Home > divorce, family law general, personal > Let’s Talk About ALI-mony, Ba-BY. . .

Let’s Talk About ALI-mony, Ba-BY. . .

**Note:  More extremely specific Utah law, with a little reference to Wyoming.  If you need actual legal advice about Wyoming law, or any other state, I suggest contacting that state’s Bar website for a licensed attorney to discuss your legal issues with.

I went to law school in Wyoming.  They have statute that allows for alimony in divorces there, BUT the courts are extremely hesitant, to say the least, to order alimony in divorce cases.  Why?  The Wyoming courts feel that when parties divorce, it’s counterintuitive to keep them financially connected in any way that isn’t absolutely necessary.  So they’ll award alimony, but only as a last resort (like, if there isn’t enough property to split up to even out the abilities of the parties to financially provide for themselves.)

I don’t live in Wyoming anymore.  I live in Utah.  And here, thank heavens, the court is considerably more likely to award alimony in a divorce case.  Why?  And why on EARTH would I, a fairly free-thinking, educated woman, think this is a good idea?

A little more about my background:  I graduated from college (BYU) 6 months pregnant with twins, with a bachelor of science degree in Clothing and Textiles.  No worries, I thought–I’m going to be the wife and mother.

She makes it look sooo glamourous. Not. And the pay sucks, too.

That’s my job.  And it was.  And I was good at it.  But that whole Wife-And-Mother gig doesn’t really pay so well in actual dollars.  In fact, at the time I had my children, some news magazine did an article on the actual dollar value for the work done by the average housewife:  My 24/7 job, that involved maintaining the house, raising, feeding, giving birth to, and daily care for children, plus maintaining the yard and garden, handling all meal prep and cleaning, etc., etc., etc., was only worth about $27,000.00.  THAT was depressing.  So I tried not to focus on it. . .

When I found myself divorced with no job experience to speak of, with a useless, 10-year old college degree, at 31, I was in a very bad place financially.  Filing for bankruptcy bad, in fact.  And why?  I was a perfectly intelligent woman, who could surely support herself.

If I had only been supporting myself, and not paying child support and driving hundreds of miles to see my children, and then spending hundreds of dollars on food/hotels for the time that I HAD my children, it’s possible I would’ve been ok.  But as it was, I was definitely NOT.  And while my ex-husband’s life only got better after the divorce, mine only got worse.  He didn’t change anything about his life, see.  He still had the very well-paying job.  He even remarried and didn’t have to pay for child care.  No additional expenses at all.  While I scrambled to maintain electricity in my small apartment.

This is not how it’s meant to be, under the law.  The law that relates to the determination of alimony in the state of Utah is found at U.C.A. 30-3-5, beginning at subpart 8:

(8) (a) The court shall consider at least the following factors in determining alimony:
(i) the financial condition and needs of the recipient spouse;
(ii) the recipient’s earning capacity or ability to produce income;
(iii) the ability of the payor spouse to provide support;
(iv) the length of the marriage;
(v) whether the recipient spouse has custody of minor children requiring support;
(vi) whether the recipient spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the payor spouse; and
(vii) whether the recipient spouse directly contributed to any increase in the payor spouse’s skill by paying for education received by the payor spouse or allowing the payor spouse to attend school during the marriage.

(emphasis added.)

This is just the first part of that statute–note that these are the factors that the court “shall” consider.

Ya wanna talk stress? Try figuring out how to pay the bills, feed yourself, and STILL take care of your kids’ needs on $10/hr and a useless degree–if any at all.

That means that the court MUST look at at least these factors in determining alimony.  The statute continues, still in subpart 8:

(c) As a general rule, the court should look to the standard of living, existing at the time of separation, in determining alimony in accordance with Subsection (8)(a). However, the court shall consider all relevant facts and equitable principles and may, in its discretion, base alimony on the standard of living that existed at the time of trial. In marriages of short duration, when no children have been conceived or born during the marriage, the court may consider the standard of living that existed at the time of the marriage.
(d) The court may, under appropriate circumstances, attempt to equalize the parties’ respective standards of living.
(e) When a marriage of long duration dissolves on the threshold of a major change in the income of one of the spouses due to the collective efforts of both, that change shall be considered in dividing the marital property and in determining the amount of alimony. If one spouse’s earning capacity has been greatly enhanced through the efforts of both spouses during the marriage, the court may make a compensating adjustment in dividing the marital property and awarding alimony.
(f) In determining alimony when a marriage of short duration dissolves, and no children have been conceived or born during the marriage, the court may consider restoring each party to the condition which existed at the time of the marriage.

(emphasis added.)

You can see here that the court is not intending that some person who has given her/his life to maintaining a household, even though their contribution wasn’t financial, should end up in squalor, working 60 hours a week at $10/hr jobs just to eke out a living.  The law is equitable, not “equal.”  (There’s a difference here–think about it for awhile, and we’ll address that more later.)

**I had left out the issue of fault from subpart 8 when I originally wrote this post.  The appellate court had effectively made the statute a nullity with the case Mark v. Mark  in 2009, because they said that fault hadn’t been clearly defined by the legislature.  The legislature caught up and fixed that in 2013.  So now the appellate court has all kinds of instruction on what it means to be at fault in a divorce.  Maybe they can do a decent job of using that to determine when alimony is just.

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  1. August 2, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and
    look forward to new posts.

    Like

    • August 5, 2013 at 9:35 am

      I don’t actually use Twitter…I just don’t have that much to say ;). I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.

      Like

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