Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What factors does a court consider in determining alimony?

Over the course of a marriage, Salt Lake City residents become used to a certain standard of living. This standard of living often rises over the years as both sides progress in their careers and become more financially stable. Accordingly, when the spouses decide to get a divorce, there are frequently issues about what standard of living will be enjoyed by the spouses after the divorce.

One way in which these family law issues are resolved in the divorce is through alimony. As discussed last week in this blog, alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is often awarded based on the reasonable needs of the parties. However, there are a number of other factors that must be considered as well when the parties dispute whether alimony is proper.

Under Utah law, the court must consider the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse, as well as that person's earning capacity. If the recipient spouse has minor children who require support, this will also be considered. The court will further consider whether the recipient spouse worked in a business operated by the other spouse, or whether the recipient spouse contributed to the other spouse's skill, such as by paying for education.

In addition to considering the recipient spouse's situation, the court should also consider the ability of the other spouse to make alimony payments. Other factors like the length of the marriage will be considered as well. Finally, the court has discretion to consider other issues, including the fault of the parties.

Generally, the court will look at the couple's standard of living at the time of the marriage to determine the award of alimony. The court may attempt to equalize the parties' standard of living through an alimony award. However, all facts and circumstances discussed above will be examined by the court in making a final decision on whether to award spousal support and how much support should be ordered.

Source: Utah State Legislature, "Title 30 Chapter 3 Section 5," accessed on Oct. 1, 2016

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