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Alimony in Utah

Alimony in Utah


The purpose of alimony is to prevent a spouse from becoming destitute after being dependent on the spouse being divorced.  This was more relevant when only one spouse made substantial income that supported the household, but is now less common due to the equaling of income among spouses and the changing roles of partners in a marriage.  Still, there are no statutory guidelines for alimony in Utah and judges, when making a determination related to alimony, will seek to “equalize” the lifestyles of both spouses when determining spousal support orders.



What does it mean to “equalize”?



Utah alimony law aims to equalize the standard of living for the spouses in a divorce.  This is not a mandatory provision and is at the discretion of the court.  If the court deems that, the spousal support is warranted, either due to the request of either party or an evaluation of the circumstances of the divorce litigation.  



The typical formula for the equalization of standard of living, involves averaging the income of the spouses and then adjusting for assets changing hands in the divorce and child support.  This is not a child support order, but rather accounts for any expenses that are accrued for providing daycare, insurance and other services.  If one spouse is entirely dependent on the other spouse, as must as half of that spouse’s income will go to the dependent spouse.



There is no formula to determine alimony in Utah, only the determination of the judge and the notion of equalizing assets.  This differs from child support arrangements, which follow mathematical formulas to ensure that the children receive adequate support.  Alimony in Utah is only granted after a child support order has been formulated and applied, as this is a larger priority.



How long does alimony last?



By definition, alimony lasts until death or remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony.  Most jurisdictions will consider beneficial cohabitation to have the same benefits of marriage and as such, invalidate an alimony agreement.  As the terms of the alimony will be determined by the judge, the intent of the alimony order will dictate its length.  For example, support alimony might be ordered for a short term to compensate the spouse for schooling so that they increase their potential income.  This breaks the dependency they had on the marital union.  This is a short term order that is typically not punitive.  In fault based divorces however, punitive alimony might be imposed, which has the spouse paying alimony indefinitely.  This would be appropriate in cases involving duress, abuse and other egregious violations.



Factors affecting alimony



In addition to averaging the incomes of the spouses to equalize lifestyles, the court will consider factors such as “potential income” if one or both of the spouses have substantial income.  One will not be able to understate their wealth to fulfill a lower alimony allocation.  The child support orders will matter greatly in determining how much will be paid, as a large portion of monthly income will be dedicated to that arrangement.