So, you’re done with your divorce (finally). One of the things you agreed to during mediation was alimony. In fact, you’re paying alimony to your ex for the next few years.
Problem is things have changed, and you want to go back and change (lawyers say modify) alimony.
But how do you go about changing alimony in Utah?
Let’s start this discussion by laying out the most common reasons people give for wanting to modify alimony in Utah, then we’ll move on to the “how-to” part of things.
Most Common Reasons People Give for Wanting to Modify Alimony
- Loss of job
Modifying alimony because of a job change is most successful when (1) the job loss was not voluntary (e.g., lay-offs); (2) the job loss is permanent (i.e., you aren’t going to get rehired after a couple months); and (3) the job loss results in a reduction in income at your new job.
- Change of job
Change of job is similar to loss of job, and the factors that lead to a modification in alimony after a job loss apply to a change of job.
- Ex gets remarried
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, in Utah you stop paying alimony when your spouse remarries. This is usually pretty straightforward because you know when it happens (family will tell you).
- Ex cohabits
Like remarriage, when your ex cohabits, you stop paying alimony. (Cohabiting, in its simplest form, is when your ex lives with someone and has sex with them. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but you get the gist.) Unlike remarriage, people lie about cohabiting all the time in order to keep receiving alimony.
Retirement almost always means your monthly income goes way down, which almost always means you can’t pay alimony like you used to. Modifying alimony at retirement is most successful when: (1) retirement happens at a normal age (e.g., 65); and (2) you can’t reasonably be expected to work another comparable full-time job after retirement (hint: if you’re 45 and you retired after hitting your 25 years, Utah courts will expect you to go get another job and continue paying alimony).
- Your Ex makes a lot more money
There are some situations where a person receiving alimony has a big increase in income and doesn’t need alimony anymore. Candidly, it doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it’s certainly a basis for modifying or terminating alimony.
How to Modify Alimony in Utah
Now, on to the how-to.
First, let me tell you how you do not modify alimony.
Do not simply stop paying alimony.
(Note: the only exception to this is when you ex gets remarried. You can be fairly confident that it’s so easy to show remarriage that your ex won’t try to fake things when you stop paying.)
There are two correct ways to modify alimony in Utah:
- Get an agreement in writing, file the proper documents with the court, and then get a new amended divorce decree.
If you and your ex agree on a change to alimony, make sure you have an attorney create a stipulation (i.e., agreement) that you both sign. That stipulation needs to be filed with the court, and additional documents (findings of fact and conclusions of law, amended divorce decree) also need to be filed so the judge can sign an amended divorce decree.
That amended decree makes the new alimony amount official and enforceable.
- File a petition to modify asking the court to change alimony.
If you and your ex can’t agree on a new alimony number, you will need to file a petition to modify your divorce decree and ask to modify alimony.
This is a longer process than a simple stipulation because your ex doesn’t agree with the change (otherwise, you’d both sign a stipulation).
In my experience, almost all alimony modifications are handled in mediation after some intense negotiation.
If mediation is not successful, discovery (i.e., written questions and requests for documents) and moving toward trial is in order, although that happening is fairly rare.
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