In divorce cases, alimony refers to court-ordered financial support from one party to the other. Alimony awards can total hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it one of the most hotly contested issues in some divorces.
Whether you are seeking or disputing an alimony award, you can find the legal counsel you need at Eric M. Swinyard & Associates, PLLC. From our office in South Jordan, our Salt Lake County alimony lawyers are knowledgeable in Utah divorce law and offer personalized, client-focused representation to clients throughout the region.
How Alimony Is Awarded in a Divorce
An alimony award is not automatic. Alimony can be ordered on a temporary or permanent basis depending on the circumstances. Courts consider several factors when determining whether alimony should be ordered. The gender of the parties is not considered. Two of the primary factors include the need of the prospective recipient and the earning ability of the parties. In cases involving a disparity of income, the party requesting alimony is in a strong position, especially if he or she contributed in any way to the paying spouse’s skill or education during the marriage.
In addition to financial matters, courts may also consider the fault of the parties.
Since establishing fault is a broad process, the relevant statute restricts the definition of fault to include the following:
- Knowingly and intentionally causing or attempting to cause physical harm (or the reasonable fear of life-threatening harm) to the other party or minor children
- Undermining the financial stability of the other party or minor children
In addition to proving one or more of these actions, the party requesting alimony must also demonstrate that the fault substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage.
Calculating Alimony in a Divorce
Calculating alimony is not as straightforward as calculating child support. Often the simplest way to establish alimony is through a mutual agreement between the parties.
When an agreement cannot be reached, courts will adhere to the fundamental goals of alimony – namely, to get both parties as close as possible to the standard of living that existed during the marriage and to prevent the recipient spouse from becoming a burden on taxpayers.
To achieve these goals, courts will consider:
- The financial conditions and needs of the recipient spouse
- The recipient’s ability to earn income for himself or herself
- The paying spouse’s ability to provide support
Alimony obligations may be terminated for a number of reasons. Sometimes alimony terminates automatically when it reaches an expiration date specified in the divorce decree. Courts cannot order a party to make alimony payments for a period longer than the marriage lasted. In addition, alimony terminates when the recipient spouse dies, remarries, or cohabitates with another person.
In some situations, circumstances do change after the initial amount of alimony has been calculated. If either party thinks that the circumstances have changed significantly, they may file a petition with the court for an order to have alimony modified.
The court is unlikely to modify alimony to address the needs of the recipient if these needs did not exist at the time the initial alimony amount was calculated. Our Salt Lake County alimony attorneys can represent you if you are seeking to modify an alimony award or if you wish to block your ex-spouse’s efforts to modify alimony.
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