Understanding Utah’s Spousal Support Obligations

Spousal support, also known as alimony, consists of court-directed payments from one spouse to another after all marital property has been distributed to both spouses. During cooperative divorces, both parties may come to their own agreement regarding who pays how much. With litigated divorces, the court considers factors such as the requesting spouse’s need for support and the financial ability of the other spouse to provide it. Other considerations include:

  • The financial status and earning capacity of both spouses
  • The length of the marriage
  • The family’s standard of living
  • Which parent has custody of any minor children
  • Contributions to the marriage
  • Marital debts and obligations

In Utah divorces, the court may also take fault into account when determining how much spousal support to order.

Who Is Eligible?

Historically, spousal support was granted primarily to women, as social expectations kept them at home and limited their prospects in the workforce. Now that times have changed, both men and women are eligible to receive alimony. Utah courts will likely order the spouse with the higher income to support the other if the latter will be compromised economically by the divorce.

How Long Does It Last?

In certain cases a spousal support award is only temporary, lasting only until the divorce is finalized or for a certain number of years. In Utah, the support duration may not exceed the number of years the marriage lasted, unless there are special circumstances such as disability. The judge may also require that the spouse being supported make an active effort to work full-time or seek a job with a higher salary.

If the receiving spouse marries again or dies, the alimony obligation automatically ends. The payments can also be stopped if that spouse moves in with a new companion, but the process is not automatic. The paying spouse must first prove to the court that his or her ex is now in a new relationship and is cohabiting with the new person.

The ideal arrangement is for you and your spouse to negotiate your own alimony terms, but this is not always possible. In either event, an experienced Utah divorce attorney can help you protect your financial security by advocating for a fair alimony award.

If you are planning to divorce in Utah and spousal support is expected to be a post-divorce obligation, contact Arnold, Wadsworth & Coggins today. We can help you address and resolve the financial challenges in your divorce, so that your rights are protected and your future is brighter.