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How Alimony Is Calculated

How Alimony Is Calculated

Alimony, now often known as spousal support or maintenance, is a payment made by one ex-spouse to the other to help them maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed while in the marriage. If you and your spouse are unable to negotiate an alimony settlement, a judge will calculate the amount and duration of spousal support. It is not gender-based; either spouse may request alimony from the other. A court will award alimony only to a spouse who is financially disadvantaged, however. In other words, you can’t get alimony out of your spouse if you are the one who has more income, property, or both. Most states have their own alimony calculator or alimony guidelines for calculating spousal support. However, judges generally look at the following factors:

• The length of the marriage
• Each person’s current salary and future earning potential
• Each person’s other income from sources such as interest, dividends and trusts
• Whether one spouse contributed to the education and career advancement of the other during the marriage
• Whether one spouse was a homemaker during the marriage
• If the couple has children, whether the custodial parent’s future earnings will be limited because of their parental responsibilities
• The age of each spouse and whether either spouse has any physical, mental or emotional issues
• Whether either party was at fault in the divorce
• Whether there are other economic circumstances that seriously affect either spouse. If a spouse is unable to meet the appropriate standard of living without help from the other spouse, then the court looks to a series of factors to determine the amount and duration of alimony. It evaluates the recipient spouse’s financial resources, needs, and earning capacity, as well as the payer spouse’s ability to pay. The court is not required to order an advantaged spouse to pay support if so doing means that the paying spouse won’t be able to be self-supporting. Likewise, the court can’t make the payer spouse pay more than what the recipient spouse needs to meet the marital standard of living, no matter how much money the paying spouse might be able to pay.
• Once the court settles the spouses’ property rights, it will consider a request for alimony. Generally, the court looks to the standard of living enjoyed at the time of separation to determine appropriate alimony, but it can also look at the situation at the time of trial if there has been a significant change in resources since the time of separation – the loss of a job, for example. If your marriage was short and there are no children, the court could use the standard of living at the beginning of marriage instead. After looking at these factors, the judge will decide whether either spouse is entitled to maintenance payments. The judge will also decide how much alimony a person is entitled to and the length of time during which alimony will be paid.

Types of Alimony

Years ago, alimony was traditionally permanent, or paid on an ongoing basis until a person died or remarried. Today, judges usually award other types of alimony. Lump sum alimony is a one-time payment. Temporary alimony is a periodic payment that lasts only a set period of time. Rehabilitative alimony is given to a spouse who is young and able to become self-supporting. Most people assume that only women receive alimony, because traditionally men were the sole breadwinners. In fact, both men and women are entitled to spousal support. These days, however, alimony (whether paid to wives or husbands) is less common than it was several decades ago. Typically, the court will award alimony payments after distributing the marital property between the spouses. That way, the judge knows the income and other assets of the spouses, as well as the debt obligations that each must carry, and can make an alimony award that’s appropriate to the circumstances.

Income Equalization Approach

The court does not have to use a set formula plugging in the spouses’ incomes and child-support obligation, among other elements to come up with a payment amount. It can, however, order alimony based on an income equalization calculation where both spouse earns enough to be self-supporting and also cover the other spouse’s needs.

Duration and Termination of Payments

In Utah, alimony payments usually last only as long as the number of years the marriage existed. The court could order them for a shorter or longer time, however, if the right circumstances exist. Also, payments automatically terminate when the recipient spouse remarries or when either spouse dies. Where the recipient spouse doesn’t remarry but moves in with a new partner, the payer spouse can ask the court to terminate alimony obligations. On the other hand, if the payer spouse remarries, there are some situations where the court could change the amount of alimony due based on the income of the payer’s subsequent spouse. For example, if a husband worked as a contractor and has an affair with an orthopedist that affects his marriage, the court could first order husband to pay his wife, a homemaker, alimony based on his resources as a contractor. Later, if he marries the orthopedist, the court could increase his payments to his first wife based on the second wife’s income because the orthopedist can contribute more to his household expenses and because there was an element of improper conduct (e.g. an affair).

In comparison to child custody cases in which judges must decide which parent a child is going to live with deciding on an alimony amount is a piece of cake. Every state has a law dictating what factors must be considered in setting alimony. Basically, in setting the amount of alimony to be paid, courts look at:
• how much money each person could reasonably earn every month
• what the reasonable expenses are going to be for each of them, and
• whether an alimony award from one to the other would make it possible for each to go forward with a lifestyle somewhat close to what the couple had before they split known in divorce law as the standard of living established during the marriage.
As is frequently the case, if there isn’t enough money to make it possible for the parties to reestablish something close to their marital standard of living, then most judges will look for a way to make the divorcing parties share the financial pain equally. In many states, the law specifies that in setting alimony, the judge should consider how much support it would take each party to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. This can raise questions about how a court should set and evaluate a particular standard within the standard of living.”

