How Long Must You Be Married To Get Alimony?

How Long Must You Be Married To Get Alimony?

Utah law does not require a marriage be “long term” before a court can award alimony. Rather length of the marriage is but one of many factors the court considers in deciding whether to award alimony (and if so how long and the amount). The Court may award alimony even if a divorcing couple has only been married a year if it is otherwise equitable to do so.

Utah Code 30-3-5(8) states the court “shall” consider “at least” the following “factors” in determining alimony: (i) financial condition and needs of receiving spouse, (ii) receiving spouse’s earning capacity and ability to produce income, including impact of diminished workplace experienced resulting from caring for a child of the payor spouse, (iii) ability of the payor spouse to provide support, (iv) length of the marriage, (v) whether receiving spouse has custody of minor child requiring support, (vi) whether receiving spouse worked in a business owned or operated by payor spouse, and (vii) whether receiving spouse directly contributed to any increase in payor spouse’s skill by paying for education or allowing him to attend school during marriage. Court may also consider “fault.” In determining alimony when a marriage of “short duration” dissolves and “no child has been conceived or born during the marriage” the court may consider restoring each party to the condition that existed at time of marriage. The statute does not define what is a considered a “short” versus “long” term marriage. (But as a practical matter many Judges and Commissioners treat 10 years as the threshold between long and short).

Utah caselaw contains several examples of our appellate court endorsing sizeable alimony awards where parties have been married for a short time.

In Tobler v. Tobler, our appellate court upheld a $2,000 per month alimony award for the length of the marriage where the parties were only married for 3 years before the wife filed for divorce. They had children together. By the time the case went to trial, the parties had been married less than 5 years. 2014 UT App 239, 337 P.3d 296. The court analyzed the traditional alimony factors and found the wife needed ongoing financial assistance to maintain her marital standard of living and the husband had the ability to pay. The appellate court held the trial court properly considered the length of the marriage and fact the wife had custody of their young children which limited her ability to earn money. Id. ¶ 36-40.

In Bhongir v. Mantha, our appellate court upheld a $1,000 per month alimony award where the parties had only been married a year before filing for divorce (and had only actually lived together for 5 months) and had no children together. 2016 UT App 99, 374 P.3d 33. The Court awarded the wife alimony for 5 months (equivalent to the length of time the parties had lived together). The Court went through a traditional alimony analysis (wife’s needs, ability to produce income, and husband’s ability to pay) and found the wife needed financial support and husband had the ability to contribute. Id. ¶ 21. The Court rejected the husband’s argument the short duration of the parties’ marriage (and even shorter period of actual cohabitation) precluded alimony. Id. While recognizing the statute gave the court discretion to restore each party to the condition that existed at the time of marriage when “no children have been conceived or born during the marriage,” the court found “no reason to depart from the principle that an award of alimony up to the length of the marriage” – even if that marriage is only a year long and does not involve a child – “falls within the trial court’s broad discretion.” Id. ¶ 22.

In Chesley v. Chesley, our appellate court endorsed the principle of awarding alimony in a 6-year marriage with children but remanded for further fact finding regarding the precise amount of alimony to award because the trial judge did not thoroughly explain how he calculated the $900 per month figure he ordered. 2017 UT App 127, 402 P.3d 65. The appellate court found the trial court “properly considered several of the relevant statutory factors, including [wife’s] earning capacity, the length of the parties’ marriage, and the fact that [wife] had custody of the parties’ two children.” Id. ¶ 14. However it was unclear what the trial court found to be the parties’ reasonable monthly expenses in which case the appellate court was “unable to determine whether the $900 alimony award was proper” thus necessitating a remand for additional findings.

Do you need help with an alimony case? Give the experienced attorneys at Wiser Family Law a call today at 855-254-2600 or Contact Us online.

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