How Much Alimony?
Question: How much alimony will be awarded if the one seeking alimony was married for 17 years, is unemployed, has a health issue, the other spouse’s income is $150,000 a year, he left her, and she’s 58 years old?
The answer is: it’s not exactly knowable in Utah.
Unlike statutory guidelines that base child support upon an algebraic equation involving the parents’ respective gross incomes, number of children, and how many overnights each child spends with each parent, alimony is far more subject to the discretion and judgment of the judge assigned to your case.
Click here for the code section that governs the calculation of child support obligations.
And here, for example, is the worksheet showing the statutory formula followed to calculate child support:
Click here for the code section that covers how long child support lasts generally.
Here, by contrast, is the code section that determine the duration of child support generally:
But here is the sum total of the statutory elements for determining alimony (as you will see as you read it, there is no precise formula or even one single kind of formula for determining the amount or duration of alimony) – Utah Code § 30-3-5(8 – 10):
8) (a) The court shall consider at least the following factors in determining alimony:
(i) the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse;
(ii) the recipient’s earning capacity or ability to produce income;
(iii) the ability of the payor spouse to provide support;
(iv) the length of the marriage;
(v) whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support;
(vi) whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse; and
(vii) 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 enabling the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage.
(b) The court may consider the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and the terms thereof.
(c) “Fault” means any of the following wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship:
(i) engaging in sexual relations with a person other than the party’s spouse;
(ii) knowingly and intentionally causing or attempting to cause physical harm to the other party or minor children;
(iii) knowingly and intentionally causing the other party or minor children to reasonably fear life-threatening harm; or
(iv) substantially undermining the financial stability of the other party or the minor children.
(d) The court may, when fault is at issue, close the proceedings and seal the court records.
(e) As a general rule, the court should look to the standard of living, existing at the time of separation, in determining alimony in accordance with Subsection (8)(a). However, the court shall 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.
(f) The court may, under appropriate circumstances, attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.
(g) 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.
(h) 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.
(i) (i) 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.
(ii) 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.
(iii) In determining alimony, the income of any subsequent spouse of the payor may not be considered, except as provided in this Subsection (8).
(A) The court may consider the subsequent spouse’s financial ability to share living expenses.
(B) The court may consider the income of a subsequent spouse if the court finds that the payor’s improper conduct justifies that consideration.
(j) 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.
(9) 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 the payor party’s rights are determined.
(10) 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.
Otherwise stated, there are essentially 5 kinds of alimony:
Temporary Alimony. This is an ongoing payment that is made when a couple is separated or in divorce proceedings, but not yet divorced. It can also include payment for divorce costs, daily expenses, and continues until the court determines permanent alimony.
Permanent Alimony. This is what most people typically think of when they refer to alimony. It is the amount awarded after the conclusion of divorce proceedings, paid on a regular, recurring basis. Permanent alimony is usually due indefinitely, but is subject to change under certain circumstances such as remarriage or cohabitation. Utah does not permit permanent, lifetime alimony except under extraordinary circumstances.
Rehabilitative Alimony. In situations in which one ex-spouse is not self-sufficient, the judge may order payment of rehabilitative alimony to provide financial support while job-searching or receiving instruction to expanding employment skills. This is usually ordered for a fixed period of time.
Reimbursement Alimony. This type of alimony was intended to balance the scales on any support provided for higher education or work training by one ex-spouse. It requires a regular payment to reimburse the sponsoring ex-spouse the tuition costs paid, or a portion of those costs.
Lump-sum Alimony or alimony in gross. If one ex-spouse does not want any property or items of value from the marriage, the judge may order a one-time lump-sum payment in lieu of the property.