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Alimony

Alimony In Connecticut

Alimony in Connecticut and Experienced Westport Family Lawyers

If you are dissolving your marriage in Connecticut, alimony is a critical issue you need to resolve to secure your financial future. Also called spousal support, alimony is a legal safeguard for dependent spouses designed to ensure they do not face undue financial hardship after divorce. Divorcing couples are free to negotiate an alimony settlement, or they can present the case to a judge. But either way, you need knowledgeable counsel and determined representation to get a fair resolution that protects your rights. At Needle | Cuda, we draw on extensive experience in divorce litigation. Our clients run the gamut from modest salaried employees to high-net-worth executives. We understand how important it is for you to maintain your standard of living, whether you expect to pay or receive alimony. We are ready to fight for you and deliver the best results possible.

How is Alimony decided in Connecticut?

Connecticut Alimony AttorneysIn Connecticut, alimony is primarily designed to enforce the duty of one spouse to support the other. In theory, this sets Connecticut apart from other states, where the court can order alimony to tide a dependent spouse over until he or she becomes self-supporting or to reimburse a spouse for financial sacrifices made during the marriage. But as a practical matter, the court can order alimony for a short duration, and there is no guarantee an alimony order will maintain a supported spouse at the same standard of living as he or she enjoyed before the divorce.

Connecticut allows for thee types of alimony:

  • Pendente Lite — This is temporary spousal support awarded during the divorce process. It can include reasonable amounts for legal fees. An order of pendente lite terminates when the court issues the final divorce decree.
  • Permanent alimony — This is the order for alimony made at the end of the divorce proceedings. “Permanent” is a bit of a misnomer, because the court need not order alimony for the lifetime of the recipient spouse, and an alimony order is subject to modification if circumstances change substantially. The court can order a lump-sum of alimony (which can be paid in installments) or regular, ongoing payments. The court can also set the duration of alimony and order the supporting spouse to purchase life insurance to guarantee the obligation.
  • 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.

It is important to know there is no absolute right to alimony under Connecticut law. The court decides the issue after examining the facts in light of numerous statutory factors.

Factors Considered by CT Family Court when Deciding Alimony in Connecticut

The factors a court considers when deciding whether to award alimony, how much to award, and for what duration, include:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Reasons for the dissolution of the marriage
  • Ages of the parties
  • Health of the parties
  • Stations of the parties
  • The parties’ occupations
  • Amount and sources of income
  • Vocational skills and employability of the parties
  • Estates of the parties
  • Liabilities and needs of each of the parties
  • Desirability of the custodial parent securing employment

Often, a premarital (prenuptial) agreement factors into an alimony decision.

As your advocates, we are determined to achieve the best results possible. We draw on decades of experience to negotiate alimony agreements that make sense for your particular circumstances. If the other party refuses to be reasonable, we are prepared to fight in court for your financial rights. Our knowledge of statutory law and precedential cases enables us to build a compelling case for the outcome you need and deserve.

Contact our Connecticut divorce lawyers for savvy, straightforward advice about alimony in Connecticut

If you are engaged in a dispute over alimony in Fairfield County, Needle | Cuda is ready to help. We provide highly responsive service and effective representation focused on positive results. To reserve a consultation, call us today at 203-429-4151 or contact our Westport office online.

Alimony FAQ’s

Alimony is the legal obligation of a person to provide financial support to his or her spouse before or after marital separation or divorce. The obligation arises from the divorce law or family law of each State.

In the State of Connecticut, Alimony is based on a spouse’s duty to support the other after a divorce when dependency has been determined by the court.

Ideally, Alimony is best determined by the Agreement of both parties, but if the agreement cannot be reached, Alimony will be decided by the judgement of a Family Judge in the Connecticut Superior Court.

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.

A spouse can be order to pay you alimony if a family court judge find that you were financially dependent on your spouse during your marriage.

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 Connecticut 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.

Alimony is generally awarded in cases where the spouses have very unequal earning power and have been married a long time. For example, a judge is unlikely to award alimony if the couple has only been married for a year.

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 Connecticut 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

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

There is no clear formula or explicit statutory guidelines for calculating alimony in Connecticut.

Family court judges have broad discretion in determining how much alimony will be paid, how it will be paid, and on what schedule.

Alimony is ideally determined by the Agreement of both parties, but if the parties cannot reach agreement, Alimony will be decided by the judgement of a Family Judge in the Connecticut Superior Court.

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”.

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

In the State of Connecticut, Alimony orders are either Temporary (a.k.a. Pendente Lite), Time-Limited, or Permanent (a.k.a. Lifetime).

The duration of a Pendente Lite alimony award will continue until final divorce orders are entered by a Family Court Judge or otherwise modified by formal judgement and entered as revised orders.

