Emily Chambers and Jill Coil for Coillaw
Many misconceptions and questions surround what alimony is and when it is awarded. Alimony is separate from child support. Its main goal is to help each spouse try to maintain a similar standard of living that they had during the marriage, after divorce.
Here are 7 of the most common myths about alimony:
1. Women are always awarded alimony in a divorce: False
There are cases where women don’t receive alimony in a divorce. Alimony is awarded based on the level of education of the spouse requesting alimony, their realistic ability to work, and their reasonable and necessary needs. The court can also look at how long they have been out of the workforce while being the primary stay-at-home caregiver for children and/or if the spouse has stayed at home supporting a family business. It also factors in if one spouse supported the other spouse (financially or by providing care for the children) while they obtained their education, and the income of the working spouse. Alimony is not likely to be awarded if the marriage didn’t last very long or if the stay-at-home parent has a good education and can realistically work.
2. Only women can receive alimony: False
Technically, either sex could be awarded alimony. It is quite rare for men to receive it because they have a greater capacity to earn more money. But if the man was the stay-at-home caregiver during the marriage and the woman was the breadwinner, alimony could be awarded to the man.
3. Like child support, alimony is calculated using gross income: False
Alimony is calculated from net income instead of gross income. Net income is your gross income minus your taxes paid to the state and federal government. And not all income needs to be included in determining alimony. Only up to 40 hours per work per week should be factored into alimony. Overtime can be factored into alimony only if you regularly worked it during the marriage and you and your spouse relied on that income to meet your needs.
4. Fault in divorce isn’t a determining factor for whether or not alimony is awarded: False
Actually, Utah is a fault state and the legislature defined fault a few years ago so that you could more specifically allege fault. Fault may be a factor under consideration for how much alimony is ordered. For example, if adultery, desertion, or neglect was a factor in why the couple is getting divorced, it is up to the court’s discretion if that is factored into alimony calculations. However, Utah Supreme Court has insisted that fault cannot be used to punish and thus, it is only used in very limited specific circumstances.
5. When alimony is awarded, it is usually on a permanent basis: False
The length of alimony is different in each case, however Utah law mandates that a spouse may receive alimony for up to the amount of years that the marriage lasted. So if a couple was married for 15 years, alimony could be awarded for up to 15 years. This is up to the discretion of the court. If the spouse receiving alimony gets remarried or is cohabiting alimony obligation ends.
6. Alimony isn’t tax deductible: False
If you are the payee of alimony, it is tax deductible for you. If you are the receiver of alimony, you must declare the alimony as income.
7. I would rather pay a property settlement rather than alimony: False
The saying “money is valued more now than later” rings true. Giving a spouse more money in a property settlement rather than wanting to pay alimony monthly for a set number of months is not necessarily the best. You should ensure you discuss with a qualified family attorney about what is the best situation for you.
Alimony is very subjective and hard to figure out on your own. You need to ensure you consult with a competent family law attorney that can help you come to a fair and reasonable resolution. At CoilLaw, LLC, Salt Lake City Alimony attorney Jill Coil understands elements of alimony to help you achieve the best settlement and/or result possible. At CoilLaw we are ready and available to help you through your divorce action. If you need legal advice concerning a Utah family law issue, call Jill Coil at CoilLaw LLC in Utah at (801) 939-6027 today.