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An Overview of Alimony in Connecticut Law

Alimony is a type of financial support which involves one person making payments (or giving a lump sum payment) to the other after a divorce. Alimony is spousal support which is distinguishable from property division and child support. Historically, alimony was considered a necessary arrangement because it was common for only one spouse to earn income during marriage. The legal system considered alimony to be a means to ensure that both the income-earning spouse and the non-income earning spouse maintained a lifestyle similar to the one they had before the divorce. Today, it’s much more common for both spouses to earn income, but alimony is still common because often one spouse earns more than the other. In these cases, alimony is likewise considered to be necessary.

Alimony law differs substantially throughout the country. Different jurisdictions have very different ways of granting, calculating, enforcing and maintaining alimony. In this post, we will present a broad overview of alimony law in Connecticut. In the future, we will come back and discuss specific Connecticut statutes in detail. For now, we will discuss a few general concepts which inform our readers about the law as it concerns alimony.

Three Types of Alimony Arrangements

There are various types of alimony arrangements in Connecticut. There is: nominal alimony, temporary alimony (better known as alimony pendent lite), rehabilitative alimony, lump sum alimony, and permanent alimony.

Nominal alimony may be appropriate when the present circumstances will not support a substantial award. Nominal awards are all that are necessary to afford the court continuing jurisdiction to make future modifications. Nominal alimony may only be one dollar per year with no preclusion of modification so that if the circumstances warrant, a change in the award can be obtained at some future date. This would come into play where, at the time of dissolution, the parties’ salaries are roughly equal and, with further effort, may increase significantly. Waiving alimony would permanently precluded either party from seeking alimony at a future date should those circumstances change, so nominal alimony would be the way to revisit that option at a later date.

Alimony pendent lite, or temporary alimony, is payable during the pendency of a divorce proceeding so as to enable a dependent spouse to proceed with or defend against the action. Even though both spouses commonly work, one spouse may earn more than the other and the divorce process is believed to be less burdensome on the higher-earning spouse. Temporary alimony is therefore useful to help balance out this situation.

Rehabilitative alimony is typically granted when there is a disparity in the income-earning potential between the spouses. In this situation, the rehabilitative alimony is granted for a short, but specific and terminable period of time, so that the spouse with lower earning potential can obtain the requisite skills and education to increase his or her earning power. This type of alimony will cease when recipient is in a position of self-support.

Lump-sum alimony usually refers to a specific amount and not necessarily a one-time payment. While it may be divided into installments, it is payable in full regardless of future events such as the death of the payee or the remarriage of the recipient.

Lastly, permanent alimony involves periodic payments to one spouse either for a determined period of time (typically half the length of the marriage) or indefinitely. Although rarely for the lifetime of the recipient, permanent alimony can occur when one spouse is unable to attain a lifestyle similar to the one enjoyed prior to divorce because of a disability or illness, advanced age, or for other reasons.

Awards Do Not Follow a Specific Formula

Courts in Connecticut have wide discretion when it comes to awarding alimony. When one spouse makes an alimony request, courts will consider a wide range of factors when making a determination. For instance, courts will consider the length of the marriage, the health of the spouses, each spouse’s education, skills, and income, whether child support has been granted, as well as other factors. These factors will influence both the eligibility of alimony altogether and the possible award. Despite that Connecticut is a no-fault divorce state, judges may also take causes for the dissolution into account when they issue their decision. For instance, if the divorce was precipitated by infidelity, it could impact the alimony determination.

Alimony Can Change Over Time

In principle, alimony is not a penalty, but is meant to assist one spouse for the purpose of making sure that the divorce doesn’t negatively impact that spouse’s lifestyle. What’s more, in the majority of cases, alimony is based on the assumption that the lower-earning spouse can ultimately attain a similar lifestyle after a period of time. This is why alimony arrangements are periodically reviewed and then modified depending on the circumstances. Once the lower-earning spouse attains a similar lifestyle, for instance, the arrangement may be terminated. Or, if the lower-earning spouse remarries, this may also warrant a modification. The key point is that arrangements are not static, but may be changed depending on the situation.

Contact Apex Law Firm for More Information

Alimony is a complex, and often contentious, issue within the context of divorce and family law. We’ve presented a broad overview here, and in the future we will come back and explore this issue in greater depth. Hopefully, this information provides a useful introduction to the topic of alimony in Connecticut. If you’d like to learn more, or you have a case involving alimony, get in touch with Apex Law Firm today. We handle family law matters on a regular basis. Call us at 860-385-8360 and we will assist you immediately.