Quick Guide to Understanding Connecticut Alimony Procedure and Law
A primary concern for many going through divorce is alimony, also sometimes known as spousal support or spousal maintenance. Concerns over the fairness of the amount of alimony in addition to property division can make for sleepless nights for the divorcing couple. All parties to a divorce want to maintain a similar financial lifestyle to what they had pre-divorce and ensure they are self-supporting. Fortunately, this is the goal of Connecticut courts as well.
To that end, Connecticut has adopted laws and guidelines courts must consider when awarding alimony payments. While the following factors are mandatory considerations, courts do still have broad discretion when awarding alimony; some factors may weigh more heavily than others, and the list is not exclusive. The considerations are:
- The length of the marriage
- The reasons for the end of the marriage
- According to the relevant Connecticut statute, the "age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability and estate" of each party - in other words, the ability of each ex-spouse to be self-supporting and maintain a similar financial lifestyle post-divorce
- The needs of each divorcing spouse
- If there are children, whether the custodial parent should obtain employment or not
While courts can weigh the reasons the marriage is ending, alimony is not intended to punish. The idea behind alimony is that a spouse may have a continuing duty to support the other even after the marriage ends. This may be temporary (called "rehabilitative" alimony) while the former spouse becomes self-supportive, but alimony can also be indefinite. A Connecticut court is also free to award one lump sum payment of alimony.
Alimony is separate from child support and the division of assets during divorce. Child support should be used exclusively for the benefit of the children, not the spouse receiving the payment(s). The property division included in the divorce can be factored into the alimony amount, but the two are considered separate.
Modifications Are Possible
The court will attempt to anticipate the needs of each party to the divorce, but unforeseen events do occur. If a substantial change in circumstances in either ex-spouse has occurred - such as job loss or a change in medical status - the court may allow a modification. An ex-spouse receiving alimony must petition the court to obtain a modification, but can do so at any time.
An Attorney Can Help
While the law attempts to be consistent and fair in its award of alimony, the broad discretion given to courts to award alimony makes obtaining an experienced divorce lawyer essential. Those contemplating divorce should consult a family law attorney to discuss their situation.