Alimony is a major part of most West Valley City divorce cases. Spousal support can help provide for your children, make up for lost income, and cover costs related to medical care, education, and other expenses. But how are payments determined? What if you’ve had a change in circumstances and want to change your arrangement? What if your ex-spouse disobeys court orders and stops making payments? You need an experienced lawyer on your side to protect your rights and explain your legal options.
To set up a confidential legal consultation free of charge, call the law offices of Overson Law, LLC at (801) 758-2287 today.
What is Alimony?
Alimony suffers from some stubborn misconceptions. The most prevalent myth is probably that the ex-husband always ends up paying the ex-wife. Not only is this untrue, such gender bias is actually prohibited by law. Either gender can be named payor or recipient.
The other major myth is that spousal support is a form of punishment or revenge. In reality, its purpose is simply to help divorced spouses maintain the standard of living from their marriage.
Utah recognizes a few different types of alimony:
- Temporary — Ordered when divorce proceedings are still underway, before the divorce is officially granted.
- Short-Term — Meant to sustain the recipient spouse while he or she receives the education or job training necessary to become self-sufficient. This could be much shorter than the duration of the marriage.
- Long-Term — In most cases, Utah courts will not order payments that exceed the length of the marriage itself.
How Does Utah Calculate Spousal Support?
Spousal support is not one-size-fits-all. On the contrary, the Utah family courts consider a long list of factors and make their determinations on a case-by-case basis. Under Utah Code §30-3-5(8)(a), some factors that can influence your payment arrangements include:
- How much income you earn compared to your spouse.
- How long your marriage lasted.
- Whether either one of you has custody of your child or children.
- Whether the recipient used to work for the payor.
- Whether the recipient helped pay for the payor’s college education.
- Whether the recipient has the skills and training to be financially self-sufficient.
Can I Modify an Existing Payment Plan?
The short answer to this question is yes, you can modify a preexisting alimony arrangement. However, the family courts will only grant modifications under special circumstances. In order to convince the judge, you need to prove that you’ve had a major life change which justifies the modification. These major changes are called “extenuating circumstances,” and might include:
- Your or your child being diagnosed with a terminal illness like cancer.
- Major changes to your physical abilities, such as paralysis or a limb amputation.
- Losing your primary source of income. (Note the courts are unlikely to grant a modification if you voluntarily quit your job.)
- Losing your home in a natural disaster like a tornado.
If the court finds that extenuating circumstances merit making a change, payments may be increased or reduced as needed.
On a related note, it’s important to know the courts will terminate all payments if the recipient spouse starts living with another person.
What if My Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Follow Court Orders?
It’s always a stressful and aggravating situation when an ex-spouse ignores court directives and doesn’t make their ordered payments, and you may feel tempted to retaliate by withholding parenting time. It’s very important to resist that temptation, because defying court orders will only reflect poorly on your case and make your legal situation worse.
The right response is to file a motion requesting enforcement of the alimony order with help from your attorney. This type of motion is called a Motion to Enforce Domestic Orders (Order to Show Cause).
Because West Valley City is part of Utah’s Third Judicial District, the motion will initially be reviewed by a court commissioner, a special type of quasi-judicial officer. In addition to being filed with the court, this motion must also be served on your spouse by either a constable, a sheriff, or a private investigator. Once the court enters its judgment for past due payments, an attorney can help you enforce it.