Alimony, or spousal support, is meant to help divorced spouses maintain the standard of living they experienced during their marriage. There are many different kinds of alimony, and payments can last for months, years, or even decades depending on the details of the situation. While spousal support is a key part of divorce, many people run into problems when their alimony payments become too costly.
How Does the Court Decide to Award Spousal Support?
Alimony is not a uniform, one-size-fits-all arrangement. Just the opposite, the court determines each alimony plan on a case-by-case basis. When determining how alimony should be set, the court will consider factors like: How long you and your spouse were married. (In the absence of extenuating circumstances, alimony is generally restricted to the length of the marriage itself. For example, if you were married for 10 years, your alimony would typically be limited to 10 years.)
You and your spouse’s existing debts and financial resources. This could include income, inheritance, stocks, bonds, property, and other assets. You and your spouse’s ability to earn income. This factors in variables like age, work experience, education, and health.
Whether there are minor children who need child support.
Whether either parent has child custody and needs to cover costs like school supplies, food, and transportation.
Whether either of the spouses engaged in behavior that led to the divorce (e.g. a fault divorce involving adultery).
Of course, the court will need accurate financial information to make an appropriate decision. Therefore, you will have to supply information about your debts, assets, and income, which is itemized in detail on a document called the Financial Declaration. The Financial Declaration also plays an important role when the court decides how property will be divided.
It’s a common misconception that the husband always pays alimony, while the wife is always the recipient. In reality, alimony is based on the factors listed above – not on gender. While alimony payments generally don’t start until the divorce has been finalized, the court may order temporary support payments while divorce proceedings are still underway.
How to Reduce Alimony Payments That Are Too High
The court determines alimony using the process described above, which means your payments should, at least theoretically, be set at a level your finances can reasonably accommodate. At the same time, a payor’s initial ability to provide alimony can later be impacted by issues like changes in health, changes in employment, or even changes in the recipient’s living situation.
It’s a stressful situation when your alimony payments are too high, but don’t panic: the judiciary understands that circumstances can change with time, and the courts make accommodations for precisely this scenario. If you cannot afford to keep paying alimony at the same level, you may be able to reduce what you owe.
The first step to reducing your alimony payments in Utah is to contact an experienced alimony lawyer, who will be able to help you through the legal process required to lower your payments. To begin this process, you’ll have to file a petition to modify alimony with the court.
The court will not grant you (or your spouse) an alimony modification unless you can prove that there has been a “material change of circumstances.” In this context, “material” simply means significant, so a material change could involve something like a serious illness or other medical crisis, the loss of a job, or a natural disaster. Once the material change of circumstances has been established, the court will review your alimony plan based on the same factors described earlier (e.g. income, earning ability, the need for child support, and so forth).
Additionally, the court can terminate alimony altogether if your spouse begins living with another person. This is provided by Utah Code § 30-3-5(10), which says that “alimony to a former spouse terminates upon establishment by the party paying alimony that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person.”
How Can I Get Out Of Paying Alimony?
One can define alimony as the provisions provided to the spouse after separation or divorce. If the circumstances of your marriage and divorce fall within specific parameters, you may be unable to escape paying alimony to your ex-spouse. However, there are a few things that could help you on how to avoid paying alimony. Furthermore, we would also highlight how does alimony work, how is alimony calculated, how long do you have to pay alimony, is alimony taxable and also what happens if I stop paying alimony?
Earning Less Than Your Spouse
The alimony award is normally calculated based on two significant factors: the earnings of the asking and the income of the paying spouse. Thus, you may escape the payment of alimony if you earn less or about the same amount as your spouse. Also there is no predefined divorce alimony calculator and the alimony payments or alimony deductions vary from scenario to another.
If You Got Married For a Short Period Of Time
If your marriage has lasted for two decades and you were the bread winner of the family, you are most likely going to pay for spousal support but if you were married for only a short period time, it’s unlikely that the judge would require you to help support your ex. If you are married for short period, judges often try to restore spouses to their financial situation before the marriage. A few states award alimony for merely a short period of time to help the receiving spouse time to obtain job skills or an education to be able to support himself or herself when the other spouse’s earnings is considerably more.
Request for A Vocational Evaluation
You may be able to get out of paying alimony or minimizing the amount you pay if you prove to the court that your spouse does not have any need of it. If for example the asking spouse has educational qualification that could earn him or her better paying job but he or she intentionally prefers to work part-time in a minimum wage job by asking the court to carry out a vocational evaluation.
