Is Alimony Required in Utah?

Is Alimony Required in Utah?

Well, the answer could be yes, or no, depending on a variety of factors. There are many layers to the answer, and so, here is a detailed explanation:

In terms of Utah’s Code Section 30-3-5, either spouse may ask the courts to award alimony. The courts take many factors into account before awarding, turning down, terminating, or modifying alimony:

(Note: The word “recipient spouse” used in this post refers to the spouse who receives the alimony. The spouse who pays alimony is the “paying spouse.”)

Factors Considered by Courts in Utah Before Awarding Alimony

  • The earning capacity of the recipient spouse, which includes past employment, current ability to work and earn, and current income, passive or active, from all sources. The courts also take into account if the recipient spouse’s earning capacity has reduced because he/she has been taking care of the child.
  • The economic condition and the living standards of the recipient spouse. The courts take into account monthly debt repayments and other liabilities along with the recipient spouse’s ability to repay debts.
  • The ability of the paying spouse to pay alimony. The courts consider all his/her income from all sources and debt and other obligations. As a general rule, Utah’s courts do not allow debts to supersede alimony that they consider rightful.
  • The length of the marriage. The strength of an alimony case is directly linked to the length of a marriage. A longer marriage implies a stronger case for alimony. Usually, a marriage is regarded as a short-term marriage if it lasts no more than 3–4 years.
  • If the recipient spouse has the custody of minor children, the courts include the support that he/she needs to raise the children, which may affect the amount of alimony paid.
  • If the recipient spouse worked in a business owned by the paying spouse, then the courts account how exiting that business will impact the recipient spouse’s earning capacity.
  • Whether the recipient spouse helped the paying spouse to enhance his/her income-earning skills – either by paying for skill enhancement, taking care of the home/child when the paying spouse was upgrading his skills, or by any other way.
  • Whether any of the spouses are at “fault,” and whether this “fault” was instrumental in the breaking up of the marriage. According to the law, a spouse is at fault if he/she has:
    • Engaged in sexual relations with a person other than his/her spouse.
    • Intentionally caused or attempted to cause harm to the other spouse or minor children.
    • Intentionally made the other spouse or minor children fear for their lives.
    • Substantially weakened the financial ability of the other spouse or minor children.
  • The standard of living of each spouse at the time of separation. If the marriage is for a short duration, the courts may consider each spouse’s standard of living when the marriage began. Even though this is last on this list, it is likely the most important factor court’s use to determine alimony.

When is Alimony Not Required to be Paid or is Terminated By the Courts in Utah?

  • When the recipient spouse remarries or passes away.
  • When the income of both the spouses is equal or substantially equal after the divorce.
  • When the recipient spouse starts cohabiting (living together without getting married) with another person. The paying spouse has to first prove to the courts that the recipient spouse is cohabiting with another person and then request the courts to pass an order terminating the alimony.
  • In Utah, the paying spouse may be ordered to pay alimony for a period that equals the length of the marriage. So, naturally, alimony gets terminated when the paying spouse fulfills his/her obligation. In some cases, when the courts find extraordinary circumstances, they can order the payment of alimony for a longer period than the length of the marriage. For example, when the recipient spouse became disabled during the marriage.
  • In some short-term marriages, the courts may order that no alimony be paid.
  • Theoretically, the courts can entirely deny alimony if a spouse is found to be at fault for the divorce. That said, there is no case we’re aware of in which this has happened. 

When is Alimony Modified in Utah?

The courts have continuing jurisdiction to alter or make new orders related to alimony when there is a substantial change in circumstances that are not stated in the divorce decree. For example, if the paying spouse meets with an accident or retires, he/she can file a petition to modify the alimony amount based on his/her condition. However, if the decree says that retirement is not a material event from the alimony point of view, then the paying spouse who retires cannot claim any modification. Many experienced divorce lawyers include the possibility of retirement in divorce decrees.

How is Alimony Enforced in Utah?

If the paying spouse defaults in paying alimony, the recipient spouse may file a motion asking the court to enforce the alimony payment. The defaulting spouse can also be found in contempt of court, penalties for which include jail time and fines.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
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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