Alimony and Income Equalization

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Hepworth & Associates, LLC

Bountiful, UT

Alimony is often a very contested issue during divorce proceedings. Under Utah law, there are seven different factors that a court must consider when determining whether, and how much, alimony should be awarded. (See Utah Code 30-3-5(8)). The first three factors, however, are given the most weight. These include: (1) financial need of the recipient spouse; (2) the earning capacity of the recipient spouse; and (3) the ability of the spouse to pay alimony.

Many spouses believe that they should be able to maintain the same standard of living as they did before, but this may not be possible in some situations. For example, if a wife earns just enough to live off of, it may not matter that the husband makes three times as much and was able to provide a much more comfortable standard of living than the wife could have afforded on her own. If they were to get divorced, a recent Utah case held that "the spouse's demonstrated need…must constitute the maximum permissible alimony award." Dobson v. Dobson, 294 P.3d 591 (Utah Ct. App. 2012). Under this rationale, the wife would not be entitled to alimony since she has an income sufficient to support her own needs. Even under the "income equalization" idea that many courts use to determine alimony, the wife would likely not receive alimony. As the court stated in Dobson, "the courts will equalize the income of the parties only, in those situations in which one party does not earn enough to cover his or her demonstrated needs and the other party does not have the ability to pay enough to cover those needs." Because this situation is often only present when both spouses suffer financially from the loss of the other spouse's income, this idea has been derisively called "equalization of poverty."

Since so many different factors are at play within a divorce proceeding where alimony is requested, it is important to consult an attorney to get a better understanding of what options you may have, and whether or not alimony is appropriate.

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