There is no formula to determine alimony in Utah. Alimony is the most unpredictable issue confronting people going through a divorce and the most challenging issue for your divorce attorney. Because alimony awards vary, not only from district to district, but from judge to judge, your attorney’s experience in the judicial district in which you reside is a major imperative in determining what is — and what is not — a good deal in your case.
We encourage you to learn more about Utah alimony law to understand how it may be applied in your case. Or contact BartonWood to request a consultation about your specific concerns. With over 30 years of combined experience in Utah alimony cases, our attorneys know the local courts and judges — and can help guide you to the best position in your divorce. We work with clients throughout Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities.
Utah law provides no specific calculation to determine an alimony award. The guiding principles for determining the amount of the alimony to be awarded are:
The court determines a potential alimony recipient's need by reviewing that person’s financial declaration. The financial declaration is a form created by the court. It must be filled out by both parties and, among other things, show a party’s income, their assets, and their monthly expenditures. The document MUST be filed with the court prior to any hearings regarding Temporary Orders.
The court first looks at recipient’s needs by reviewing the difference between that person’s monthly income (if any) and that person’s monthly expenditures. Expenditures run the gamut from mortgage and rent costs, to groceries, to utility costs, to incidentals, and credit card payments. In Utah, charitable donations and tithing are not considered “needs.”
If the potential alimony recipient’s income meets their needs, the court will look no further and no alimony will be awarded. In most cases, this is true regardless of the potential alimony payer’s income.
If the alimony recipient shows need, the court then looks to the payer’s income to determine if that person has the ability to meet his/her needs. To make this determination, the court will again look to that person’s income and their monthly obligations. If more income than obligations exist, then that person has the ability to pay alimony.
The standard of living during the marriage is generally considered to be of less importance to the court than need and ability to pay. In certain circumstances, the standard of living is established by determining certain habits. In cases where the payer’s income far exceeds his/her monthly obligations, the court will look to the lifestyle of the parties. For example, the court may look to the size of their home, grooming habits (nails, hair, etc.), shopping habits, and vacation habits during the marriage. For the majority of couples getting divorced, the standard of living during the marriage will not come into play. For higher income couples, these types of expenditures will assist the court in determining the amount of alimony.
Although there is no formula, there are a few rules of thumb. An award of alimony is less likely in a short-term marriage than in a long-term marriage. An award of alimony is more likely if there are minor children in the home than if there are no minor children. Other factors the court may consider are whether one of the parties has dissipated marital assets or exhibited other faults.
Fault by the way of adultery can be, but rarely ever is, taken into consideration by the court in making an alimony award. Although, for many, adultery is the true deal breaker in any marriage, it has little effect on the award simply because alimony is not a form of punishment. Ultimately, the court will always look to need, ability to pay, and standard of living during the marriage.
The question of alimony can be particularly stressful because it bears heavily on how secure you feel financially after your divorce. Our Utah alimony attorneys help reduce this stress by advising you on what you might expect and helping you to improve your position before the court. Contact our Salt Lake City office if you need representation in a Utah alimony matter or would like to schedule a consultation to get your alimony questions answered.