Introductory guide to alimony law in Utah

During divorce, there are few issues as contentious as alimony. Indeed, alimony disputes are not only often heated but complex as well - especially given the many factors that courts need to consider when determining whether or not to grant alimony. However, while an award of alimony is generally dependent upon the facts of each situation, it is nevertheless important for those contemplating divorce in Utah to understand the basics of state alimony law.

Determining alimony in Utah

Typically, Utah courts have broad discretion when making alimony determinations so long as they consider certain statutorily created factors, which include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The financial ability of the payor spouse to provide support
  • The financial needs and condition of the recipient spouse
  • The recipient spouse's earning capacity
  • Whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children
  • Whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned by the payor spouse
  • Whether the recipient spouse contributed to the payor spouse's skill, such as paying for his or her education or enabling him or her to attend school during the marriage

However, in addition to these factors, Utah courts must also be mindful of the primary purposes of alimony, which are:

  • To get the spouses as close as possible to the same standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage
  • To equalize the standards of living of each spouse
  • To prevent the recipient spouse from becoming a public charge or dependent upon the government for living expenses

Lastly, courts in Utah may also consider marital fault when determining whether or not to award alimony. Importantly, marital fault not only includes cheating but also causing physical harm to the other spouse or children.

Termination or modification of alimony in Utah

While alimony payments typically terminate when the recipient spouse remarries or chooses to cohabitate with another person, they can also be modified if there is a substantial material change in circumstances not foreseeable at the time of divorce.

For instance, if the spouse responsible for making payments experiences a significant and permanent reduction in his or her income, he or she may attempt to obtain a modification of alimony.

Ultimately, however, each situation is different, which is why it is typically best to consult with an experienced alimony attorney if you are currently considering divorce and believe alimony will be a disputed issue. In fact, even if alimony has already been awarded, an attorney can still help explain if a modification - either up or down - may be possible.

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