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When can an award of alimony be modified or terminated?

Over the course of time, there can be many profound changes in Salt Lake City residents' lives. These changes can strike at the core, including changes in a person's family make-up like those that come after a divorce.

Of course, these changes do not simply quit happening the moment after the divorce is finalized. Individuals may take a new job, have more children or get remarried, all of which can have an impact on the issues from their previous divorce.

For instance, last week this blog discussed the factors the court will consider when deciding whether to award spousal support. While several of these factors examine circumstances that have occurred in the past, such as the couple's standard of living in the marriage, there are many different things that can change after the divorce that impacts these factors.

Utah law recognizes these changes by allowing an alimony order to be modified or terminated over time. The court can make new orders regarding alimony if there has been a substantial material change in circumstances, but typically this change must not have been foreseeable at the time of the divorce. Similarly, the court typically cannot modify an alimony award to address the needs of the recipient that did not exist at the time the initial order was entered unless there are some extenuating circumstances present.

In many cases, an order for alimony will terminate based on the duration ordered by the court. For example, the court might order alimony to be paid for five years, and the alimony will terminate at that time unless there are some extenuating circumstances that justify a longer period of time.

Unless otherwise specified in the order, the alimony payments also will typically terminate if a former spouse remarries or dies. There are also circumstances in which an order can terminate where the former spouse is cohabiting with another person. Accordingly, individuals should be aware of when their alimony order may be modified or terminated under the law.

Source: Utah State Legislature, "Title 30 Chapter 3 Section 5," accessed on Oct. 8, 2016

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Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law
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