Spousal Support in Utah

Spousal support, referred to as alimony in Utah, is when one is required to pay an individual, usually monthly, to whom they were once married in order to financially support them. There are many misconceptions about spousal support, including that it tends to be permanent (which it doesn’t). Generally, a person will only pay alimony in Utah for up to however long their marriage lasted.

What are the different types of spousal support recognized in Utah?

Very broadly, there are two types of alimony in Utah: temporary alimony and long-term alimony.

Temporary alimony is a type of alimony where one pays while their case is pending but not necessarily over the long term. They can also get the court to terminate the alimony order if they can prove the person receiving alimony is cohabitating with another person.

Long-term alimony is different. This is the type most people discussing the subject mean when they refer to alimony, with one party paying another for a period of time that will generally be at least as long as their marriage lasted.

How do the courts determine spousal support in Utah? 

The court weighs several factors when determining whether to award alimony and to what degree, including these:

  • Whether either party is “at fault” for the divorce, such as if one party engaged in acts of infidelity or abuse
  • The financial condition of the party receiving alimony or spousal support, with a strong focus on their monthly debts and obligations
  • The recipient’s ability to produce income based on their work history and current condition
  • The ability of the paying party to pay alimony
  • The length of the marriage, with longer marriages producing strong cases for alimony
  • Whether either party has custody of children
  • Whether the recipient worked at a business owned by the other party
  • Whether the recipient had contributed to developing their spouse’s skills while the two were married, such as paying for their education or working to enable them to go to school

What are the challenges of determining alimony in Utah?

One of the biggest challenges in an alimony case can be proving (or disproving) the different elements that are factored into alimony calculations. Some elements may be easy to prove, such as whether the recipient in the case worked for the other party’s business. Others, like if either party is at fault for the divorce, may be more difficult. 

These cases can also take some financial rigor, as you must thoroughly prove many different things about your income and general financial history. The more you can prove that you don’t have much financially, the more you will tend to benefit. This holds true regardless of whether you will be receiving or paying alimony. 

It’s paramount that you are honest in this process. Lying or hiding information can have serious legal consequences.

How long does spousal support last in Utah?

Alimony in Utah may last up to the number of years of the marriage, but the court has discretion over this. 

This is a factor that tends to be more relevant in marriages that lasted for a longer period of time. 

Is permanent alimony a thing?

Permanent alimony is rare in the United States. A person may have to pay alimony for multiple decades, potentially longer than they will live, but this isn’t common unless their marriage lasted a particularly long time. It’s very rare that the court makes a person pay alimony for an amount of time beyond how long their marriage lasted.

How to modify spousal support

It is possible to modify spousal support due to “substantial material changes in circumstances not foreseeable at the time of divorce.” This is done by petitioning the court to modify one’s alimony. But these changes cannot usually modify it such that it addresses needs that didn’t exist when the alimony was first set.

Can you terminate spousal support in Utah?

Several circumstances can terminate alimony. The first is automatic termination, which occurs if the recipient remarries or dies, unless there are specifics in the divorce decree that allow otherwise. There are also exceptions if the remarriage is annulled. 

Similarly, alimony can be terminated if one can prove the recipient cohabitates with another person, meaning they reside with another person on a regular basis with whom they have a sexual and/or romantic relationship. This type of termination isn’t automatic and must be filed no later than one year from when the filer knew or should have known about the cohabitation.

How do you pay spousal support in Utah?

The IRS has set a few criteria for how alimony payments must be made. They include the following:

  • The payment must be made by cash, check, or money order.
  • The pay must be specifically for alimony and generally labeled as such.
  • The recipient and receiver of the payment must file separate tax returns, as well as meet various other criteria typical of separation.

Can you deduct spousal support from your taxes?

Although alimony payments used to allow for some tax benefits in Utah, and one could deduct alimony payments from their income, this is no longer the case. From 2019 forward, you will need to pay taxes without such deductions. Similarly, receiving alimony is considered taxable income.

How does a Gavron warning impact spousal support?

A Gavron warning is a term that originated in a case called In re Marriage of Gavron. To briefly summarize the details of the case, a husband and wife separated and had their marriage dissolved. The husband had to pay spousal support due to his wife being unemployed and having narrow job skills when the marriage was dissolved.

Six years later, the man sought to modify the support order. His wife had yet to find a job, and the court found her failure to find a job in six years as constituting a variation in circumstances in the husband’s favor. Essentially, she should have made an effort to become more financially independent, but she didn’t. 

Thus, the term Gavron warning came into use. This refers to a warning often sent to individuals whom the court feels have had enough time to alter the financial circumstances that influenced their alimony calculations but who have seemingly failed to do so.


Alimony. Utah State Courts.
Alimony Payment Definition, Types, Requirements. (August 2022) Investopedia.
Gavron Warning Law and Legal Definition.
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