What You Need to Know About Utah Cohabitation Laws

There are many reasons why a Utah couple would choose to cohabit rather than get married. Perhaps they want to see how comfortable they are living together before they exchange vows. Some may have religious convictions that impact the decision. Other people simply feel that marriage is an unnecessary formality.

In the 2011 case Meyers vs. Meyers, the Utah Supreme Court stated that for a couple to be cohabiting, they must share a residence and their relationship must have the ‘hallmarks’ of a marriage. Potential examples of such hallmarks could include:

  • Living as spouses
  • Sexual intimacy
  • Joint financial responsibilities
  • Maintaining jointly owned assets
  • Making decisions as a couple
  • Both parties have open access to the same residence

Simply having a sexual relationship with another person and staying at their home occasionally is not the same thing as cohabitation.

When Cohabiting Couples Separate

Utah does not recognize common law marriage as such, but a cohabiting couple that has decided to split up may petition the court to have their relationship recognized as a marriage so that they may be able to divorce and divide marital property, establish child custody and parenting time, and settle other family law matters.

The court will generally approve such petitions if the following conditions have been met:

  • Both parties are of legal age and capable of consenting
  • They are legally in a position to marry, with no impediments such as a close family relationship or one party still being legally married to someone else
  • The couple has lived together, treated each other as spouses, and presented themselves to the public as married

The petition to recognize the relationship as a marriage may be filed at the same time as a divorce petition.

Cohabitation and Alimony from a Previous Marriage

Utah law (UC Section 30-3-5(10)) requires the termination of court-ordered alimony payments once it is established that the recipient has remarried or is cohabiting with another person. The ex-spouse making the payments must go to the court clerk and file a motion to terminate alimony. If cohabitation is the issue, they should also assemble as much evidence as possible that their former spouse is cohabiting with another person. If they prove their case, the judge can end the alimony payment retroactive to the date the motion was filed.

If you are planning to end a cohabitation relationship or need assistance in terminating alimony payments to a former spouse who is now with someone else, call the Law Office of Arnold, Wadsworth & Coggins today. We will review your situation and advise you on the best way to proceed.