How is Alimony Determined in Utah?

How is Alimony Determined in Utah?

The courts in Utah take the following criteria into account while determining alimony:

  1. Standard of living during the marriage
  2. Financial condition of the alimony recipient
  3. Earning capacity the alimony recipient
  4. Employment details of the alimony recipient
  5. Intangible contribution of the alimony recipient
  6. Financial status of the alimony payer
  7. Duration of the marriage
  8. Impact of child support
  9. Marital wrongdoing

According to Utah Code Section 30-3-5, either spouse may ask the courts to award them alimony. The courts then consider the following criteria:

1. Standard of Living During the Marriage

The courts reconcile both spouses’ standard of living before the separation with their needs and the ability to pay alimony after the divorce.

To understand how it works, let us take an example:

Assume that the wife nets an income of $4000 per month and the husband $9000 per month. Say, maintaining their household and the marital standard of living comes to $8000 per month.

Now to calculate the maximum alimony that the spouse making less money can expect to get, the courts apply the following formula:

Net monthly income of the less-earning spouseMarital standard of living at the time of separation = Upper limit of alimony payable

In this example, $4,000 −  $8,000 = (−) $4,000 (upper limit)

This means that the wife is falling short of $4000 per month, or, in other words, she has a need of $4000 per month to maintain the same standard of living she enjoyed before separation.

The courts then apply the following formula to the spouse who makes more money to calculate his ability to pay alimony:

Net monthly income of the higher-earning spouseMarital standard of living at the time of separation = Ability (or inability) to pay alimony 

In this example, $9,000 −  $8,000 = $1,000

After applying the formulas, the courts know that the upper limit of alimony is $4,000 per month but the husband can afford to pay only $1,000 per month. So, the courts may award $1,000 alimony per month.

Note that this example does not include child support, which is calculated separately.

2. Financial Condition of the Alimony Recipient

Utah’s courts check the current financial condition of the alimony recipient – for example, bank balance, standard of living, debts, the capacity to repay these debts, and more. Then the courts reconcile the standard of living of the spouses enjoyed in the pre-separation period with the post-divorce financial condition while calculating the alimony.

In most cases, both spouses may not be able to have the same standard of living they enjoyed before separation, because post-divorce, there will be two homes to run instead of one on the same pre-divorce income.

Tip: Before separation, make it a point to prepare your family’s monthly budget and benchmark it with the actual income and expenses. Next, prepare your post-divorce monthly budget, and submit both the budget spreadsheets to your divorce attorney. Preparing budgets in advance will make it easier and quicker for the courts to understand your pre- and post-divorce standard of living. Gather documents to support your budgets just in case they are contested.

3. Earning Capacity of the Alimony Recipient

The courts check the alimony recipient’s educational qualifications, professional skills, work experience, and his/her capacity to earn income. They dig deeper into his/her past employment records, ability to generate income, and income from various other sources such as property rentals, dividends, interest, or any other passive income source. If the alimony recipient was at home full-time raising the children, then the courts can also account for any skills that may have been downgraded because of his/her household obligations.

4. Employment Details of the Alimony Recipient

Sometimes the alimony recipient spouse may not have the required skills for employment, but he/she may be employed in a business owned or operated by the other spouse, the alimony payer. After divorce, the alimony recipient spouse may not want to continue working with the other spouse, and so may suffer a loss of income as chances of getting a job without requisite professional skills are low. So, the courts also take into account such details before determining the alimony to be paid.

5. Intangible Contribution of the Alimony Recipient

The courts check how much the alimony recipient spouse contributed intangibly towards the marriage – for example, whether the alimony recipient sacrificed his/her career to raise the children, or contributed in any way that helped the alimony-paying spouse enhance his/her skills and move up the corporate/business ladder. Higher alimony may be awarded if the alimony recipient made a significant intangible contribution to the marriage.

6. Financial Status of the Alimony Payer

The financial status of the paying spouse and his/her ability to pay alimony is checked as well. His/her income from all sources, active as well as passive, debts and obligations owed, etc., are all checked by the Utah courts.

If the courts discover that the alimony-paying spouse obtained loans just so that the alimony payout can be lowered, then the courts may disregard such debts while calculating alimony.

7. Duration of the Marriage

Alimony is also directly linked to the duration of a marriage. If the alimony recipient spouse has been in a long marriage, then he/she has a strong case, and he/she may be awarded higher alimony. The thumb rule is that marriages over six years are considered long-duration marriages.

That said, the length of the marriage is not the only factor considered while awarding alimony – other factors affecting the alimony calculation (mentioned in this post) are equally important.

8. Impact of Child Support

Child support has some impact on alimony calculation. If the alimony recipient is the custodial parent, then he/she stands to get alimony as well as child support. However, the courts will take into account the child support paid by the alimony-paying spouse and its impact on his/her finances before calculating the alimony to be awarded.

9. Marital Wrongdoing

If one of the spouses had an affair, abused (emotionally, physically, or sexually) or threatened the life of the other spouse or child, or destabilized the finances of the other spouse or child, then the courts are likely to take a negative view.

If the spouse who has committed the marital wrongdoing is the alimony payer, the courts may penalize him/her by awarding higher alimony to the other spouse. If he/she is the alimony receiver, the courts may award lower alimony.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
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Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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