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Determining Alimony Obligation

Unlike child support, which is based off each party's gross monthly income and child custody schedule, an award of alimony will be based on a variety of facts and case law. No attorney can "guarantee" alimony, or accurately predict an award of alimony. Because alimony is fact-specific, each case can create radically different results.

Alimony in Salt Lake City and all of Utah is based on a number of factors, not all of which can be described in this article. The three primary factors the court considers are (1) the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse, (2) the ability of the recipient spouse to produce sufficient income, and (3) the ability of the payor spouse to provide support. Roberts v. Roberts case (2014 UT App 211).

When Alimony is Commonly Awarded

In practice, Atticus Legal Group Salt Lake Cities Top Divorce Law Firm, In practice, Atticus Legal Group often argues before the court as to whether alimony should--or should not--be paid. While the article below provides some circumstances that alimony may or may not be awarded in any given case, the examples below are not hard rules. Alimony in Utah is fact-specific, and each case may have unusual circumstances resulting in a need for alimony (i.e. extra-marital affairs, abuse, medical needs, etc.).

If a marriage is of short duration (generally, a marriage that is less than seven years old is considered short duration), if the parties' incomes are substantially similar, or if neither party has a sufficient income to pay alimony (i.e. neither party is employed, or has been for some time), asking for alimony may not be a viable option.

A party is most likely to receive alimony when the marriage is of long duration (i.e. 7+ years), one spouse has a substantially greater income than the other spouse, and each party has demonstrated needs.

The attorney seeking alimony for his/her client will often argue that the parties' respective incomes should be equalized. For example, if Husband earns a net income of $6,000, and Wife earns a net income of $4,000, an attorney may argue that the parties' respective incomes should be equalized, so that Husband pays Wife alimony in the amount of $1,000 each month.

If there are children involved, an attorney may ask that, in combined child support and alimony, he should receive more than one-half the other spouse's income.

Child Support and Alimony in Utah

Generally, income received for child support will be considered before determining alimony.

The spouse receiving child support will have child support award added to his/her "income," and the spouse paying alimony will have the child support obligation deducted from his/her income before paying alimony.

For example, say that a Husband receives a net income of $6,000 and Wife receives an income of $4,000. If Husband has a child support obligation of $1,000, his income for alimony purposes will be reduced to $5,000, while Wife's income for alimony purposes will be increased to $5,000. While the parties' respective incomes have been equalized as a result of child support, this should not be taken to mean that Wife will not receive alimony (see below), given her reasonable monthly needs may be higher since she has custody of one or more children.

Because child support has a direct result in determining the amount of alimony, when children are involved it should never be excluded from an alimony argument.

Limits on Alimony

While the "equalization" argument is fairly simple, and each party's income is usually easy to establish, "equalization" is not the first approach a court will utilize in determining alimony.

When determining alimony, the award of alimony cannot be higher than a spouse's demonstrated need. Under this approach, even if husband earns $10,000 and wife has acted as a stay-at-home wife for 22 years (a common situation where alimony will be awarded), wife must demonstrate her need for alimony. If Wife demonstrates that she has monthly expenses in the amount of $2,000, she can receive--at most--$2,000 in alimony.

On the same note, if Wife demonstrates monthly expenses of $6,000, and husband only demonstrates monthly expenses of $4,000, Husband runs the risk of being ordered to pay wife $6,000 in monthly alimony.

Conclusion

Alimony is fact-specific, and each case has individual factors that need to be considered before arguing alimony. If you are seeking alimony, or if you are concerned that you will be forced to pay alimony in a situation where you cannot make the payment, give Atticus Legal Group Divorce Lawyers in Salt Lake City a call at (801) 784-0529 for a free consultation.

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