The Appellate Group

Smith v. Smith

Smith v. Smith, 2024 UT App 28 (Oliver, J.)


After a bench trial on the parties’ divorce, the district court calculated alimony by equalizing the difference between Wife’s negative income and Husband’s monthly positive income. This amount exceeded Wife’s demonstrated monthly need. Husband objected to the proposed decree based on the court’s ruling. The district court entered the decree without changing the alimony award. Husband filed a motion to amend the findings, which the court denied. Husband appealed. The Utah Court of Appeals vacated and remanded, holding:

  • The district court abused its discretion when it employed the incorrect analysis in computing Wife’s alimony award and awarded her an amount greater than her demonstrated need. The court did not follow the three‑step process required by Utah law. 
  • Practice tip: Regardless of the payor spouse’s ability to pay more, the recipient spouse’s demonstrated need must constitute the maximum permissible alimony award.
  • Practice tip: Parties should present evidence of the marital standard of living if they want the district court to consider expenses during the marriage that differ from expenses at the time of trial.  
  • Judicial tip: In applying the three-step process in an alimony determination, sequence matters. A district court should consider the marital standard of living during step one of the alimony analysis, if the parties have presented such evidence.
  • Judicial tip: District courts should not calculate alimony by simply dividing the couple’s pre-separation expenses in half or by presumptively awarding half of the total money the parties spent each month during the marriage.

Read the full court opinion