There are two approaches commonly used to arrive at an alimony amount.
The first approach frequently applied is the “needs based” alimony. That is, how much does the recipient of alimony need in order to make ends meet each month without placing the obligor into a monthly deficit. Step one is to evaluate each party’s net income and then deduct legitimate monthly living expenses. If one spouse has a deficit (unmet financial needs) and the other has excess income, alimony is awarded in an amount sufficient to cover those unmet expenses.
Sometimes there is just not enough to cover the financial needs of both spouses. In this case, the courts take a closer look at the nature of the debts, assets, and each party’s ability to modify their lifestyle and/or their income.
The second approach is to determine alimony based upon the “equalization of the standards of living”. When there is a notable difference between the net incomes of each spouse and the parties have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle during the course of their lengthy marriage, the Court is likely to consider the net income and debts of each spouse and award alimony designed to equalize the standard of living for each spouse. This is especially likely when there are minor children involved. This approach may also be applied when there is not enough to go around so the Courts may order the parties to “equally share the poverty”.
Equalization of income seems to be the Utah Court of Appeals favored approach. The Utah Court of Appeals in McPherson v. McPherson, 2013 UT App 302, remanded the case to the trial court “for recalculation of Husband’s alimony obligation, taking into consideration his tax obligations and actual ability to pay.” The Court quoted itself from its earlier decision in McPherson v. McPherson, 2011 UT App 382, 265 P.3d 839, as follows: “[w]e acknowledge the trial court’s discretion to make whatever other adjustments it deems necessary to achieve an equalization of the parties‘ standards of living . . .”
As always, please contact our office for an initial consultation without obligation. Our South Jordan Divorce lawyers have over 60 years of combined legal experience. We represent clients along the entire Wasatch Front, from Provo, Orem to Ogden. Our lawyers also deal with child custody and child support matters and modification of previous court orders. Call one of our alimony lawyers in South Jordan today.