What is the difference between “spousal support,” “alimony,” and “spousal maintenance?”
Those phrases are used interchangeably in Utah but, for the most part, the legal term in Utah is “alimony.”

Who can get Alimony?
Alimony can be awarded to men and women, on a permanent basis or temporarily. Although courts are more willing to award alimony to persons who had long-term marriages, alimony may be awarded in shorter-term marriages where one spouse earns substantially more than the other or if a spouse was a stay-at-home parent and has no source of income at the time the divorce occurs.

How long can I expect to get a monthly alimony award?
Utah law restricts alimony to be no longer than the length of the marriage, unless otherwise agreed. So if parties are married for sixteen (16) years then the longest that the court is likely to award alimony would be sixteen (16) years. However, the court may have many reasons to end alimony sooner. If parties agree to a longer duration, then the Court will enforce the longer award. A longer award may be appropriate when assets, debts, or child related costs were adjusted in relation to alimony awards. If the receiving party gets remarried or cohabitates (lives with) a boyfriend or girlfriend, the alimony ceases. Death of either party also terminates alimony obligations. Retirement may be a cause for termination or a cause for modification (see below); however, the better practice would be to address the affect of retirement of either party in the Decree of Divorce so that both parties are clear as to how retirement will affect alimony.

Can I modify my alimony?
Payor spouses and receiving spouses can petition the court to modify alimony. However, the parties must remember what the purpose of alimony is. The court is generally not sympathetic to people who choose to quit their jobs and make less money in order to reduce alimony. The court is equally unpersuaded that a former spouse should get greater alimony just because their ex-spouse is now making more money. The intent of alimony is to keep people from turning to government assistance and to keep people as close as possible to the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage, taking into consideration that both parties are likely to have strained finances because of the divorce itself.

Is there more than one type of alimony?

Alimony is usually paid in equal amounts every month, usually on the first of the month. However, the parties or courts can establish variations to this.

Periodic: Payments made at specified times in specified amounts.
Lump-Sum: A one-time payment of alimony upon entry of the divorce decree, usually in a large amount. Lump sum alimony awards can create issues with debt and asset division and can greatly affect taxes. Seek advice from an accountant and/or an attorney to determine tax consequences.
Rehabilitative: An alimony award that is intended to be temporary and to terminate on a specific date or by the occurrence of a particular event (e.g. finishing school, obtaining a job, the children reaching full-time school age).

How does alimony affect my taxes?
Generally speaking, alimony is tax-deductible for the payor and is considered to be taxable income for the recipient. Failure to be clear in a Decree of Divorce can create other tax issues, such as failing to specify whether money is exchanging hands as to property and asset division versus alimony. For more tax information see page 10 of IRS publication #504, “Divorced or Separated Individuals.”

What if I was promised alimony?

If the parties are in agreement by stipulation, pre-nuptial agreement, or post-nuptial agreement, the courts will enforce that agreement to the extent that it meets the proper criteria for stipulations or marital agreements.

Utah Family Law Blog