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.
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 court may also consider the following factors:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.