Wondering whether or not you’re going to be forced to hand over your hard earned money to your ex every month? A lot of people worry about whether or not they’ll be on the hook for alimony once the divorce process has started. This prompts many to ask how alimony is calculated. However, in Utah, alimony isn’t necessarily calculated. Instead, it’s left up to a judge’s discretion and it’s based on factors such as income, standard of living, and more.
When judges consider whether or not to award alimony to a person, they will first look at each party’s income or their ability to earn. If you or your spouse is voluntarily not earning as much as you or your spouse is able, they may impute additional income.. The more similar the incomes are, the less likely it is that either party will receive alimony. However, income isn’t the only factor judges consider when they’re determining whether or not to award alimony, or how much alimony to award. Just because one party has a greater income than the other doesn’t necessarily mean there will be alimony awarded. Though income is a large factor in determining alimony, it won’t guarantee that alimony will be awarded or will not be awarded.
Standard of Living
The court awards alimony based upon the recipient’s need for financial support after the divorce. Their need is based on the marital standard of living. Standard of living will also come into consideration when determining whether or not a person will be awarded alimony. When a judge is looking at the standard of living a couple enjoyed during their marriage, he’s going to take into consideration what kind of cars they drove, what kind of house they lived in, the vacations they took, retirement contributions, and the average amount of discretionary spending. If you have a higher income, but you live well below your means, your alimony obligation may be reduced. For example, if you make $100,000 per year, but you only live on $70,000 and stash the rest in a savings account, the standard of living could be based upon a $70,000 income, as opposed to an $100,000 income. Living below your means could reduce your alimony obligation. However, your spouse may still be awarded a portion of the savings account. Need is based on the marital standard of living.
Generally speaking, the more education a person has, the less likely they are to be awarded alimony because they have an increased ability to earn income to help meet their financial needs. This is because a person is usually more employable when they have more education. But there are exceptions to this. If your spouse has a degree that’s in a very niche field, or a field without many jobs, their education may not mean as much when it comes to determining the spouse’s earning potential. An education that is outdated also may not be as lucrative when it comes to earning potential in divorce. When the judge is looking at your spouse’s education, they’re considering how easy it will be for your spouse to get a job. If your spouse’s education does not increase their ability to get a job, it may not matter—even if your spouse has a graduate degree.
If you’re trying to avoid paying alimony, it’s not enough for your spouse to have education alone. Your spouse also needs to have a work history as well. In most cases, the more extensive their work history is, the better your chances of avoiding alimony are. For example, if your spouse has an English degree and they quit their job at Walmart in order to raise the children, and they haven’t worked in the 20 years since, you’re more likely to be on the hook for alimony. While your spouse does have an education, in the aforementioned scenario they don’t have any work experience relevant to their education.
Length of the Marriage
The length of the marriage willmay also play a factor in whether or not alimony will be awarded. The longer your marriage lasts, the more likely it is that you will be ordered to pay alimony. This is especially true for marriages that last for longer than four years. Utah law allows the court to order alimony for up to the length of the marriage, but this is generally not the standard practice. If you have questions about what you can expect, it may be best to consult an attorney who knows your specific circumstances. In general, the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that alimony will be awarded, provided that there’s a need for alimony. In some rare cases, a court may grant life-long alimony.
Ability to Pay
A person’s ability to pay alimony also factors into whether or not alimony will be awarded. The court will look to see if the higher-earning spouse has any ability to pay. That means their income minus the cost for them to maintain the standard of living during the marriage. If there is a surplus of funds and the other spouse has a need to maintain that standard of living, the surplus will generally be awarded to them. If there is not enough monthly income to allow both parties to maintain the standard of living during the marriage, the court may reduce both parties’ standard of living, and/or the court may equalize the monthly deficit each party has in meeting their monthly expenses to maintain the adopted standard of living.
When You Have Questions about Alimony
If you’re concerned about paying alimony, you need customized advice from an experienced attorney. At CoilLaw, our legal team is dedicated to ensuring that you get the best outcome possible in your divorce. If you’re considering filing for divorce, and you’ve got questions about alimony, contact CoilLaw today for an initial consultation.