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WHAT IS ALIMONY?

Alimony: When awarding alimony, trial courts must be mindful of the primary purposes of alimony: “(1) to get the parties as close as possible to the same standard of living that existed during the marriage; (2) to equalize the standards of living of each party; and (3) to prevent the recipient spouse from becoming a public charge.” Richardson v. Richardson, 2008 UT 57, ¶ 7, (citations omitted) (emphasis added). The Utah Supreme Court articulated in Jones v. Jones, 700 P.2d 1072 (Utah 1985), the factors that must be considered in determining a reasonable alimony award as: (1) “the financial conditions and needs of the wife”; (2) “the ability of the wife to produce a sufficient income for herself”; and (3) “the ability of the husband to provide support.” Jones, 700 P.2d at 1075.”

Temporary Alimony: See Jensen v. Jensen, 2008 UT App 392, ¶ 19,197 P.3d 117, 123 (“the trial court took note of the fact that the wife had already been receiving temporary alimony for over two years”). Temporary alimony is usually awarded as part of a temporary order. The court determines an award by reviewing the basic financial information that is disclosed at the beginning of a case. It remains in place, subject to adjustment, until the divorce decree is entered by the court.

  • Utah statute further lists factors that must be considered in making a determination of alimony to be paid:
  • the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse;
  • the recipient’s earning capacity or ability to produce income;
  • the ability of the payor spouse to provide support;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support;
  • whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse; and
  • whether the recipient spouse directly contributed to any increase in the payor spouse’s skill by paying for education received by the payor spouse or allowing the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage. Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-5(8)(a)(i)-(vii) (2016).

Rehabilitative Alimony: Importantly, as the marriage has not been long-term, the Court should consider rehabilitative alimony, as described in Mark v. Mark, 2009 UT App 374, ¶¶ 12-13, 223 P.3d 476, rather than a traditional alimony approach. While considering the short duration of the marriage, the purpose of rehabilitative alimony is in the short run to close the gap between actual expenses and actual income to enable the receiving spouse to then be better able to support herself when the alimony period ends. Id.

Permanent Alimony: This is something rarely entered by the court. The typical alimony award is limited by the length of the marriage. If you were married 10 years, you can expect to be awarded alimony up to, but not longer than, 240 months. The court has the ability to enter a permanent alimony award in circumstances only if the court “finds extenuating circumstances that justify the payment of alimony for a longer period of time.” Utah Code Ann. 30-3-8(10)(e). It is not truly permanent, but can extend beyond the length of the marriage. Often, when the court grants alimony for a longer time, it is due to some serious health condition that permanently changes the ability of the recipient spouse to earn a sufficient living to survive on her own.

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