- Family Law
- Dispute Resolution
Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or maintenance, is money paid by one spouse to the other after they legally separate or divorce, and includes money that may be paid by one spouse to the other during the pendency of the divorce action. Alimony is based on a spouse’s continuing duty to support the other after divorce or separation.
In the end, if an agreement cannot be made between the two parties, alimony is awarded by the court at the final judgment by the judge, taking into account the specific factors set forth in the applicable alimony statute. Many factors may affect whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support and how much support they should receive. These factors vary from state to state.
In Connecticut, either spouse can request alimony and must do so, formally, in the claims for relief within the divorce complaint or cross-complaint. Before a court awards alimony, the judge must take into account the factors set forth in the alimony statute (Conn. Gen. Stat. §46b-81), which factors include but are not limited to: the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties and the property division award, if any, which the court may make.
Under Connecticut law, a court may order either party in an annulment, legal separation, or divorce case to pay alimony (CGS § 46b-82(a)).
The court may also order the paying person to obtain life insurance or other forms of security for alimony payments in the event of the payor’s death before the termination of the alimony obligation.
When determining whether alimony should be awarded and the amount and duration of the award, the court must consider all the evidence presented and a specified list of factors.
The factors the court considers when awarding alimony are:
1. The length of the marriage;
2. The cause for the annulment, dissolution, or legal separation;
3. The parties’ age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, and needs;
4. Any property division ordered by the court;
5. Each spouses need for support; and
6. In the case of minor children, the desirability and feasibility of the custodial parent securing employment (CGS § 46b-82(a)).
The court must specify the basis for any order of alimony that only terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the alimony recipient.
How Do Factors for setting Alimony Impact Same Sex Couples
When it comes to same-sex couples and alimony, one factor, is particularly vital to examine: the length of the marriage. Although same-sex marriage was legalized in Connecticut in 2008 and legalized nationally in 2015, many couples have been sharing assets and living together prior to this legal recognition of marriage. So, even though a couple may have been living as a married couple prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, a judge will only consider the length of the marriage from the legal start of the marriage, which at the earliest is 2008.
If you are a same-sex couple you must ensure that you are dealing with family lawyers who are highly skilled and have experience dealing with same sex-marriages as the lawyers at Needle & Cuda do.
Can Adultery have an impact on the determination of an alimony award?
In divorce, the “causes for the breakdown of marriage” are taken into account by the court when determining alimony. If the breakdown of the marriage was caused by adultery, or one spouse is found to be more at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, alimony can be directly impacted. The judge may see that one spouse was not faithful and award the spouse who was faithful or “less at fault,” the more favorable end of an alimony agreement. Although this is not necessarily common, it is possible.
Typically, though, if the judge decides to favor the less at fault spouse it will not be to an extreme degree. This is because alimony is not deemed to be punitive, or a punishment for behavior of one spouse against the other. However, if during this affair the person who had the affair was using marital funds to support their affair (paying for frequent hotels, transportation tickets, large gifts, etc.) the judge is more likely to order the at-fault spouse to re-compensate the less at-fault spouse by way of the property award.
No, there is no clear formula or explicit statutory guidelines for calculating alimony in Connecticut, unlike the state guidelines that exist for child support.
The most important thing to understand about alimony in Connecticut is that family court judges have broad discretion in determining how much alimony will be paid, how it will be paid, and on what schedule.
Therefore, if you choose not to settle your divorce by a negotiated settlement, your alimony determination ultimately rests in the hands of a family judge — whose rulings are not predictable or necessarily consistent, and may not represent the realities of your family’s financial situation or needs.
There is no such thing as an “alimony calculator,” so do not use any tool that represents itself as such, or rely on any information that such a tool may claim to offer. There is no way to accurately calculate alimony in Connecticut because of the many factors that family judges can consider when deciding alimony. Most importantly, each judge can exercise complete discretion when determining alimony, so, there is no consistent or reliable way to have an “alimony calculator”.
Pendente lite translates to “pending the litigation,” and is a type of alimony or spousal support that may be granted during litigation to a party, based on the statutory factors (except for the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, which is not taken into account until the final orders). Pendent lite alimony is awarded during the action, and prior to any final orders of judgment.
While a divorce is pending, most spouses need time and resources to adjust from one to two households. During this transition the monied spouse typically doesn’t have financial issues related to the adjustment, but the non-monied spouse has enormous difficulty, so temporary alimony orders are sometimes necessary to facilitate the family’s transition until the divorce is finalized and (if appropriate) the judge enters a new support order.
Temporary alimony is generally meant to aid the less monied spouse while transitioning into an independent or self-sustaining life. This temporary alimony paid by one spouse to the other ends after a set period of time based on the judge’s discretion as to when the less-monied spouse should have become self-sustaining, i.e. established their own form of financial support.
Rehabilitative or Time-Limited Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony, or time limited alimony, is alimony that is awarded primarily for the purpose of allowing the spouse who receives it to obtain further education, training, or other skills necessary to attain self-sufficiency.
Permanent or Lifetime Alimony
Permanent or lifetime alimony still exists in Connecticut, although it is becoming less common. In fact, courts must specify their reasons when awarding lifetime alimony (i.e. alimony that terminated only upon the death of one of the parties).
As to when courts do award lifetime alimony, the key once again is to remember that the court has abundant discretion.
