Utah’s “Fault” Alimony Statute - Law offices of Melvin A. Cook
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Utah’s “Fault” Alimony Statute

by Melvin Cook

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Utah has an interesting law regarding alimony found at Utah Code Section 30-3-5 (8)(b) through (d).

It states as follows:

(b) The court may consider the fault of the parties in determining whether to award alimony and the terms thereof.

(c) “Fault” means any of the following wrongful conduct during the marriage that substantially contributed to the breakup of the marriage relationship:

(i) engaging in sexual relations with a person other than the party’s spouse;

(ii) knowingly and intentionally causing or attempting to cause physical harm to the other party or minor children;

(iii) knowingly and intentionally causing the other party or minor children to reasonably fear life-threatening harm; or

(iv) substantially undermining the financial stability of the other party or the minor children.

(d) The court may, when fault is at issue, close the proceedings and seal the court records.

This law is interesting in the sense that almost all states, including Utah, have no-fault divorce laws. This means that neither party needs to prove the other party was at fault in order to establish grounds for divorce. The grounds for divorce may simply be “irreconcilable differences.”

It is difficult to know how the courts will apply this “fault” alimony statute in any particular case. Certainly it would seem the law does not replace the need for detailed financial evidence in establishing an appropriate alimony award. Such financial evidence, including proof of the recipient spouse’s unmet needs, the recipient spouse’s ability to provide for his or her own needs, the paying spouse’s ability to assist in paying those unmet needs, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, are necessary elements in any alimony case, presumably even where the “fault” statute is in play.

In sum, it would seem that Utah’s fault alimony law would typically apply to clarify or enhance an alimony determination that is otherwise supported by detailed financial evidence. Individuals should be advised of its existence and may wish to consult an attorney to make a determination whether or not it may appropriately apply to their particular circumstances.

This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.

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