Utah Divorce Code 30-3-8
Neither party to a divorce proceeding which dissolves their marriage by decree may marry any person other than the spouse from whom the divorce was granted until it becomes absolute. If an appeal is taken, the divorce is not absolute until after the court sign’s the decree.
Remarriage and Alimony in Utah
When a couple divorce in Utah, the court may order one spouse to provide the other with financial support, called alimony. When the spouse receiving alimony (the supported spouse) remarries or begins living with someone else, however, the paying spouse will usually want to stop making alimony payments.
Overview of Alimony in Utah
Utah courts may order one spouse to pay the other alimony after a divorce, taking into account the specific circumstances of each marriage. The court may order alimony to be made in the form of a lump-sum payment, a transfer of property, or the most common type of alimony, periodic payments made until a certain date or until some event occurs.
Utah judges will consider any or all of the following factors when determining alimony:
• the supported spouse’s financial needs
• the supported spouse’s earning ability
• the paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony
• the length of the marriage
• the supported spouse’s childcare duties
• whether the supported spouse worked for a business owned by the paying spouse during the marriage
• whether the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s ability to earn income (for example, by paying for education or allowing the paying spouse to attend school during the marriage)
• whether one spouse was at fault in causing the divorce (for example, by domestic abuse or adultery), and
• any other factors the court deems relevant.
Impact of Remarriage on Alimony in Utah
Utah law provides that alimony ends when a supported spouse remarries, unless the divorce decree states otherwise. Sometimes, in long marriages, a divorcing couple will agree that one spouse will pay the other alimony for life regardless of whether the supported spouse remarries, but in most cases, alimony ends upon the supported spouse’s remarriage. When the supported spouse remarries, alimony ends automatically; the paying spouse does not need to file a motion or return to court for an order terminating alimony. The paying spouse can stop making alimony payments on the date the supported spouse gets remarried. If the paying spouse owed past due alimony at the time the supported spouse remarries, the paying spouse must still make those payments. Also, if the paying spouse was ordered to make a lump-sum payment or a transfer or property as alimony, he or she must still make that payment or property transfer, even if the other spouse is remarried.
Termination or Modification of Alimony In Utah
Utah law allows courts to modify or end alimony at any time if there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of either spouse after the divorce. Utah courts usually won’t consider the remarriage of the paying spouse to be a “substantial change in circumstances” for the purposes of modifying alimony. If the supported spouse has a significant increase in income or a decrease in financial needs, however, the court may reduce or end alimony payments. If you want to modify or end alimony payments in your case, you should file a motion of terminate or modify alimony in your county state court clerk’s office. The court will schedule a hearing where both you and your ex-spouse will have to appear. You should bring any evidence of the changed circumstances that support your request to change or end alimony payments. If you and your ex-spouse agree to modify alimony before the court date, you should put your agreement in writing, sign it, and submit it to the court for approval.
Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony in Utah
In Utah, all court orders for one spouse to pay the other alimony end when the supported spouse begins cohabiting with another person. Cohabitation is when two individuals live together in a romantic relationship while not married. If you are paying alimony to your ex-spouse, and he or she begins living with another person in a romantic relationship, you’ll need to file a motion to terminate alimony with the court clerk’s office. Gather any evidence of your ex-spouse’s cohabitation to show the court (for example, photos or other proof that both individuals spend most nights at the same residence). If the judge believes you have proven that your ex-spouse is cohabiting with another person, he or she can end alimony retroactive to the date you filed your motion.
Remarriage and Child Support in Utah
The Utah legislature has established child support guidelines, which the courts use to determine a fair child support award. Since both parents have an obligation to support their children, a court considers the parents’ combined adjusted gross income in calculating the total support award. It then divides this figure proportionately between them, based on their individual incomes. The court also establishes responsibility for such things as the child’s medical expenses, and work-related childcare costs.
What constitutes income when determining child support? The guidelines mention several sources, some of which are:
• salaries, wages, bonuses, commissions, and self-employment income
• pensions and annuities
• dividends, interest, capital gains, rents, and royalties
• alimony from previous marriages, and
• Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, and income replacement disability insurance.
