How to Terminate Alimony in Utah
There are several ways to terminate alimony early in Utah.
First, Utah law provides that alimony “automatically terminates” when the receiving spouse gets remarried or dies.
Second, alimony terminates “upon establishment” by the party paying alimony that the receiving spouse “is cohabitating with another person.” This means you have to file a formal petition with the Court asking it to make a determination your ex-spouse is cohabitating in order to terminate alimony. This is situation that is easy to allege but challenging to prove in practice. “Cohabitation” means two people living together in a marriage-like relationship without actually being married to each other. Myers v. Myers, 2011 UT 65, 266 P.3d 806. For example, having a shared residence for more than a brief period, sexual intimacy, sharing household expenses and financial accounts, making important decisions together, being free to come and go from their shared residence whenever they please, etc. It must be much more than a mere dating relationship coupled with adult sleepovers. The Utah Supreme Court has also clarified that because the statute says you must prove your ex-spouse “is” cohabitating that means you have to prove current cohabitation; not that your ex cohabitated in the past but stopped doing so before you came to court. Scott v. Scott, 2017 UT 66. For this reason it is important to gather as much evidence supporting a cohabitation claim before going to court and not to give your ex-spouse any reason to think you will be filing a petition to terminate alimony before you actually file it.
Third, you may be able to terminate or reduce alimony if you can show a substantial, material, and unforeseeable change in circumstance has occurred since the original alimony order went into effect. Such changes may include unanticipated changes in employment/income for either spouse, medical issues, moves, retirement, etc. The change must be “substantial” meaning the fact one spouse receives a $2 per hour pay raise probably would not cut it, but if a spouse lost a major business client that cut their income by a 1/3 that would likely constitute a substantial change in circumstance. Another key element you have to establish however is that the change in circumstance was not foreseeable when the original order went into effect. That means if the change in circumstance could reasonably have been anticipated at the time the original order went into effect you cannot modify it. For example, if the receiving spouse is still in college when they are awarded alimony the fact they subsequently graduate would not be considered an unforeseen change in circumstance. MacDonald v. MacDonald, 2017 UT App 136. If you are able to establish a substantial, material, and unforeseen change in circumstance then the Court may allow you to relitigate the issue of whether to award alimony and, if so, how much and for how long.
Fourth, a divorcing couple can agree to terminate alimony early on. This is not common as you might imagine. But sometimes spouses work out deals to trade property in return for an early termination date or reduced monthly payment. Or the paying spouse might offer the receiving spouse a lump-sum payment in return for alimony going away right now. And on some occasions the parties may agree to dispense with alimony if the paying spouse has custody of their children in which case it does not make sense to pay alimony if the receiving spouse has to give it right back in the form of child support.
Do you have questions about terminating alimony? If so give the experienced, aggressive lawyers at Wiser and Wiser a call today at 855-254-2600.