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Alimony


Talk to an attorney

You are not required to hire an attorney, but claiming alimony can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. You might also hire an attorney for just part of your case or to do one particular thing, rather than represent you for the whole case. For more information, see our webpage on Finding Legal Help.


Introduction

Alimony, sometimes referred to as spousal support, is the court-ordered allowance that one party pays to the other party for support while they are separated, in the process of getting divorced, or after they are divorced.


Who can get alimony?

Either the husband or the wife may ask the court for alimony. Alimony may be awarded temporarily while the case is pending or for a longer period after the divorce has been granted.

The court may consider the following and other factors when deciding whether to award alimony:

  • The financial condition and needs of the party who would receive alimony. This includes the recipient's monthly debts and obligations, and their ability to pay these debts.
  • The recipient's earning capacity or ability to produce income. This includes past employment history, ability or inability to work and income received from all sources, including passive income.
  • The ability of the paying spouse to provide support. This includes income from all sources weighed against their debts and obligations. As a general rule, debts may not be incurred to defeat alimony.
  • The length of the marriage. The longer the marriage, the stronger the case for alimony.
  • Whether the recipient party has custody of minor children who need support.
  • Whether the recipient worked in a business owned or operated by the other spouse.
  • Whether the recipient contributed to increase the other spouse's skill by paying for their education or by allowing them to attend school during the marriage.
  • The court may also consider the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and its terms. "Fault" means any of the following conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage:
    • engaging in sexual relations with a person other than the party's spouse;
    • knowingly and intentionally causing or attempting to cause physical harm to the other party or minor children;
    • knowingly and intentionally causing the other party or minor children to reasonably fear life-threatening harm; or
    • substantially undermining the financial stability of the other party or the minor children.

Generally, in determining alimony, the court considers the parties' standard of living at the time of separation. In short marriages with no children, the court may consider the standard of living when the marriage began. Sometimes, the court will try to equalize the parties' standards of living.

Alimony may not be ordered for a period longer than the length of the marriage, unless there are special reasons for doing so, and alimony automatically terminates upon the remarriage or death of the recipient. Alimony also terminates if the recipient cohabitates with another person, but the other spouse cannot just stop paying alimony. They must first prove the cohabitation to the court.


Modifying alimony

If there are substantial material changes in circumstances not foreseeable at the time of divorce, either party may petition the court for an order modifying alimony. However, the court may not modify alimony to address needs of the recipient that did not exist at the time the decree was entered, unless there are special reasons for doing so. There are no forms on this website for modifying alimony.


Enforcing alimony

If the party ordered to pay alimony fails to do so, the recipient may file a motion asking the court to enforce the alimony order. The court may issue a judgment for past due alimony. The court may also find a party in contempt of court and order the party to pay a fine or serve time in jail. For information and forms, see our webpage on Motion to Enforce Domestic Order (Order to Show Cause).


Registering a foreign order

Before an alimony order from another state can be enforced or modified it first must be registered in Utah. For information and forms, see our webpage on Registering a Foreign Order.


Related information



Page Last Modified: 5/16/2013
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