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Alimony – The Facts

With rare exception, nobody on either side of a spousal support or alimony issue is ever satisfied.

Those seeking alimony contend there’s never enough. Those paying alimony contend too much is demanded of them. They are both right and they are both wrong. Please read on to learn more about the law governing Utah Alimony and Spousal Support.

Is Spousal Support available?

Yes, Utah provides for the award of alimony (also sometimes referred to as Spousal Support or Spousal Maintenance) in a divorce action.

Who can get it?

Regardless of gender, either party may request and be granted spousal support. Alimony may be ordered on a temporary basis, pending trial, as well as for a longer period after entry of the Decree of Divorce.

How is the amount of Spousal Support determined?

In determining alimony, the courts consider at least the following factors (See Utah Code § 30-3-5(8)):

  • the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse;
  • the recipient’s earning capacity or ability to produce income;
  • the ability of the payor spouse to provide support;
  • the length of the marriage; the longer the marriage, the greater the likelihood of an alimony award;
  • whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support;
  • whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse; and
  • whether the recipient spouse directly contributed to any increase in the payor spouse’s skill by paying for education received by the payor spouse or allowing the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage.

The court may also consider the fault of the parties in determining alimony. To see what kind of fault, see Utah Code § 30-3-5(8)(b) and (c).

As a general rule, the Utah courts look to the standard of living, which exists at the time of separation, in determining alimony; however, the court must consider all relevant facts and equitable principles and may, in its discretion, base alimony on the standard of living that existed at the time of trial. In marriages of short duration, when no children have been conceived or born during the marriage, the court may consider the standard of living that existed at the time of the marriage.

The court may, under appropriate circumstances, attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living, but is not required to do so.

When a marriage of long duration dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both, that change shall be considered in dividing the marital property and in determining the amount of alimony.

If one spouse’s earning capacity has been greatly enhanced through the efforts of both spouses during the marriage, the court may make a compensating adjustment in dividing the marital property and awarding alimony.

In determining alimony when a marriage of short duration dissolves, and no children have been conceived or born during the marriage, the court may consider restoring each party to the condition which existed at the time of the marriage.

The court has continuing jurisdiction to make substantive changes and new orders regarding alimony based on a substantial material change in circumstances not foreseeable at the time of the divorce.

The court may not modify alimony or issue a new order for alimony to address needs of the recipient that did not exist at the time the decree was entered, unless the court finds extenuating circumstances that justify that action.

In determining alimony, the income of any subsequent spouse of the payor may not be considered, except that the court may consider the subsequent spouse’s financial ability to share living expenses, and the court may consider the income of a subsequent spouse if the court finds that the payor’s improper conduct justifies that consideration.

How long are Alimony payments in effect?

Alimony may not be ordered for a duration longer than the number of years that the marriage existed unless, at any time prior to termination of alimony, the court finds extenuating circumstances that justify the payment of alimony for a longer period of time.

Unless a decree of divorce specifically provides otherwise, any order of the court that a party pay alimony to a former spouse automatically terminates upon the remarriage or death of that former spouse. However, if the remarriage is annulled and found to be void ab initio, payment of alimony shall resume if the party paying alimony is made a party to the action of annulment and his rights are determined.

Any order of the court that a party pay alimony to a former spouse terminates upon establishment by the party paying alimony that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person.

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