Alimony is money that one spouse pays to the other for support during the divorce process or for some period of time following a final divorce. Courts generally require the higher earner whether that is the husband or the wife to assist the lower earner in maintaining the marital lifestyle for at least some period of time following a divorce.
Types of Alimony
- Temporary Alimony: Courts often award temporary alimony also known as alimony “pendente lite,” meaning while the divorce is pending, when one spouse requires financial support during the divorce process. This type of award automatically ends once the divorce becomes final.
- Bridge-The-Gap Alimony: Bridge-the-gap alimony begins after the divorce is final but is very short term, with a maximum duration of two years. The purpose is to help the recipient spouse meet legitimate and identifiable short term needs. For example, bridge-the-gap alimony might provide living expenses while the recipient spouse is waiting for a house to sell, or while the recipient spouse is completing a retraining or educational program to allow for improved employment prospects.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony has the specific purpose of assisting the recipient in acquiring education or training necessary for appropriate employment. A spouse requesting rehabilitative alimony must submit a plan outlining the amount of money and time required to complete the plan.
- Durational Alimony: A court might award durational alimony if other types of alimony are insufficient to meet a spouse’s needs. The maximum term of durational alimony is the length of the marriage in other words, if you were married for ten years, you can’t receive durational alimony for any longer than that.
- Permanent Alimony: If the recipient spouse’s economic need is likely to be permanent, an alimony award may be permanent as well but a judge awarding permanent alimony must always state the reasons that another form of alimony would not be fair and reasonable under the facts of the case. The purpose of permanent alimony is to provide for the financial needs of a spouse who lacks the ability to become self-supporting, at a standard of living as close as possible to the marital standard.
Factors in Need and Ability to Pay
The court begins making decisions on a request for alimony by considering the facts of the case to determine whether the spouse requesting alimony meets the standard to show the alimony is necessary. If there’s a need for alimony, the court has to also determine whether the other spouse has the ability to pay. Unless there are some kinds of exceptional circumstances, a court won’t award alimony if it would leave the paying spouse with significantly less net income than the recipient. A judge who finds both need and ability to pay next must consider all relevant factors in deciding what type of alimony to award and for how long. These factors include:
- the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including separate property and any award of marital property.
- all sources of income, including investment income, available to either spouse.
- each spouse’s earning capacity, educational history, vocational skills, and employability.
- any time and expense required by the spouse seeking maintenance to obtain education and training for appropriate employment.
- the marital standard of living.
- the length of the marriage.
- each spouse’s age and physical and emotional condition.
- each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, child care, education, and helping the other spouse build a career.
- any tax consequences of the alimony award, and
- the responsibilities each spouse will have for any minor children they have in common.
A court may also consider whether either spouse committed adultery during the marriage, and under what circumstances. Courts are most likely to take adultery into account when one spouse’s affair caused the other financial harm. For example, if one spouse bought lavish gifts for a paramour using marital funds, the court might factor that into the alimony award.
Utah law applies certain presumptions with regard to length of marriage and eligibility for permanent alimony. Following a marriage of at least 17 years, a judge may award permanent alimony if such an award is appropriate in light of the above factors. After a marriage of between 7 and 17 years, there must be clear and convincing evidence of appropriateness to justify the award. After a marriage of less than 7 years, permanent alimony is appropriate only in exceptional circumstances. A marriage lasts until the spouses actually file for dissolution, not when they informally separate or stop living together.
Modification or Termination
Unless the spouses have made a specific written agreement about when alimony ends or under what circumstances it can be modified, when and how an alimony award can be modified depends on the type of alimony.
- A bridge-the-gap award is not modifiable under any circumstances.
- A court might modify rehabilitative alimony if the recipient fails to comply with the rehabilitative plan or completes the plan early.
- Rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony are all modifiable if there has been a substantial change in financial circumstances for either spouse; however, except in extraordinary circumstances, durational alimony can only be modified in amount, not in duration, and even in exceptional circumstances the duration can never exceed the length of the marriage.
