Alimony in Utah - FAQs

Answers to common questions about Alimony in Utah.

What is alimony?

Alimony (also called “spousal support” or “maintenance”) is money paid by one spouse for the support of the other spouse after the couple has divorced, and, in some cases, during a divorce proceeding. The purpose of alimony is to assist the spouse who earns less money and to try to make both spouses’ standard of living reasonably close to what they enjoyed during marriage. Alimony may be requested by a husband or wife; gender doesn’t play a role in alimony decisions.

Whether a spouse will pay alimony, the amount, and the duration of the payments may be decided by the divorcing couple without court involvement, if they can both agree. If, on the other hand, the spouses can’t agree, then a judge will decide whether to award alimony, what the amount should be, and how long alimony will last.

In Utah, alimony is separate issue from child support and marital property distribution. However, the court can consider child support payments and division of marital property when determining whether to award alimony and the amount of alimony.

How do courts decide whether to award alimony and set an amount?

In Utah, the first step for a court deciding whether to award alimony is to determine the couple’s standard of living during their marriage; the court should consider all relevant facts and sources of income. After determining the standard of living, the court  must  consider the following factors:

  • the financial condition and needs of the spouse seeking alimony (or the “requesting spouse”)
  • the requesting spouse’s education level and “earning capacity” (how much that spouse could earn based on education, skills, job history, and current employment opportunities)
  • the other spouse’s ability to pay alimony
  • the length of the marriage
  • who has custody of the couple’s children and whether the children need support
  • whether the requesting spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the other, and
  • whether the requesting spouse contributed to any increase in the other spouse’s income potential by, for example, paying for the other spouse’s education or supporting the family while the other spouse attended school during the marriage.

The court may also consider the following factors:

  • either spouse’s fault or any marital misconduct, which led to the divorce
  • the ages, and the physical and emotional health of both spouses
  • how long the spouse seeking support was out of the workforce to care for children, and
  • any other factors the court believes are relevant.

When determining the amount of alimony to award, the court will look at all sources of income for both parties, including things like overtime, self-employment, and income from a second job. The court will also consider the current earning capacity of both spouses.

Can I receive alimony before a final settlement or court decision in my case?

Generally, an alimony order is not made until a divorce is final. However, in Utah, a court may award “temporary alimony.” Temporary alimony is meant to help the requesting spouse cover expenses during the time between separation and the issuance of a final divorce decree (judgement) and alimony order.

Can the amount of alimony be modified later?

After the original alimony order is issued, either party can request a modification (change) to alimony, including that it be increased, decreased, or stopped by filing a petition (legal paperwork) for modification.

There are two steps to the modification process. First, the spouse seeking the modification must prove to the court that there has been a “material change of circumstances” – like the loss of a job or serious illness. Second, once the spouse seeking the change of alimony proves there has been a material change of circumstances, the court will reconsider the same factors as it originally did in order to determine if the alimony amount should be changed in any way.

How long does alimony last?

In Utah, the longest an alimony order can last is for the number of years that the marriage existed. Therefore, if a couple divorced after 20 years of marriage, one spouse could possibly be ordered to pay alimony to the other spouse for up to 20 years or any shorter period of time. However, a court may order alimony for longer than the length of the marriage if the court determines that there are “extenuating circumstances.”

An alimony order automatically stops when either spouse dies or the spouse receiving alimony remarries. Alimony payments will also be stopped if the paying spouse can prove to the court that the receiving spouse has moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend and benefits financially from the new living arrangements.

Is alimony tax deductible?

Utah follows the IRS structure for taxing alimony. The spouse paying alimony can deduct the amount paid per year. The spouse receiving alimony must declare the amount received as income.

Resources

For the text of the statute governing alimony, see Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-5(8)

For the statute governing modifications, see Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-5(8)(g)

Click here for  the Utah State Courts’ website, which provides useful information regarding the divorce process and alimony in Utah.