Friday, March 4, 2011

Student Support Contracts are Enforceable So long as they Satisfy the Normal Conditions Imposed on Post Nuptial Contracts

Ashby v. Ashby, 2010 UT 7, (Utah Supreme Court, February 9, 2010).

Husband attended undergraduate studies in Utah while Wife worked.  They agreed that he would continue graduate studies in St. Louis and Wife would work while he studied in an effort to achieve a future higher standard of living.  At divorce, wife brought claims of unjust enrichment and breach of student support contract.  The trial court dismissed these claims and wife brought a separate civil claim, which the trial court also dismissed.  Wife appealed.  The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s dismissals and Husband Petitioned and The Utah Supreme Court granted Certiorari.

The Court found that the unjust enrichment claim failed under Martinez.  Finding that any unjust enrichment issue should addressed with alimony.  However, the Court found that the Student Support Contract claim does survive, but that she must bring the claim in the divorce action.  The Court additionally finds that Alimony is not the exclusive remedy to breach of a student support contract, and that Alimony is insufficient in some cases to award the appropriate remedy, such as expectation damages.  As such, the Court affirms the appellate court’s reversal of the dismissal in the civil action.  The Court further instructs the trial court that prior to addressing alimony, it must asses whether there is a postnuptial contract.  If so, it should grant the appropriate remedy prior to making an alimony award or dividing property.

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