The duration of alimony payments, in the case of Time-Limited Alimony, is defined in your court ordered divorce (a.k.a. divorce agreement and a divorce decree.)  (Refer to Non-Modifiable Alimony exception below)

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.   (Refer to Non-Modifiable Alimony exception below)

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). (Refer to Non-Modifiable Alimony exception below)

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

Alimony Modification

Either spouse can request a modification or termination of an alimony award if:

  1. If there is a Substantial Change in Circumstances since the last order;
  2. Remarriage or Cohabitation of the recipient spouse is living with (or remarries) another person, and the living arrangement alters the financial needs of the recipient. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-86).  A divorce order must specify that Alimony ends automatically upon remarriage to eliminate the need for a post judgement modification, otherwise a motion for post-judgement modification must be filed by the spouse-payee, heard, and modified order entered by a family judge.

Non-Modifiable Alimony Exception

However, if the spouses agreed in writing (or the court ordered) that alimony was non-modifiable, then neither spouse could ask for any changes to the alimony award in the future

The duration of Pendente Lite Alimony/Temporary Alimony Orders continue until final divorce orders are entered by a Family Court Judge or otherwise modified by formal judgement and entered as revised orders.

The duration of alimony payments, in the case of Time-Limited Alimony Orders, are defined in your court ordered divorce (a.k.a. divorce agreement and a divorce decree.)  (Refer to Non-Modifiable Alimony exception below)

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 and Retirement - A Lifetime Alimony Award 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). (Refer to Non-Modifiable Alimony exception below)

Lifetime Alimony Payments and 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

Alimony Modification -Either spouse can request a modification or termination of an alimony award if:

  • If there is a Substantial Change in Circumstances since the last order; or,
  • Remarriage or Cohabitation of the recipient spouse is living with (or remarries) another person, and the living arrangement alters the financial needs of the recipient. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-86).  A divorce order must specify that Alimony ends automatically upon remarriage to eliminate the need for a post judgement modification, otherwise a motion for post-judgement modification must be filed by the spouse-payee, heard, and modified order entered by a family judge.

Non-Modifiable Alimony Exception

However, if the spouses agreed in writing (or the court ordered) that alimony was non-modifiable, then neither spouse could ask for any changes to the alimony award in the future

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 spouse’s 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.

Alimony is very broadly determined or ordered based on the length of a marriage.

That said, there are many factors a Connecticut Family Judge must consider in determining an award of Alimony and their Alimony Orders.  Connecticut Family Judges have broad discretion in their consideration of these factors.

That said, the shorter duration of a marriage, the less-likely there should 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.

If spousal support is owed under a court order or an agreement, a failure to pay the support owing is a breach of that order or agreement, and, in the case of orders, it can be contempt of court as well.

Unpaid alimony is also known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment. Failure to comply with a court-issued spousal support order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who failed to pay owed alimony. Failure to pay court ordered Alimony may be met with a Motion for Enforcement or Contempt from your ex-spouse.  A person found guilty of contempt can be ordered to comply with the court orders, pay fines, face wage garnishment, or even receive jail time.

Alimony is generally awarded in cases where the spouses have very unequal earning power and have been married a long time. For example, a judge is unlikely to award alimony if the couple has only been married for a year.

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 Connecticut 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

Alimony is generally awarded in cases where the spouses have very unequal earning power and have been married a long time. For example, a judge is unlikely to award alimony if the couple has only been married for a year.

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 Connecticut 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

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.

Cohabitation

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)).

By Agreement

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)).

Historically, alimony has always been a tax deduction for the paying spouse and reported as income to the recipient. However, on December 22, 2017, the President of the United States signed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted by the United States Congress in 2017

The new tax law became effective on January 1, 2019, and for divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible or reportable income to the recipient

Historically, alimony has always been a tax deduction for the paying spouse and reported as income to the recipient. However, on December 22, 2017, the President of the United States signed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted by the United States Congress in 2017

The new tax law became effective on January 1, 2019, and for divorces finalized after December 31, 2018, alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible to the payor or reportable income to the recipient.

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

Remarriage and Cohabitation and Alimony - In the event that a recipient ex-spouse Remarries or Cohabitates and that living arrangement alters the financial needs of the recipient ex-spouse, Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-86 allows for Alimony to be modified.

A Motion for Post-Judgement Modification will be need to be filed with the Family Court unless your divorce order explicitly specifies that your Alimony payment obligations automatically terminate upon the remarriage of your ex-spouse.

Otherwise, The Motion for Modification will need to be filed, heard and a Family Court judgement entered before you Alimony obligation is terminated or modified.  Unless and until this happens, Alimony remains a Court Order and you must continue to pay.

Do not stop paying your ordered Alimony or engage in self-help.  If unpaid spousal support is owed under a court order or an agreement, a failure to pay the support owing is a breach of that order or agreement, and, in the case of orders, you can be held in contempt of court as well.

Unpaid alimony is also known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment. Failure to comply with a court-issued spousal support order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who failed to pay owed alimony. Failure to pay court ordered Alimony may be met with a Motion for Enforcement or Contempt from your ex-spouse.  A person found guilty of contempt can be ordered to comply with the court orders, pay fines, face wage garnishment, or even receive jail time.

Non-Modifiable Alimony Exception - However, if the spouses agreed in writing (or the court ordered) that alimony was non-modifiable, then neither spouse could ask for any changes to the alimony award in the future

 

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