ASHBY V. ASHBY: UTAH’S CASE FOR STUDENT SUPPORT CONTRACTS DURING DIVORCE

Abstract

On October 11, 2005, Gloria Ashby filed for divorce from her husband of eight years, Dallen Ashby. In addition to a cause of action for divorce, her complaint included a breach of contract claim based on the couple's alleged support agreement as well as a claim for unjust enrichment based on the financial support she provided for the couple's day-to-day living expenses while Dallen was in medical school. The case was bifurcated in the district court with removal of the divorce claim from those for breach of contract and unjust enrichment; both of which Dallen moved to dismiss. In response to Dallen's motion, Judge Howard of the Fourth Judicial District Court dismissed Gloria's contract and unjust enrichment claims for improper joinder, prompting Gloria to re-file the claims in a separate action once more. Again, Dallen moved to dismiss. The court ruled that Gloria's contract claim violated the statute of frauds, and her unjust enrichment claim was barred by the Utah Supreme Court's holding in Martinez v. Martinez; thus, Gloria appealed. The Utah Court of Appeals reversed the district court's dismissals noting that the procedural posture of the case prohibited dismissal based on the statute of frauds. The court reasoned that further discovery was necessary to adequately determine whether the alleged contract violated the statute of frauds and that dismissal on that ground was improper. In addition, the Court of Appeals distinguished Gloria's claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment from the claims previously barred by Martinez, stating that "Martinez only bars self-standing equitable allocations and not claims based on express contract or unjust enrichment." Dallen petitioned for, and was granted certiorari by the Utah Supreme Court which reviewed the issue as to whether married spouses may make a contract for student support as well as whether one spouse may claim unjust enrichment pursuant to a breach of contract all during the course of a divorce proceeding. This is a case of first impression in Utah. To fully understand the case and its impact, this Note first discusses the preceding case law, most specifically the Martinez case-Utah's seminal case related to professional degrees not being held as property and concerns raised through Justice Durham's dissent. It then reviews the courts analysis and determination of the effect the Martinez case had on Gloria's claim for unjust enrichment. Next, this Note discusses the possibilities of spouses entering into a contractual relationship and claims for breach made during the course of divorce. Finally, it concludes by identifying how the court's decision will affect Utah's future divorce cases.
How to Cite
. ASHBY V. ASHBY: UTAH’S CASE FOR STUDENT SUPPORT CONTRACTS DURING DIVORCE. Journal of Law and Family Studies, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 2, aug. 2010. Available at: <http://epubs.utah.edu/index.php/jlfs/article/view/369>. Date accessed: 23 nov. 2017.
Section
Case Note