Alimony Awarded in Divorce Proceedings
Utah, like many other states, still provides that alimony, or spousal support, may be paid by one spouse to the other in the event of divorce. The concept of alimony stems from the fact that in some situations, one spouse may be economically disadvantaged as a result of the termination of the marriage. Over the years, the factors the court must consider in awarding alimony have changed and expanded to the point where those factors have been codified and are contained in Section 30-3-5(8) of the Utah Code which are:
- The financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse;
- The recipient’s earning capacity or ability to produce income;
- The ability of the payor spouse to provide support;
- The length of the marriage;
- Whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support;
- Whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse;
- Whether the recipient spouse directly contributed to any increase in the payor spouse’s skill by paying for education received by the payor spouse or allowing the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage.
Factors in Awarding Alimony
In divorce litigation, each one of these factors can be, and usually are, hotly contested issues. Other than child custody, there is probably no other issue that is more emotionally charged than is alimony. This is due in part to attitudes, feelings, and emotions by one spouse that he or she should no longer be required to financially provide for and support their former spouse and those of the other spouse who believes and feels that they have a legitimate need and, to a certain degree, an entitlement, to alimony.
Utah Courts’ Approach To Alimony Decisions
The courts have broad latitude and discretion in deciding whether and to what extent alimony may be awarded. In fact, the applicable statutes provide that the courts shall consider all relevant facts and equitable principles and may award alimony based upon the standard of living which exists at the time of trial. In some situations, the court may actually “equalize” the parties’ standard of living by equally dividing the incomes and awarding alimony accordingly.
Fault in Divorce
Under Utah law, in determining whether to award alimony, how much, and the duration of payments, the court can consider the issue of fault in a divorce. Fault refers to any form of wrongful conduct while the individuals were married that caused or contributed substantially to the dissolution of the marriage. Examples of fault include:
- Intentionally causing one’s spouse or a child to have a reasonable fear of being harmed or killed.
- Intentionally causing or trying to cause physical harm to one’s spouse or a child.
- Habitually being intoxicated from alcohol or using illegal drugs.
- Participating in sexual activity with someone other than one’s spouse.
- Engaging in financial fraud or other unlawful activity.
- Significantly upsetting the financial stability of one’s spouse or a minor child.
Equalizing the Parties’ Standards of Living
Depending on the particular circumstances of the case, the court may order alimony with terms that serve to equalize the standard of living of the two parties. For example, perhaps a couple is in the divorce process while one spouse will soon receive a major job promotion due to earning an advanced academic degree that both spouses worked to make possible. Especially if the couple has been married a long time, the judge might decide alimony terms and divide the marital assets in consideration of the pending income increase.
Restoring Both Parties to Their Pre-Marriage Condition
In the case of a brief marriage during which no children have been conceived or born, the court may award alimony with terms that restore both parties to their pre-marriage financial condition.
Tax Considerations In Alimony Decisions
There are tax consequences for both of the spouses in cases where alimony is awarded. Generally, the spouse who receives alimony must report it as taxable income and pay the applicable income tax on the monies he or she receives. The paying spouse actually derives a tax benefit in that he or she may claim the paid alimony as a deduction which reduces their adjusted gross income. This deduction is found on Line 31a of the Form 1040 income tax return.
How Long Do Alimony Payments Continue?
A common question that is usually asked is “how long do I need to pay alimony?” Under Utah law, alimony may not be awarded for a term longer than the duration of the marriage. The court has the discretion to award alimony for a shorter term. In the event the parties work out a settlement of their case through mediation or otherwise, this factor is often a point of negotiation. The court also has the discretion to extend the term of alimony in the event of extenuating circumstances. This may happen in cases where the spouse receiving alimony suffers or becomes inflicted with a disabling illness or disease.
Despite the term or duration of alimony ordered by the court, alimony automatically terminates upon the death or remarriage of the spouse receiving it. In addition, alimony may be terminated if the paying spouse can establish to the court’s satisfaction that the receiving spouse is cohabitating with another person.
The Jurisdiction of Courts In Alimony Cases
As with other issues in a divorce case, the courts retain what is called “continuing jurisdiction” over the case. This means the court can come back at any point after the divorce is granted and modify certain provisions of the Decree of Divorce, including the provisions relating to alimony. Generally, in order for a spouse to seek a modification of the alimony award, they must prove there has been a substantial material change in circumstances that were not foreseeable at the time of the divorce. The “foreseeability” of the changed circumstances has been the subject of much litigation. However, the court retains the authority to reduce or terminate alimony in cases where the recipient spouse experiences a significant increase in his or her income and standard of living which eliminates the need for alimony. Also, if the paying spouse suffers a significant downturn in his or her income due to job loss, illness or retirement, that spouse may petition the court to reduce or terminate his or her alimony obligation.
Alimony Modification Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah
By hiring an expert alimony attorney in Salt Lake you will get the best alimony award that meets your needs as either the father or mother; there are many things that you can do to make certain that award truly reflects what it should be.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alimony
Generally, a Utah alimony calculator starts by looking at the standard of living of both couples at the start and the end of the marriage, and if alimony can help improve a recipient’s standard of living. Alimony payments can be based on factors such as the financial condition of the person requesting alimony, including their ability to earn money in the future, if they worked for or with their spouse or the spouse pays for education. According to Utah alimony definition, the amount of and ages of any children can be a factor in how is alimony determined, along with any child support arrangements.
The purpose of spousal support in Utah is to help equalize finances for one spouse who may have less income or income potential. If you have been married less than 7 years, there is a very low chance you will get alimony. The number of years you get awarded alimony cannot exceed the number of years you were married.
An alimony recipient must report any alimony as income to the IRS, and the person giving this support can deduct these payments from their own taxes.
Traditionally, husbands have brought in money while the wife maintains the household. Today, career roles are more diverse so a wife may have her own career or a larger income and require her to pay alimony. Whether alimony is long term or temporary, courts generally look more at financial status and standard of living rather than gender.
Modifying alimony in Utah is possible if conditions change that weren’t present when the original alimony was granted. If the spousal support recipient remarries or lives with someone else for an extended period of time, this could lead to an alimony attorney in Utah requesting a hearing to cancel it. The death of either spouse halts any alimony arrangement.
The wording in the original prenuptial document is critical, which is why an experienced lawyer should help draft an agreement. Rather than language describing “who gets when someone dies” like a will, a prenuptial agreement can also include specifics like how items will be divided in the event of a divorce, whether anyone can claim alimony and how alimony could be structured. Utah alimony laws allow a judge to authorize additional alimony if there appears to be clear financial inequity.
Temporary alimony is a temporary court order that can go into effect until the divorce is finalized and a long-term order is put in place. A spousal support lawyer can request alimony for their client during the initial period of a divorce. Temporary alimony can allow the recipient to readjusts to life by himself or herself, including finding a new home and a new source of income.
A judge can determine if this support is available until a divorce is granted or longer. Alimony can’t be longer than the actual length of the marriage.
Alimony Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah
Wall & Wall Attorneys at Law, P.C. are family law lawyers with a collective 190 years of experience. We help people throughout the greater Salt Lake area win favorable outcomes in contentious divorces. Ask about our military discounts. We have lawyers who speak English and Spanish and, with advanced notice, we can have an interpreter come in to help with other languages.