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The idea of having to pay your ex a chunk of your hard-earned cash every month can cause even the most level headed person to explode. If there’s an imbalance between your income and your spouse’s income, you may wonder if you’re going to have to pay alimony. The good news is that it’s possible that your spouse may agree to waive alimony in exchange for other items or considerations in your divorce. The bad news is that, if your spouse does not refuse to waive alimony, it may be rather difficult to predict how much you’ll pay and how long you’ll pay it.

The Short Answer

The short answer is that, unfortunately, there’s not a reliable way to calculate how much alimony you may be ordered to pay. Nor is there a reliable way to predict how long you may be ordered to pay alimony for. This is because the amount of alimony and the duration of the alimony payments is largely left up to the discretion of the judge. However, this doesn’t mean you’re going to be totally in the dark about your potential alimony obligations. In Utah, there are factors that the court considers in calculating the amount of alimony and the duration of the payments that should be ordered. Alimony is largely based on the recipient’s need, standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the payor’s ability to pay.

Need

Need refers to whether or not the party actually needs additional money in order to pay their monthly expenses. So, it’s possible that, even though there’s a discrepancy between your incomes, your spouse may not receive alimony simply because they don’t need it. Alimony is generally used to help the party with the lesser income to afford to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, if possible.. However, the aforementioned assumes that the other spouse has the ability to provide that financial assistance. Typically, the standard of living will decrease during and after a divorce. Alimony is not necessarily ordered to help maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, especially if there isn’t enough income to allow for that. In that case, the court will try to allow the parties to maintain a similar standard of living. If you can show your spouse does not need alimony in order to maintain a reasonable standard of living, that may help you avoid paying alimony.

Standard of Living

Though the standard of living often decreases during the marriage, judges don’t typically allow a high earning spouse to leave a spouse with no income or work history to fend for themselves. The chances of a person being ordered to pay alimony increases when they’ve married a person with a lower income or less substantial work experience and that person does not take steps to increase their income earning abilities during the marriage. For this reason, alimony may be ordered to help one party maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage—assuming there’s enough income to allow both parties that standard. In a lot of cases, judges will want both parties to have a standard of living that’s similar to the one they enjoyed during their marriage. In these cases, alimony may be ordered to help facilitate that. However, if you and your spouse both make the same amount of money prior to the divorce, the standard of living is likely going to decrease for both of you and there won’t be enough income available to prevent that. 

Length of the Marriage

Alimony can be ordered for a period up to the length of the marriage. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, adultery can affect the length and amount of your alimony payments. If your spouse has a disability (mental or physical), and will not be able to work, you may be ordered to pay alimony. The courts will determine the length based upon the circumstances of the parties. For example, if the recipient has some education or work experience, the court may provide them alimony for a period long enough to rehabilitate their skills and earn enough to meet their monthly expenses.

Ability to Pay

A person’s ability to pay alimony also factors into whether or not they’ll be ordered to pay alimony. The court will not generally order a party to pay more than they are able to pay. This does not mean that the payor is allowed to pay all of their discretionary spending bills before the recipient is awarded any alimony. Instead, it means that, for the most part, the payor will not be ordered to pay so much in alimony that they aren’t able to maintain a reasonable standard of living. This means that the court may adjust both parties’ monthly expenses when determining both need and ability to pay.

Getting Out of Alimony

A prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement may mitigate your obligation to pay alimony, but it likely won’t eliminate it completely if your spouse would be reliant on state assistance without alimony. Fault divorces also aren’t a surefire way to eliminate a legal obligation to pay alimony. Your best chance at reducing your alimony payments is to hire an attorney. At CoilLaw, our attorneys can help ensure that you’re not burdened with overwhelming alimony orders. If you’re ready to get the legal advice you need to move forward, contact CoilLaw today.

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