Do you really mean “What are legally and equitably valid ways one can prevent having to pay spousal support in case of a divorce, if all indications are that I will likely be ordered to pay alimony?” If so, my answer is:
No, not really.
Every state’s alimony laws feature some unique policies and procedures, but generally speaking: 1) if your spouse is unable to support himself or herself financially month to month and thus has a need for financial support; and 2) if you are able to support yourself financially month to month and still have some surplus money each month, the court will likely award your spouse alimony and order you to pay it.
And courts take a very dim view of voluntarily impoverishing oneself (or falsely appearing impoverished) in an effort to avoid being ordered to pay alimony.
If there’s a need and you have the ability to pay some or all of it, you’re likely going to be ordered to pay some alimony. Trying to avoid alimony will also likely cost you more than any benefits the effort might yield.
Here is the applicable section of the Utah Code that governs alimony:
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, including the impact of diminished workplace experience resulting from primarily caring for a child of the payor spouse;
(iii) the ability of the payor spouse to provide support;
(iv) the length of the marriage;
(v) whether the recipient spouse has custody of a minor child 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 of the alimony.
(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 a minor child;
(iii) knowingly and intentionally causing the other party or a minor child to reasonably fear life-threatening harm; or
(iv) substantially undermining the financial stability of the other party or the minor child.
(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 the court’s discretion, base alimony on the standard of living that existed at the time of trial. In marriages of short duration, when no child has 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 child has 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) 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 before 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)(a) Subject to Subsection (10)(b), an 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, after the order for alimony is issued, cohabits with another person, even if the former spouse is not cohabiting with another person when the party paying alimony files the motion to terminate alimony.
(b) A party paying alimony to a former spouse may not seek termination of alimony under Subsection (10)(a), later than one year from the day on which the party knew or should have known that the former spouse has cohabited with another person.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277