no need or there is cohabitation, you will need to motion the court to terminate it. If you believe the recipient spouse is cohabiting, the following information will be very important for you.

Complications in Terminating Alimony

The Supreme Court of Utah recently ruled that if you want to cease paying alimony because of cohabitation, you need to motion the court before they stop cohabiting.  “We conclude that Utah Code 30-3-5(10) requires the paying spouse to establish that the former spouse is cohabiting at the time the paying spouse files the motion to terminate alimony.”  Scott v. Scott, 2017 UT 66.

If you read this, and think that it is unfair on its face, you wouldn’t be the only one. Here, the recipient spouse had broken up with her boyfriend only months before the paying spouse filed his motion. He was paying her $6000 a month, and presumably had been with this boyfriend for at least a year. Before the Supreme Court got involved, he had actually won and was going to be able to stop paying her.

You may be thinking that this is unfair, and the recipient spouse could easily get around this by just breaking up with their boy/girl friend before the motion. Terminating alimony on the basis of cohabitation has become more difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Here are my recommendations based on this new ruling:

  1. If you think your ex is cohabiting and you’re playing alimony, you should file your motion immediately.
  2. If you’re in the middle of a divorce, you may want to consider structuring alimony so that it terminates automatically on cohabitation.
  3. When you can’t get the above language into the decree, you may want to consider adding some protections, such as yearly verification.
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