Under the guidelines, the court may only use the child’s natural or adoptive parents’ income to calculate a support award (not stepparents). Additionally, the court may consider either parent’s legal duty to support other children (children not subject to the support order being acted on)
A Court Can Deviate From the Guidelines
There’s a rebuttable presumption that a guidelines support award is correct. The fact that the presumption is rebuttable means that using the guidelines might unjust, inappropriate, or not in the child’s best interest in certain situations. It’s up to the court to decide whether to deviate from the guidelines. In making its decision, the court will look at a number of items, including, among others:
• the standard of living and situation of the parties
• the relative wealth and income of the parties
• the obligor’s (parent paying support) ability to earn
• the obligee’s (parent receiving support) ability to earn, and
• the obligor’s and obligee’s responsibility to support others.
Courts Can Modify Child Support
If you want to adjust child support, you can request a modification. There are many reasons you may need to modify a support amount, however, generally speaking, you must prove to the court that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances. For example, a material change in the children’s medical needs may be sufficient in certain instances. It all depends on the facts of your particular case.
Remarriage May Be a Reason for Altering Child Support
Under what is known as common law, remarriage alone wasn’t a valid basis for changing a child support award. Interestingly, there’s a Utah case from 1951, in which the decision seems to imply that a court can consider remarriage in a modification request. In that case, the court appears to base its reasoning on a man’s obligation to support his wife. Although that thinking may be a bit dated today, there definitely are potential aspects of remarriage that could impact child support in Utah.
A New Child Could Provide Grounds for Modification
There was a time when a new child wouldn’t impact an existing child support order. The thinking was that your primary obligation was to the children from your previous relationship. But that theory has gradually changed over time, and now many states, including Utah, acknowledge that a parent’s income should benefit all of his or her children. Under Utah law, a parent’s duty to support new children is something a court should look at to determine whether there’s been a substantial change in circumstances. Additionally, a Utah case says that it’s proper for a court to take into account a parent’s obligation to a “new family” when reviewing a child support modification application. Be clear, however, that supporting a new child doesn’t relieve you of your obligations to your children from a prior relationship. But having a new child is a legitimate argument to make when seeking a support modification.
What Can Happen to Me if I Remarry Before Getting a Divorce?
If you remarry another person before your divorce to your current spouse is final, this is considered bigamy. Committing bigamy in the United States is against the law in every state, and those who engage in it can be subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Civil law treats this concept somewhat differently than criminal law. Because your second marriage is illegal, it is considered void because it legally cannot exist. A void marriage can be annulled in every state.
The Basics of Bigamy
Bigamy occurs when one person is married to two people legally simultaneously. It can be intentional, where a married person intentionally enters into a second marriage with someone else. Or it can be unintentional, in the case of an attempted divorce that was never legally finalized. It is important to note that, if you are married to two people, and one or both of them know that you are engaging in bigamy but fail to take steps to end the marriage, and then they are also legally liable. There are a couple of defenses against bigamy, such as if a previous spouse’s whereabouts have been unknown for a substantial period of time and it is reasonable to believe they may have passed away. Or if there was a good faith effort to file for dissolution of marriage but the party representing your spouse did not follow through and file the paperwork.
Criminal Penalties for Bigamy
Each state has its own laws and penalties for dealing with bigamy. Criminal penalties can include jail time ranging from months to years, or fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Bigamy is currently a third-degree felony in Utah, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. A new bill would change it to an infraction. New legislation introduced in the Senate would change the offense of bigamy, when two people marry while at least one of them is already legally married, from a felony to an infraction. Making it an infraction would put it on par with getting a traffic ticket. If your spouse was aware of your other marriage, they can also face those same charges. Spouses who knowingly maintain a bigamous marriage may receive a somewhat lighter penalty. Polygamy has been practiced in Utah by certain religious groups since before it became a state and continues to persist to this day. Though the practice has long been illegal under state and federal law, the Utah attorney general’s office has declined to prosecute the offense of bigamy except when it’s committed along with other crimes.
Bigamy in Civil Court
A bigamous marriage is considered “void” in most states. A void marriage is one that was never legal in the first place, so it qualifies for an annulment. An annulment essentially cancels a marriage and declares that it never technically existed in the first place. In order to annul a void marriage, you or your second spouse must petition the court for an annulment and prove one of the specific grounds that establish your marriage is void. In the case of bigamy, proof that your first marriage was valid at the time of your second marriage would be sufficient. Once you have annulled your second marriage, it is unlikely you would risk criminal prosecution. If you want to remarry but are unsure of whether you are still legally married to someone else, it is a good idea to be certain before moving forward with the subsequent marriage or else you risk certain penalties depending on your state.
Utah Divorce Attorney
When you need legal help with a Utah Divorce, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506