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Proposed 'Alimony Amendments' in Utah Would Account for Cheating Spouses

When a couple decides to get a divorce, in many cases one spouse has greater earning power or potential than the other. To account for the sudden change in income, courts may award alimony to either the husband or the wife after the divorce.

Recently, members of the Utah legislature proposed a bill, which would allow courts to consider certain factors when determining whether alimony should be awarded and the appropriate amount of the award. Under the bill, referred to as the "Alimony Amendments," courts would be able to take into account the fault of one party or the other in bringing about the divorce.

Under the bill, fault is defined as "wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship." Conduct that could lead to a determination of fault includes:

  • Extramarital affairs
  • Physical violence or the threat of harm
  • Financial issues, damaging either the significant other or minor children

The authors of the bill argue it is unfair for a spouse to have to pay alimony to the other if the relationship ended due to the other spouse's "wrongful conduct."

In Utah, it is unnecessary to prove fault to obtain a divorce. Consequently, some have questioned whether the bill would result in additional problems, as spouses seek to prove the bad behavior of the other.

Alimony in Utah

Currently, courts may consider a number of other factors to determine whether alimony should be awarded.

For instance, courts may look to the ability of both spouses to generate income and the bills each party is responsible for each month. In addition, courts can consider the amount of time the couple was married and whether one party has physical custody of any minor children. Another key factor is whether one of the spouses paid for the other to attend school or allowed the spouse to attend school during the marriage.

In most cases, the amount of the award will be determined by the standard of living enjoyed by the couple when they separated, rather than when they were married. Generally, alimony may only be awarded, at most, for the amount of time the couple was married. In addition, alimony payments typically end when the spouse receiving the payments remarries, cohabitates with a partner or dies.

If the spouse ordered to pay alimony does not make the payments, the party may be found in contempt of court. He or she may be required to pay a fine, and in some circumstances, may also be sent to jail.

If you are considering a divorce and are unsure about your right to receive alimony, consulting with a skilled, Salt Lake City family law attorney will ensure your rights are protected.