If you are facing divorce in the state of Connecticut, you may have many questions regarding alimony and how it is treated. Although specifics vary from case to case, this information will provide you with a good primer about what to expect as you make your way through this process.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is the money that one spouse pays to the other as a means of support during the divorce proceedings (or for a period of time following a finalized divorce). Alimony was developed at a time when marriages followed a more traditional stance. In other words, a wife was the homemaker and the caregiver of the couple’s children, and a husband worked to provide financial support for the whole family.
During that time, employment opportunities were much more limited than they are today. Therefore, the husband was considered responsible for the wife’s financial well-being after the marriage came to an end.
Today, the vast majority of married women work outside their homes. Nevertheless, alimony laws are still in effect in Connecticut, in order to make sure economic fairness is present during and after divorce.
When a couple divorces, a divorce court may require the person with higher earnings (regardless of gender) to provide assistance to the person earning a lower wage to maintain a lifestyle similar to the one they had during a marriage.
Types of Alimony in Connecticut
Essentially, there are two types of alimony in Connecticut: temporary and permanent.
A judge might award temporary alimony during the divorce proceedings. After a divorce has been finalized, this type of alimony is sometimes called “pendente lite.” One spouse might pay the other in a lump-sum payment, or he or she may pay incrementally in amounts specified by a judge. These payments might be monthly or biweekly.
At one time, permanent alimony was very common, but today, it is quite rare. Even in marriages that last a long time, courts tend to view alimony as a type of rehabilitative measure, or an amount paid on a temporary basis to give a spouse time to look for a job or get the education he or she needs to improve his or her employability.
Permanent alimony is generally reserved for spouses who are not likely to find decent employment in the future, due to their ages or health problems. A couple may also privately agree that one will pay the other long-term or permanent alimony.
The Alimony Process
In order to award alimony, a court has to find that one spouse has the financial need for such funds. A Connecticut court considering a request for either type of alimony will examine the following factors:
- The length of the marriage
- The spouses’ ages, health statuses, and other factors
- The occupation of each spouse, their other sources of income, and their employability
- The estate and needs of each spouse
- Any child support benefiting the other spouse
- Whether the children will benefit from a custodial parent acquiring employment
When it comes to the consideration of an award for permanent alimony, a court will also factor in the reason for the divorce. More specifically, certain types of spousal misconduct (such as adultery, abuse, and spousal abandonment) may affect the amount of the alimony and the length of time a spouse receives it.
Is There a Formula for Alimony in Connecticut?
There is no set mathematical formula that governs the calculation of alimony in Connecticut. A judge has a vast amount of discretion over how much alimony will be awarded (if it is awarded at all). In Connecticut, all calculations of alimony payouts are left to the discretion of family court judges.
However, we should take a closer look at the specific factors in the decision whether or not to award alimony.
In the state of Connecticut, alimony is based on a spouse’s obligation to support the other after divorce when dependency was a part of the marriage. For instance, an individual going through a divorce may request alimony if he or she has become dependent on his or her spouse at some point during the marriage.
If the income, estate, or potential for earning is significantly less for one spouse than the other, it will hinder his or her ability to continue the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage. Therefore, spouses may qualify to have alimony payments sent to them.
Any child support (or other financial benefits received by the person claiming he or she needs alimony) will be factored into the judge’s decision about whether to award it. If the court sees a benefit as being relevant to the case (including payments made to the individual after alimony has been awarded), it may change the amount of alimony that is awarded.
During the divorce process and after the alimony judgment has been passed, the judge may declare that possessions attained by one or both spouses are portions of one spouse’s estate. Therefore, he or she may consider the necessity and monetary amount of the alimony award when making a determination.
If custodial parents are unable to work or otherwise support themselves due to the ages or health conditions of their children, the custodial parent would be much likelier to receive alimony.
During the final judgement, any other relevant factors of your case will be taken into consideration. Ultimately, the alimony will be awarded at the judgement of the court if no agreement can be made between both parties. ,
More Factors Affecting Alimony
Connecticut has a defined list of factors that are described in statutory law. These factors are legally required to be taken into consideration by a judge when he or she is determining alimony payments.
When determining marital fault, Connecticut takes these factors into consideration. They include adultery, abuse, and similar factors (which will be further explored in a later section).
Another factor to consider is the standard of living. When figuring out the appropriate amount of an alimony payment, a judge will definitely look at the spouse’s lifestyle.
Custodial status is a significant factor that must be examined. In other words, the amounts of alimony payout are affected by whether the recipient spouse has custody of the children, as custodial spouses get higher alimony payments.
Can Alimony Be Changed?
Unless the couple signs an agreement about not seeking a court decision about changes in an alimony payment, a court can modify the periodic payments if one spouse shows a change that is specific enough in his or her circumstances.
When alimony is expected after a divorce, spouses have the opportunity to come to an alimony agreement by way of litigation in a Connecticut family court or through a mutual decision. Ex-spouses may hire a Connecticut alimony mediator to come to a mutual agreement about alimony and other issues that are contested in their divorce (such as the division of property), which may prevent the need to go to court.
Alimony payments end when one of these scenarios occurs:
- The term of an award expires.
- The spouse receiving said payments remarries.
- The death of one spouse occurs.
Connecticut law specifically states that a justice may terminate, suspend, or lower alimony payments if the recipient of said payments is residing with another adult.
However, a paying spouse requesting this modification must show that this living arrangement has created a change in the financial need of the person receiving said payments.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
Since the duration of alimony payments is determined by a family court judge, the alimony length is usually based on the duration of the marriage. Here is a common measurement: One year of alimony is paid for every three years of marriage.
However, every judge does not abide by this rule of thumb, so your case will definitely have a unique set of factors. Alimony may be stopped after the remarriage of the recipient spouse, or when he or she begins cohabiting relationship. In some circumstances, a justice may award permanent alimony.
What if I Do Not Pay Alimony?
If you do not pay alimony, the owed amount is known as alimony arrears, which may be collected in a few different ways: mediation, small claims court, or even the garnishment of wages. Failure to comply with a court-issued alimony order may result in contempt-of-court charges against the spouse who refuses to pay alimony that is owed.
Does Adultery Affect Alimony?
In short, yes. Many states in the USA have gone to a “no-fault” divorce model. In this model, all a spouse must show to obtain a divorce is that the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. Based on the statement of the spouse, a judge will grant a divorce without having to examine evidence about why the marriage is no longer viable or whose fault it was.
However, Connecticut uses a hybrid model, which permits at-fault and no-fault divorces. While you can end your marriage in Connecticut simply because the marriage is no longer viable, there are a total of eight grounds that determine who is guilty and who is innocent.
Today, courts use a flexible approach, compared to the past. Historically, if a wife cheated on her spouse, she forfeited her right to alimony. Today, the judge decides whether adultery should be considered. Specifically, a judge will consider evidence of infidelity and the impact it had on the marriage.
For instance, judges can increase the total amount and duration of alimony payments owed by an unfaithful spouse to an innocent spouse. An exception to this rule applies only to post-decree or finalized divorce hearings.
If spouses wish to change an alimony order, they will not be able to bring in evidence about infidelity or any other sort of misconduct. Adultery is only relevant after the court makes its initial decision about whether or not to award alimony.
Alimony is handled on a case-by-case basis, and it is treated differently in every state. To get the best information about your case, be sure to review your state’s laws with your legal team.