Ask For Modification Of Termination Of Alimony Payment
In divorce law and alimony payment, the decree of permanent payment of alimony does not mean that it can never be reviewed or terminated. It only means there is no specific date for the termination of alimony payment. If your ex-spouse re-marries or start to live with another partner in some states, you may be able to get the court to cancel out the payment of alimony and child support. Again, you may be able to get the court to reduce the amount you pay in alimony if your income drops.
Pre-Planning With A Prenuptial Agreement
If you are in the process of getting married and wondering how to avoid paying alimony in the event of the marriage ending in a divorce. You may be able to circumvent the payment of alimony by getting a prenuptial agreement. People normally ask for a prenuptial agreement when they earn or have more money than their future spouse for the fact that the standard of living and the amount each spouse earns is the determinant of whether a spouse gets alimony payment or not.
Quit Any Unhappy Marriage Relationship Early Enough
The alimony amount as well depends on how long you were married. Short-term marriages are frequently not granted alimony payment. If you are not happy in your marriage and the resolution is not coming soon, the earlier you separate and seek for divorce the better to circumvent the payment of alimony.
Pay Property Taxes
If during the divorce settlement you obtain property that you have to pay taxes on, it may determine the amount of money you’d be required to pay on spousal support. Thus, you may want to acquire any property that your spouse is willing to give up if it means that you will end up paying fewer taxes than overall alimony payment.
What If My Spouse Is Capable Of Work But Refuses To Do So?
Is your former spouse refusing to work? Utah Family Code mandates that, when awarding alimony, the court must consider whether your spouse can become self-supporting within a “reasonable period of time.” You may be required to provide your spouse with alimony for a period of time after a marriage ends, but usually your ex eventually has to get a job that he or she can live on. While the court has discretion to award alimony for a longer period, and alimony may be permanent in cases where a marriage was considered to be of a “long duration,” you usually won’t have to continue providing funds to your ex on an indefinite basis. If your spouse is capable of work but refuses to do so, this should not have an impact on you… if you have a spousal support order in place that ends after a specific duration. However, if your spousal support order is conditioned on your spouse moving forward with seeking training or employment, you can sometimes go back to court and show your ex is not cooperating with the requirements.
When your marriage ends, you and your spouse can try to come to an agreement on alimony or a judge can award spousal support base on income disparities, the length of the marriage, the contributions each party made, and many other factors.
A judge may order you to pay spousal support for a set period of time, to give your spouse time to get back to work.
This could be equal to half the length of your marriage, or to some other designated period depending upon what is appropriate in your situation.
With this type of spousal support order, you can stop paying when the court order no longer requires you to. If your spouse is capable of work but refuses to get a job, that is no longer your problem once you have fulfilled your court obligations for paying support.
If your support order is conditioned on your spouse getting a job, however, then you may feel as if you are going to be stuck paying forever until your ex finds work. This is especially frustrating if your spouse is capable of work but refuses to apply for or obtain a job.
You can go to court and argue that your spouse is not making a reasonable effort to find work. The burden of proof is on you in these cases to show your spouse has opportunity, ability, and earning capacity. A vocational exam pursuant to Family Code 4331 typically involves a vocational evaluator assessing your ex’s ability to obtain employment while allowing him or herself to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. A vocational exam can be helpful in a divorce proceeding where the couple has fundamental disagreements on alimony. Because you have to make your case to end spousal support if you are paying and feel you shouldn’t be, it is imperative you have a good legal advocate on your side.
Retirement: A payor spouse’s retirement factors into lessening alimony.
Sickness: In the event of chronic illness, the payor spouse’s alimony responsibilities may diminish. Conversely, seriously ailing dependent spouses may require more money. Death of either spouse ends alimony.
Agreement: Divorce terms occasionally elaborate circumstances where alimony is modifiable, such as stopping alimony after retirement.
You can modify your alimony payments with the help of good divorce lawyers in Utah. You can’t just stop paying your alimony. There are two correct ways to do it:
Get a written agreement and file the documents in court
You can then get an amended divorce decree. If you have agreed to change your alimony, the decision does not end with you and your ex. Have your attorney create a stipulation for both of you and sign it. You need to file it in court.
File a Petition
Consider filing a petition asking the court to modify your alimony. If you can’t agree on a new number, the court may help you. Usually, you go through the mediation process. If negotiations fail to work, you can proceed to trial.
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