You were married for quite a while before getting divorced in Utah. In the divorce, you negotiated alimony so you would get paid every month for twenty years.
Then, ten years after later, your ex decides to retire. He then, without saying anything, stops paying alimony. You’re shocked. You call and ask, “What’s going on?”
He says, “I retired so I don’t have to pay you alimony anymore.”
You protest (as you should), but he refuses to pay another penny.
Unfortunately, this is the situation many women receiving alimony find themselves in nearing retirement.
How Alimony Usually Works
If there’s alimony awarded in a divorce, it usually lasts for a specific period of years or months.
An alimony award may read something like this: “Karen is awarded alimony in the amount of $500 per month, to be paid for a period of 100 months.”
(Note: there are other ways to pay alimony (e.g., lump sum), but monthly payments is by far the most common way.)
Since most people receiving alimony aren’t near retirement, they don’t need to worry about retirement messing up alimony payments. Much more often, remarriage or cohabitation ends alimony.
How Courts Look at Alimony and Retirement
If you are receiving alimony and your ex retires and stops paying, the court will look at your situation and ask a few questions to help determine what to do.
- Does the spouse receiving alimony still need alimony?
Alimony is based, primarily, on whether there is a need for alimony. If there is no need, then a court’s very unlikely to award alimony at all.
Normally, you only ask if a spouse needs alimony once (during divorce litigation), but when one person stops paying alimony at divorce, the court will see if the person receiving alimony still needs it.
If the person doesn’t need it anymore, because income has gone way up over the years, then the court is more likely to discontinue alimony when the person paying retires.
- Can the spouse paying alimony afford to pay it?
If there is still need for alimony, then the court will turn to whether the person paying can still afford to pay.
This means the person paying will need to prove income has decreased so much and living expenses have increased so much that there’s no money left over at the end of the month.
If there’s no money anymore to pay alimony, there’s a good chance alimony will end. If there’s still sufficient money to pay alimony, then there’s no reason to terminate alimony, despite retirement.
- Was Retirement Normal and Necessary?
There’s retirement, and then there’s retirement.
What I mean is some people retire after twenty years on a job, and then go back to work. When they do this, the “retiree” almost always makes more than before retirement (they have retirement coming in plus income from a new job).
On the other hand, some people retire at a normal and natural age for retirement, then they live off their pension or retirement income.
Courts will look at which group the person paying alimony belongs to.
If the person paying is part of the first group, then it’s pretty unlikely alimony would be terminated. This makes sense since there’s almost certainly money to continue paying alimony.
If the person belongs to the second group, there’s a much higher likelihood there won’t be money to pay alimony anymore, which means it’s more likely alimony would terminate at retirement.
Lastly, if the person paying alimony simply makes the choice to stop working and calls that retirement, then there’s no reason to terminate alimony. You can choose not to work, but that doesn’t mean you can choose to screw your ex out of alimony.
However, if a person must retire because of documented medical or psychological causes, then termination of retirement might be appropriate.
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