Friday, February 15, 2013

Ongoing Cohabitation Not a Requirement to Prove Common Law Marriage

Richards v. Brown, 2012 UT 14, March 13, 2012

Richards and Brown were never married.  Richards attempted to prove the existence of a common law marriage.  The trial court found that Richards had failed to prove the existence of an unsolemnized marriage within the 1-year statute of repose because Richards failed to file the action within one year of his cohabitation with Brown.  Richards appealed.  See Richards v. Brown, 2009 App. UT 315.  The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found that Richards was not necessarily time barred and that while the cohabitation may have ended more than a year before filing, the Court failed to make sufficient findings that the underlying relationship ended more than one year prior to the filing of the action.  Brown Appealed.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and sent the case back to trial court to determine when a triggering event occurred. The statue of repose begins to run only when one of the parties: stops assuming marital rights, duties, and obligations; stops holding himself or herself out as the spouse of the other party; or loses legal capacity.  Termination of cohabitation does not necessarily trigger the statute of repose.

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