Can Alimony Payments Be Awarded on a Permanent Basis?

Can Alimony Payments Be Awarded on a Permanent Basis?

Changes in law and society over the past few decades have triggered significant adjustments to alimony orders in Utah and other states. While movies and television shows might lead people to believe that spousal support payments continue until death of one party or the remarriage of the recipient, the reality is quite different. In fact, unless special circumstances apply, alimony obligations cannot exceed the length of the marriage. Often, the duration is much shorter. 

Under Utah law, so-called permanent alimony is usually restricted to cases where a recipient cannot support themselves financially for some reason outside their control. The state generally favors alimony that is awarded for a specific duration, typically tied to the length of the marriage. One common circumstance where permanent spousal support might be considered is when a spouse who relied on their partner’s income has a long-term disability that prevents them from working. There can also be instances where a marriage lasted for decades and a party seeking alimony would never be able to earn sufficient income to maintain their standard of living because of their years out of the workforce.

Despite the fact that it is commonly called permanent alimony, it is important to remember that any spousal support order can be modified or reversed. Given this fact, and the possibility that death, remarriage or cohabitation with a new romantic partner might halt payments, “open-ended alimony” is a more accurate description.  

Traditionally, when fewer women worked outside the home, long-term alimony was much more common as there were not as many opportunities for recipients to gain or regain their ability to earn a suitable income. Now, a large percentage of people who get divorced have some skills or experience from previous jobs that can be used to help them re-enter the workforce. In recognition of this shift, alimony is typically intended to give recipients a limited amount of time to rehabilitate their earning capacity. 

If you’re unsure about how a court might decide on the duration of alimony in your case, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney who can review the specific circumstances and advocate for a fair resolution. 

Attorney Victoria Cramer advises Utah residents on alimony matters and other aspects of the divorce process. To schedule a consultation at our Salt Lake City office, please call 801-299-9999 or contact us online.