Both durational and permanent alimony end automatically if the recipient remarries or if either spouse dies. A court can also modify or terminate an award of permanent alimony if the recipient lives with an unrelated person in a supportive relationship. The spouse asking for a modification on this basis must prove the supportive nature of a relationship. The court will find consider the following:
- the extent to which the two people in question have held themselves out as a married couple. for example by using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other as “my husband” or “my wife”
- the length of time they have lived together at a permanent address
- the extent to which they have pooled assets and income, or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence
- the extent of mutual support between them, including support for each other’s children, regardless of legal obligation
- performance of valuable services for each other, or for each other’s company or employer
- whether the two have worked together to create or enhance anything of value
- whether they have purchased property together, and
- evidence that the two have either an express or implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.
Requirements For Alimony
There are certain requirements for Alimony, or spousal support, which is something given to one ex-spouse by the other ex-spouse in the form of monetary support. It’s meant to provide the spouse that doesn’t make as much money with the money for living expenses over and above what is also provided by the higher income spouse in the amount of child support, if child support is provided. A judge will determine how much if any money is going to be provided by one spouse to the other.
Several factors go into play as the judge makes his or her determination.
- State regulations vary, but essentially, they take into account how much the spouse receiving the money is able to earn, both now and in future, the receiving spouse’s health and age, how long the marriage was, what property is involved, and how the parties have conducted themselves.
- A judge may not award alimony at all, and in fact will usually only award it when one spouse has been dependent economically on the other spouse for most of the marriage, usually a longer marriage.
- Payments must be in cash, and are acceptable in a check or money order, but can’t be given in the form of debt, services or property.
- Any payments must be set forth in a written agreement or within divorce papers. It must be formal, such that you cannot call what you’ve been paying informally in terms of support to your ex-spouse anything else.
If you file a joint tax return with your ex-spouse, you can’t claim alimony as a tax deduction for that year. You and your ex-spouse can’t live together and call any support you pay alimony. And even live in separate quarters within the same residence, by the way. You must have separate quarters under different routes. When the marriage ends, many women look to cash in that insurance policy in the form of alimony. There are always things men can do to reduce or even eliminate alimony.
You can win alimony battles if you use a proven strategy and know how the game is played; often without going to court. With a good strategy, it’s possible to negotiate your alimony down to zero!
- To compensate a spouse who sacrifices his or her ability to earn income during the marriage;
- To compensate a spouse for the ongoing care of children, over and above any child support obligation; or,
- To help a spouse in financial need arising from the breakdown of the marriage.
At the same time, spouses who receive support have an obligation to become self-supporting where reasonable. When a married couple divorces, either spouse can ask for spousal support under the Divorce Act. In most cases, spousal support is requested by the spouse with the lower income. In each case, a judge must consider several factors to determine if spousal support should be paid, including:
- The financial means, needs and circumstances of both spouses;
- The length of time the spouses have lived together;
- The roles of each spouse during their marriage;
- The effect of those roles and the breakdown of the marriage on both spouses’ current financial positions;
- The ongoing responsibilities for care of the children, if any;
- Any previous orders, agreements or arrangements already made about spousal support.
- Identifying financial advantages and disadvantages faced by the spouses that occur because of the end of the marriage or partnership.
- Fairly dividing financial costs relating to child care, above and beyond child support.
- Providing as much support as possible to help each spouse to become financially independent within a reasonable amount of time.
These Acts state that spousal support should not be a factor in awarding spousal support. The payment of support is not intended to be a form of punishment. When the courts determine if spousal support is appropriate to order, they take into account several factors. For example, these factors include:
- The amount of time the couple lived together;
- The responsibilities of each partner during this time; and lastly
- Any previous agreements or arrangements the parties agree to regard support.
The above factors are taken into account in all cases. If the couple is not applying for spousal support as part of a divorce, such as when applying after the end of an Adult Interdependent Relationship, the Family Law Act will apply. In that case, the court takes into account the following additional factors into consideration when making a ruling:
- Whether or not either partner has a legal obligation to support another person, including children; and
- If either partner is going to be living with someone else, or how this other person contributes to their living expenses. The court looks at how this arrangement increases the partner’s ability to pay support, or decreases their need for spouse support.
Both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act give child support a higher priority than spousal support. If a spouse cannot afford to pay both, it is the spousal support amount that the courts decrease. At the same time, child support is not a replacement for spouse support.
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