When the court evaluates whether to award lifetime alimony, the judge may also consider the reasons for the divorce, such as adultery, willful desertion, or intolerable cruelty. While marital fault may not impact your divorce, it may affect the amount or duration of the alimony award.
Very generally speaking, judges tend to award lifetime alimony more frequently when there was a long marriage, one spouse worked outside the home, and the other spouse did not. It’s also possible that a spouse’s ongoing medical issues or a disability might play a part in persuading a judge that a lifetime award is appropriate.
Just like everything else regarding alimony there are no exact rules for alimony just general Rules of Thumb.
The shorter the marriage there is less-likely to be a presumption of alimony;
Typically, if the marriage lasted for two years or less then there will be a very short award of alimony, if any. Aside from this, the longer the marriage the longer the alimony payments can continue.
The longer the marriage the longer alimony will most likely have to be paid;
Typically, after 20 years the marriage is considered long-term meaning that permanent alimony is a possibility which is when alimony is paid until the death of either party.
Half the length of the marriage (for marriages less than 20 years);
Again, the most important point with regard to alimony is that judges have complete discretion, but a Rule of Thumb for marriages shorter than 20 years, is that an alimony order will be around half the length of the marriage. But given the discretion of the judges, these is still a wide range of terms of alimony.
Lifetime alimony in Connecticut means that the alimony payor must continue to pay alimony until either they die, or their ex-spouse pre-deceases them.
Lifetime alimony does not, however, prevent a person from retiring at a reasonable retirement age, usually no earlier than age sixty-five, though every case is different. Reasonable retirement age can be dependent on the industry in which the alimony payor works or his or her profession. Once the alimony payor is ready to retire, assuming that he or she is retiring at a “normal” retirement age, he or she has the right to file a Motion to modify his or her alimony obligation (so long as the alimony award is modifiable), requesting that alimony should cease on the basis of retirement (a substantial change in circumstances).
Alimony Payments after Death
Although one might assume that after the passing of either the payor or payee alimony payments will stop that is not always the case in Connecticut. In some situations the court will order the payor to obtain life insurance (if they do not already have it) or other security forms so that if they were to pass away alimony payments could still proceed. Although this is not something that happens frequently it is a possibility and something to consider when thinking about how long your alimony payments might last.
Yes, generally the length of the marriage is an important factor for a court to consider when determining how long spousal support is paid. Typically, if the marriage lasted for two years or less then minimal or no alimony will be awarded. Aside from this, the longer the marriage the longer the alimony payments can continue. Typically, after 20 years of marriage, there is a strong presumption of alimony, and lifetime or permanent alimony is a possibility.
Yes, alimony or spousal support can be modified as long as 1) the alimony award is not non-modifiable, or 2) your right to alimony was not waived by way of your divorce settlement. If the parties agreed that the alimony award would be non-modifiable, then neither spouse may seek a modification, regardless of the change in circumstances. If one, or both, parties waived their right to future spousal support obligations in their divorce decree, then no matter how dramatic a change in post-divorce circumstances they experience, that party cannot seek alimony in the future.
[NOTE: As a result, spouses’ separation agreements and judges’ decisions often contain a nominal alimony payment like $1.00 to preserve the right to modify alimony — By including $1.00 of alimony, the court is able to modify alimony if it becomes appropriate down the road after a finding of a substantial change of circumstances.]
However, assuming alimony was awarded in the divorce agreement, then spousal support (even permanent alimony) can be modified. Modification typically occurs when there is a substantial change in financial circumstances or by Agreement.
Substantial Change in Circumstances
Under Connecticut law, if one party shows that there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of the other party, the court, after a hearing, may continue, set aside, alter, or modify the alimony orders. The court must use the statutory factors outlined above to determine what modification, if any, is appropriate. Retroactive modification is prohibited, except for the period during which a motion to modify the order is pending from the date of service of the motion.
If the alimony recipient cohabitates with another person and the court finds that the living arrangement alters the recipient’s financial needs, the court may, after a hearing, modify alimony payments (CGS § 46b-86(b)).
If the parties’ agree on the circumstances under which alimony may be modified, the court must enter and enforce orders that include the provisions of such agreement (CGS § 46b-86(b)).
Is alimony tax deductible?
Alimony (a.k.a. spousal support) is not tax deductible to the payer as a result of changes in the federal tax code as of January 1, 2019.
By extension, alimony payments (a.k.a. spousal support) to the payee are not considered taxable income as of this same date.
The standard for termination of alimony in the event your ex-spouse remarries is simple (so long as explicit in the alimony order): Alimony stops!
Cohabitation is not that simple. Although your ex-spouse may now be living with someone else that does not mean the alimony payments can stop.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(b) provides that if your ex-spouse is living with another person you can request a suspension, modification or termination to your alimony obligation. To do this, you must prove that your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances have changed (i.e. decreased) as a result of this cohabitation.
Alimony is one of the most important issues in a Connecticut divorce. It is also one of the most complicated because there are no formal guidelines with respect to the amount of alimony (if any), how it is paid, or for how long. If you do not reach a negotiated settlement with your spouse, family law judges have broad discretion in determining your alimony orders, which is often unpredictable. The experienced divorce and family law attorneys at Needle | Cuda can guide your approach and customize a plan for you. Call us today at 203-429-4151 or contact our Westport office online.