Alimony (Spousal Support) FAQ


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Utah Courts Guide on Alimony

Utah Code on Alimony- Specifically Section 8

More Info on Alimony


-What is alimony?

  • Alimony is money paid from one spouse to the other in the event of a divorce.


-What is the difference between “spousal support”, “spousal maintenance” and “alimony”?

  • They all mean the same thing. In Utah, for the most part, alimony is the legal and correct term.


-How do the courts decide everything with alimony?

  • There are many factors that go into the decision to make sure that the awarded alimony is fair. The courts look into the standard of living the couple had during the time of their marriage. While looking at the standard of living the courts will look all relevant facts and sources of income for both parties. After determining the standard of living the courts must look into the following factors to finish deciding on alimony awarded:
  1. The financial situation and needs of the spouse requesting alimony.
  2. The requesting spouses’ level of education and earning capabilities- current employment opportunities, skills, job history, and how much they have the potential to earn based on education level.
  3. The length of the marriage.
  4. Who has custody of the children and if there is going to be a support order.
  5. Can the other spouse have the ability to pay alimony?
  6. Did the requesting spouse work in a business owned and/or operated by the other spouse?
  7. Did the requesting spouse help increase the other spouse’s income during the marriage by paying to further their education or supporting their family while the other spouse went to school.
  8. What led to the divorce; was there any marital misconduct?
  9. The ages, physical health, and mental/emotional health of both spouses.
  10. If the requesting spouse was a stay at home parent to care for the children and if yes, how long?
  11. Any other factors that the courts feel relevant to the case.

When considering the amount to be awarded the courts will look through ALL sources of income for both of the spouses. They look at things like second jobs, self-employment, overtime, and the earning capabilities of both spouses.


-How long do I have to pay alimony?

  • With Utah law a person can generally not receive payments for longer than the marriage lasted, unless there are extenuating circumstances or the spouses agree otherwise. For example, if the couple was married for eight years they shouldn’t expect payments for longer than eight years.


-Why do I have to pay alimony?

  • Alimony is intended to assist the other spouse in having an income as close as possible to the other spouse so that they may have the same style of living they had during the marriage.


-As the wife I’ve always made more money than my husband … but I’ve always heard of the husband having to pay the wife alimony … Do wives end up having to pay alimony too?

  • Alimony is gender neutral. It could be paid by either husband or wife. It all depends on the factors at hand.


-I already know I’ll have to pay child support. Does that mean that I won’t have to pay alimony?

  • Alimony and child support are two separate issues. But the judge can consider the amount of child support you pay, along with the marital property distribution, when determining whether or not alimony will be awarded and the amount to be paid.


-My wife and I already agree on an amount and the length of time for alimony; will the courts honor this agreement?

  • Generally, yes. If both parties completely agree the judge will usually go along with them. If the parties can not agree the judge will then determine the amount, the length of time, and any stipulations for the alimony.


-Will alimony affect my taxes?

  • For the most part, alimony payment is a tax-deduction for the payor and a taxable income for the receiver. Make sure your lawyer specifies in the divorce decree whether the payment is exchanging hands as to property and assets division versus alimony.


-Can I start receiving alimony before everything is finished is court?

  • Most of the time alimony isn’t granted until the divorce is final. However, in Utah, the courts may be willing to grant something called “temporary alimony” if the other spouse needs help during the separation until the divorce proceedings are final.


-Can my alimony payments end early?

  • Alimony payments may end early if either spouse dies, the receiving spouse remarries, or if the paying spouse can prove that the receiving spouse has moved in with a girlfriend/boyfriend and is benefitting financially from the new living arrangement. Retirement may also be a cause for early termination of payments.


-Can alimony payments be modified?

  • Either party can petition the courts if they feel there is a good reason to modify the alimony order. Bur remember what the purpose of alimony is …. The courts aren’t going to look positively on a payor that quits their job so they can pay less or on a former spouse that thinks they should get more just because their ex-spouse is now making more money. The reason for alimony is help keep people as close as possible to the lifestyle they enjoyed before the marriage ended and to help them not need to turn to government assistance. If you really do feel there should be a modification to the order there are two steps you must follow. FIRST- the person seeking the change must be able to prove to the courts that there is a material change in circumstances. For example, loss of a job or a serious illness. SECOND- if the person proves the changes, the courts will then go through all the same factors as before to decide if there really is a need for change.


-We were only married for a few years …. Can the judge still award alimony?

  • The judge is more likely to award alimony in a long-term marriage, but sometimes there are situations where the judge with give alimony in a short-term marriage as well. For example, one of the spouses was a stay at home parent and has no source of income at the time of the divorce.


-My Ex promised if we got divorced that I’d receive alimony …. Will the courts honor this promise?

  • If the spouses have am pre-nuptial/post-nuptial agreement or an agreement by stipulation the courts will enforce this agreement.


-How do the alimony payments work?

  • Alimony payments are usually a monthly payment paid around the first of the month. But if there are better arrangements for the couple the courts and the parties can work together to arrange a different situation. Some of the types of arrangements that are generally made are:
  1. Periodic Payments: Payments made at specified times in specified amounts.
  2. Lump-Sum Payments: A one-time payment of alimony given when the divorce decree is final. This is usually a large amount of money. Lump-sum alimony payments can create issues with debt and asset division and can greatly affect taxes. It is usually best to talk to an accountant or tax consultant before agreeing to this kind of arrangement.
  3. Rehabilitative Payments: These payments are intended to be very temporary and will end on a specific date or by the occurrence of specific event; such as finishing school, obtaining a job, or the children reaching full time school age.