Can Alimony Be Modified?

If you pay or receive alimony, it is possible for you to petition the court. This petition will allow you to change the amount you are paying or receiving. The court has broad discretionary powers in the initial instance and in modification proceedings. Also, the court will only overturn this on appeal if in the presence of clear abuse.

Rules of Alimony Modification

Under Utah Code Ann § 30-3- 5(8)(i) and § 78B-14- 211, Utah Courts maintain continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to modify alimony awards throughout the existence of the support order based on a substantial material change in circumstance not foreseeable at the time of the divorce. See also, Moore v. Moore, 872 P.2d 1054, 1055. You can consider a change material if it relates to the basis upon which the original award from the trial court. Mineer v. Mineer, 706 P.2d 106, 1062 (Utah 1985).

If the parties involved reasonably contemplated a change in circumstances at the time of divorce, then the court does not consider it not legally cognizable as a substantial change in circumstances in modification proceedings. Dana v. Dana, 789 P.2d 726, 729. In order for a material change in circumstances to be contemplated in a divorce decree there must be evidence. This evidence should come preferably in the form of a provision within the decree itself, that the trial court (or the parties) anticipated the specific change. Durfee v. Durfee, 796 P.2d 713, 716.

The rule of modification has limits only to those needs that existed at the entering of the decree of divorce (unless the court finds extenuating circumstances that justify that action). Finally, the court generally does not consider the income of any subsequent spouse of the pay or, except the court may consider that spouse’s ability to share living expenses. See Utah Code Ann. § 30-3- 5(8)(i)(ii)&(iii).


In a Utah Court of Appeals case, Wall v. Wall, 2007 UT App 61, Mr. Wall petitioned the court to terminate his alimony obligation on the basis of Mrs. Wall’s completion of college and becoming qualified for full-time employment. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling that either her completing a college degree or her getting a job, or both, received consideration at the time of divorce. The Court found evidence of this in the trial court’s Findings of Fact (which contained the following statement: Mrs. Wall is a full-time student with limited recent work experience) and in Mrs. Wall’s complaint (which stated that she was attending college “in an attempt to obtain skills which would allow her sufficient income to support herself”).

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