“Shacking Up” in Utah
Are you in a committed relationship, want to share your life and living space with your significant other, but just not ready to jump into marriage? You are not alone. According to the 2005 Census, nearly 5 million American couples are cohabitating. This is a dramatic reversal from fifty years ago, when every state criminalized cohabitation. Now, only a few states have anti-cohabitation laws on the books (which are rarely enforced).
Although cohabitation is not specifically prohibited in Utah, the law does little to encourage this practice. There are several issues potential and current cohabitants should consider before shacking up.
1. Orders of Alimony from a Previous Marriage:
Under Utah law, any order requiring payment of alimony terminates upon establishment by the paying party that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person. Simply put, if you’re receiving alimony from your ex-spouse and you decide to cohabitate, make sure you have a good enough job to make up for the loss of income from alimony
2. “Morality Clauses”:
If you are divorced with children from the previous marriage, you may have a provision in your Divorce Decree which prohibits you from cohabitating or having “overnight guests” of the opposite sex while you are exercising parent-time. These provisions are fairly common, and while they may seem silly or oppressive to you, you could end up in hot water (read: contempt of court) for violating this provision of your Decree. Even if your former spouse tells you they are OK with your new living situation, it’s not OK until it is in writing. Consult an experienced domestic relations attorney before you sign a lease.
3. No Domestic Partnerships:
Utah law does not recognize domestic partnerships for either same or opposite sex couples. Therefore, couples choosing to cohabitate in Utah may want to consult an attorney regarding various issues including emergency healthcare decisions, insurance, et cetera.
4. The Feeling is Gone:
Particularly in the case of long-term cohabitation, joint financial and property issues arise when the relationship ends, just as they would in a divorce. However, these matters are not addressed by domestic relations or divorce laws; rather, they are often addressed under contract or other areas of law. Breaking up with your domestic partner can sometimes be as complex as divorcing a spouse.
As always, it is a good idea to consult an experienced attorney to discuss the potential legal ramifications of entering into a living arrangement with your romantic partner.