In Utah, alimony is not entirely straightforward.

It’s based on a very fact intensive formula.

And when things aren’t clear, people’s minds tend to go to the worst place, which in alimony land is: what is the most I will pay?

As we unpack that question, keep in mind that it has two main parts to it:

  1. How much you will pay in alimony per month.
  2. How long you will pay alimony.

How Much You Will Pay in Alimony per Month

To determine how much you will pay per month in alimony, you need to know how Utah courts calculate alimony.

The most common alimony calculation goes something like this:

Spouse’s net monthly income – marital standard of living at time of separation = need or no need

You apply this formula to the spouse who makes less money. If, after plugging in the numbers, that spouse is in the negative (i.e., doesn’t have enough money to maintain the marital standard of living at the time of separation), then that spouse has a need for alimony.

That need is, in practice, the most you could pay in alimony. In other words, it is the extreme upper limit on alimony.

Let’s use concrete numbers to give you a better idea how this works. Wife makes less than Husband. Wife nets $4000 per month income. The marital standard of living (i.e., what Husband and Wife spent every month to maintain the household) is $8000 per month. $4000 – $8000 = ($4000). So, Wife is short $4000 per month, or, in other words, she has a need of $4000 per month.

Now, $4000 is the most you could pay using those numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean $4000 is what you will pay.

Why?

Because there’s another side to the alimony calculation. It goes like this:

Spouse’s net monthly income – marital standard of living at time of separation = ability to pay or no ability to pay

You apply this equation to the spouse who makes more money.

If, after running the numbers, the number is positive, then the spouse who earns more has the ability to pay alimony. When there is an ability to pay, and a need, then someone’s paying alimony.

If the number is negative, then there is no real ability to pay alimony, and alimony usually isn’t paid.

Let’s go back to our concrete example to see how things might work out. Husband nets $9000 per month. So, applying the formula we have $9000 – $8000 = $1000. Since Husband has $1000 left over every month, he has the ability to pay alimony, and would likely pay $1000 per month instead of $4000 per month.

(Note: these are simple examples, and they don’t include child support, which can affect alimony.)

How Long You Will Pay Alimony

Unless a spouse has some sort of major disability that keeps them from working, the longest you will pay alimony in Utah is the length of your marriage. That represents the extreme upper limit on how long you could pay alimony.

So, if you have been married five years, the longest you would pay is five years. Ten years, ten years. And so on.

Again, though, could pay and will pay are two different things.

In practice, if you do pay alimony, you usually pay alimony for about ½ the length of your marriage. So, five years become two-and-a-half to three, ten years becomes five, etc.

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