“Alimony” or spousal support is money paid by a higher-earning spouse to another spouse with little or no income. Eligibility for spousal support is determined by numerous factors, including the length of the marriage and the earning potential of each spouse.

However, under Utah law, an order to pay alimony to a former spouse terminates if the party paying alimony establishes that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person. The concept of cohabiting with another person may seem simple, but in some cases the situation under the law may be less clear. The Utah Supreme Court case of Myers v. Myers provides an example.

A relationship at her parents’ home

The couple in this case were divorced after 18 years of marriage. The divorce decree required the ex-husband to pay $1,200 in monthly alimony to his ex-wife. During the year following the divorce, the ex-wife never had a permanent home.

During one spring and summer, the ex-wife resided at least some of the time at her parents’ home in Provo. When she stayed there, the ex-wife slept on a couch in the basement. The three bedrooms in the home were occupied by the ex-wife’s parents and by their foster children. The ex-wife soon developed a relationship of some sort with one of the foster sons-a relationship that the ex-husband alleged (and the ex-wife denied) to be sexual.

The ex-husband filed a petition to modify the divorce decree, seeking to terminate his alimony obligation on the basis of ex-wife’s alleged cohabitation with the foster son. The district court concluded that the ex-wife had cohabited with the foster son and terminated the ex-wife’s right to alimony. The ex-wife appealed.

Did the relationship amount to cohabitation?

The Supreme Court held, in reviewing the case, that in terms of the law, cohabitation required more than a sexual relationship between two individuals living under the same roof. Instead, the law contemplated a relationship akin to a marriage.

The ex-wife’s relationship with the foster son fell well short of that mark. Even if the two might have had a sexual relationship and might have slept in the same house for a time, their relationship lacked any other marker of marriage-like cohabitation. The ex-wife and the foster son lived as separate guests with distinct roles in the home of the ex-wife’s parents-the ex-wife as an adult child sleeping on her parents’ couch and the male as their foster son living in a bedroom with others.

This relationship, even if it was as alleged, did not rise to the level of marriage-like cohabitation, and, thus, the ex-husband’s alimony duty was not eliminated by it.

Spousal support may be contentious even after the divorce

With the stakes and high emotions involved, a divorce proceeding can be extremely contentious. Such contention can continue after the proceeding, particularly in relation to spousal support, and especially if the supported spouse allegedly cohabits with another person.

If you need spousal support as part of your divorce settlement or find yourself in a situation where your ex-spouse alleges you should no longer receive such support, you should seek an attorney experienced in family law who will work diligently on your behalf to get you the support you need.

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