Alimony terminates upon remarriage unless decree specifically provides otherwise.

June 17, 2021

McQuarrie v. McQuarrie, Utah Supreme Court No. 20190902 (Filed June 17, 2021). Divorce decrees with an alimony provision terminate upon remarriage of the recipient spouse unless the language of the decree is specific, clear and express provision that payments continue after remarriage. The Utah Supreme Court held in this case:

As a general rule, a stipulated divorce decree is interpreted in accordance with the law of contract interpretation— with the goal of discerning the intentions of the parties, as reflected in the ordinary meaning of the terms of the decree as a whole. But that general rule is subject to a specific statutory exception. If a divorce decree calls for payment of alimony, the payment is presumed to terminate upon remarriage of the receiving spouse, and the presumption is rebutted only if the divorce decree “specifically provides otherwise.” UTAH CODE § 30- 3-5(9) (2015).

As the district court and the court of appeals in this case noted, the divorce decree at issue included provisions that, taken as a whole, could be interpreted to suggest that the parties contemplated that alimony would continue upon remarriage. But that is insufficient. Under the above-quoted statute as interpreted in our case law, the presumption that alimony terminates upon remarriage is rebutted only by a “specific[]” alimony provision that expressly “provides otherwise.” There was no such specific, express provision in the decree at issue here. And we reverse the decision of the court of appeals on that basis.

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