Underemployed Spouse

As noted, alimony is generally based largely on what each of the divorcing spouses reasonably earn. That means that if a person is deliberately working at a job that pays less than what he or she could earn, the courts will sometimes figure the alimony amount based on a higher figure, in what is referred to as imputing income for support. When facts such as these occur, the person who has changed jobs will usually be expected to present evidence on why personal factors such as stress made the change necessary. Sometimes a psychologist is called as a witness to back up the need for the change. The person opposing a reduction in support may succeed by showing that the lifestyles of those who are being supported will be severely affected by the loss of substantial alimony payments. Court decisions in this area will often depend on the precise wording of the state law on alimony and the court’s appraisal of the good faith of the supporting spouse. The Alimony Laws are rapidly changing it seems each year. The courts, as a general rule, look at the standard of living that existed at the time of separation in determining alimony. In marriages of short duration, with no children conceived or born, the court may consider the standard of living that existed at the time of the marriage. There are times when the courts will attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living. Alimony terminates automatically upon remarriage or cohabitation by the recipient spouse. Alimony is not to be ordered for duration longer than the length of the marriage, except in extenuating circumstances.

Modification of Alimony

Alimony may be reviewed and modified as conditions change and as warranted. If there has been a substantial and material change in your financial situation such as losing a job or taking a serious pay cut, you can petition the court to modify a spousal support order. The attorneys are experienced in handling these types of modification petitions and will provide you with effective representation As if the emotional toll of divorce weren’t enough, the financial aspect can be devastating. A crucial task your divorce lawyer must help you tackle from the get go is to separate the emotional aspect of the case from the financial one. Let’s examine this separation in the context of alimony. No one relishes the idea of paying their “ex” alimony. No matter how justified your emotions may be, being naïve or ignorant about how law and judges deal with alimony can leave you vulnerable. If you have been the primary breadwinner in your marriage, and your marriage lasted more than a few years, you will likely be paying alimony. This is because under the law, alimony is neither a punishment nor a reward-it is an equalizer. It either equalizes the parties’ standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, or it equalizes the financial hardship that both parties will suffer post-divorce. One common misconception is to think that a judge will not order someone to pay alimony in an amount beyond their ability to pay. Of course, the alimony calculus does not always play out this simply. Other factors and legal principles may come into play, and your divorce lawyer should know how to use them and when. In the state of Utah, during or following a divorce or legal separation, the court will consider whether either spouse is in need of alimony.

Utah has a defined list of factors, described in statutory law, that are legally required to be considered by a judge when determining alimony payments. These factors may be directly connected to the alimony calculation formula. Utah considers marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that “at-fault” divorces, which may be caused by infidelity / adultery, abuse, etc, can result in the at-fault party paying more “punitive” alimony.
Standard of living is considered when calculating alimony payments in the state of Utah. This means that a judge will consider the lifestyle enjoyed by the alimony-receiving spouse during the duration of the marriage when determining an appropriate alimony payment amount. The judge in the state of Utah considers custodial status when determining alimony payments. This means that alimony calculations are affected by whether or not the receiving spouse has custody of the children, and custodial spouses may receive higher alimony payments. Calculation of alimony is generally done on a case-by-case basis by the Utah family court judge who is responsible for the case. While some states have a fixed alimony calculation formula, in most cases the final amount and duration of alimony awarded (if alimony is awarded) is at the discretion of the judge. Often the standard of living experienced by both parties at the time separation occurred will be the benchmark in an alimony calculation. The court can also consider the standard of living that existed at the beginning of the marriage, if the marriage period was relatively short, and there are no children involved.

Certain behaviors that contributed to the end of the marriage may also factor into the consideration of an alimony award amount. The faulty behaviors may include:
• Having an extramarital affair
• Purposely intimidating a spouse or minor children
• Purposely causing physical harm to a spouse or minor children
• Financial Resources
The court can consider any substantial changes in the amount of financial resources after the two parties separated, such as the loss or gaining of employment. The court can also consider the earning potential of both the payer and the recipient.

Alimony Lawyer in Utah Free Consultation

When you need legal help with alimony in Utah for your divorce case, please call Ascent Law LLC (801) 676-5506 for your Free Consultation. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
itemprop=”addressLocality”>West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.