Child Support guidelines have been in place in Utah for a long time. They make child support predictable and easy to calculate where the parties’ incomes are easily ascertainable.
Alimony, on the other hand, is a different animal. It is based on factors such as the recipient spouse’s unmet needs, the paying spouse’s ability to help pay for those unmet needs, the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage, and the length of the marriage.
In other words, there is no set formula for alimony. It is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Alimony is typically either rehabilitative (to help a party get back on their feet) or permanent. It cannot last longer than the length of the marriage absent some compelling reason to make it last longer.
Because there is no set formula or specific guidelines for alimony other than the general factors mentioned above, it may have the tendency to be less mathematically predictable than child support.
Alimony guidelines have been tried in several other states.
Would they work in Utah?
If implemented in Utah, would they make alimony awards more predictable? Would they make cases more likely to settle without the need of costly litigation? Would they be fair to both parties? Would they be fairer than a diligent case-by-case determination by a Judge?
These are not necessarily easy questions to answer.
Judges are certainly competent to engage in the hard work of fact-finding on a case by case basis based on the evidence presented to them. This is at the core of what trial judges do. Legislatures, on the other hand, tend to deal in broad issues of policy from a societal perspective, rather than focus on individual cases.
Along these lines, would alimony guidelines tend to take away the primary fact finding function from judges? Or would the guidelines assist judges in fulfilling this function by giving them more specific guidance in making alimony awards? (Presumably, guidelines would allow for flexibility for the judge to deviate from them based on the facts and circumstances of any given case).
Most importantly, would alimony guidelines be in the best interests of divorcing parties?
While these questions are not easily answered, it seems to me they are certainly worth considering.