House Bill 236, in the Utah legislature is creating some talk amongst those practicing family law. According to the bill, it “expands the circumstances under which a court may order alimony, and it increases the length of time alimony may be awarded.”
Currently there are three main factors the court considers in determining the appropriateness of an alimony order.
1. The length of the marriage;
2. the need of party requesting alimony;
3. the ability of the opposing party to pay.
If Petitioner earns $2,500.00 a month, and the court finds they need $3,500.00 to meet their obligations, Petitioner has shown a need of $1000.00.
The court must also find the Respondent has the ability to pay. Therefore, if the Respondent earns $4,500.00 a month, and the court determines the Respondent needs $3,000.00 a month for living expenses, the court would likely order the Respondent pay the $1,000.00 to the Petitioner in alimony. If however the court determined the Respondent needed the full $4,500.00, or had insufficient income to cover reasonable living expenses, the court would likely deny alimony..
H.B. 236 would allow the court to consider fault in considering the appropriateness and amount of alimony. The bill defines fault as ” “wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship,” including an extramarital affair, intent to cause physical harm or cause a spouse or children to
reasonably fear life-threatening harm, or activity that undermines the financial stability of the other party or minor children.
Eric Johnson, author and divorce attorney, was quoted by the Deseret News saying:.
” “Everybody asks for alimony if they can get away with it,” he said,
adding that people will try to get away with various claims that put
their spouse at fault. “People might use it to punish their spouse or
just to fuel greed.”
Johnson said the amendment will cause more litigation
and trouble than it seeks to resolve and likely will not deter bad
behavior or lead to a lower divorce rate. Instead, it could drive the
illicit activities surrounding divorce deeper underground, he said.
“People will work harder to cover their tracks,” Johnson said.”
While Representative Cox, and several other elected officials seem to be in support of the idea of the court being able to consider bad behavior in the determination of alimony, Johnson replies saying “alimony should be tied to the economic financial need, not used as a punishment.” This statement is reflective of the current model used in no fault divorce situations.
The Legislative Judiciary Interim Committee, where the Committee voted to accept the bill.
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