What to Do if Your Alimony Payments Are too Expensive in Utah?

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. Salt Lake City divorce attorney Darwin Overson explains how to modify or reduce alimony in Utah if supporting your ex becomes too great of a financial burden.

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.

petition to file divorce

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, like Darwin Overson, 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.”

If you’re filing for divorce in Utah and need help with legal matters like alimony, child custody, or child support, family law attorney Darwin Overson can assist.  To start discussing your legal matter in a free and completely private consultation, call Darwin right away at (801) 758-2287.