Alimony in CT is a provision by the law for spouses who are likely to start at a financial disadvantage after a legal separation or divorce. However, the court will first evaluate the spouses’ unique situation and make a decision regarding alimony.
In this article, we take a look at how Connecticut courts determine alimony, and how an award can be modified or terminated.
How To Calculate Alimony in CT
Whenever a couple in Connecticut decides to sever their marital relationship, the court might order that a certain amount of money be paid by one spouse for the support of the other. The court can make this order before or after divorce, legal separation, or annulment of marriage. A spouse with a need for financial support must ask for it at the final divorce hearing. A request for alimony after the divorce decree is entered may not be granted.
Unlike other states, there is no formula to calculate alimony in CT. In its broad discretion, the court determines how much the requesting spouse receives in alimony. The court decides based on the financial needs of the requesting spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay.
After demonstrating a need for financial support, a judge will determine if the other can comfortably pay alimony while meeting their own financial needs. Connecticut courts also consider fault when deciding the amount of alimony.
During a divorce or legal separation, spouses should strive to have an agreement on alimony terms. That way, they make their own decisions instead of allowing the courts to decide. In most cases, courts will approve spouses’ agreements provided they are fair to both parties.
– Awarding Alimony
Courts in Connecticut exercise wide discretion in awarding or modifying alimony. Yet, an alimony award is normally guided by relevant factors as provided in the Connecticut General Statutes. While the court considers these factors while making a decision regarding alimony, it doesn’t need to give equal weight to each factor.
Below are the statutory factors considered before a judge awards alimony in Connecticut:
- The duration of the marriage
- Reasons for the termination of the marriage
- The age of the spouses
- The emotional, mental, and physical health of the spouses
- Occupation, education, vocational skills, and employability of each spouse
- The amount and sources of both spouses’ income
- Estates of each spouse
- Each spouse’s station in life (social standing)
- Each spouse’s liabilities and financial needs
- The desirability and practicability of the custodial parent to secure employment in case the couple have minor children
- Fault in the termination of the marriage
- Any other factor that the court would deem relevant
– Duration of Alimony
In some states, the duration of marriage determines the amount and duration of alimony. Under CT alimony laws, there is no minimum duration of marriage for a spouse to receive alimony. Just as the type and amount of alimony, judges have the discretion to determine how long alimony is to be paid.
– Amount of Alimony
According to Connecticut Statutes, a judge who orders the amount of the permanent alimony must back their decision with a valid reason or basis. Barring mental or physical disability, a judge will award alimony for a duration within which the recipient is likely to attain self-sufficiency.
– Property Division and Alimony in Connecticut
Divorce in CT involves several issues that couples have to address: child custody and support, property division, spousal support, and others. Property division is for the sole purpose of equitably dividing the ownership of marital property. Alimony, on the other hand, is based upon the continuing duty of spouses to support each other.
It follows that a court can still order alimony even after the division of marital property. However, the property allocated to a spouse after divorce will determine if they qualify for alimony. In cases where a spouse doesn’t have sufficient property to support themselves after divorce, the court might find it necessary to order alimony.
– Alimony for Mentally III Spouses
Mental illness could be a ground for the dissolution of marriage. Upon the termination of such a marriage, either spouse or the conservator or guardian of the mentally ill spouse, or any other party responsible for the support of that spouse can request the court to order alimony.
In most cases, the court will issue an alimony order for the support of that spouse. Such an order is enforceable in the same way as other alimony orders. The court may also consider an application of either party to set aside or modify the alimony order in the future.
– Alimony and a Nonresident Spouse
According to Connecticut General Statutes, spouses filing for dissolution, annulment, or legal separation must meet the residency requirement: one of the spouses must have resided in the state for at least 12 months before the date of filing or date of the decree.
In some cases, a spouse may need to request alimony even when the other spouse resides out of state or their whereabouts are unknown. In such cases, a judge or clerk of the Superior Court or the Supreme Court may make an order of notice if deemed reasonable.
The court may then hear the request for alimony if it finds that the nonresident spouse has received notice that a request is pending. If it appears that the spouse hasn’t had such notice, the court may continue to hear the case, or if there is reasonable cause, order that further notice be given.
Connecticut courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident spouses as to matters of alimony only if the requesting spouse meets the residency requirement as in the Connecticut General Statutes (section 46b-44) and the nonresident party receives the notice.
How To Pay Alimony
Depending on the financial situation of the requesting spouse, a court can order various types of alimony. Regardless of the type of alimony ordered, payments can be made periodically or as a lump sum. In most cases, orders for lump-sum alimony are fixed and irreversible.
Lump-sum alimony is mostly a one-time payment made in the form of property or cash or a combination of the two.
Alimony that is paid periodically means that the supporting spouse pays fixed installments of alimony at scheduled intervals.
An order for periodic alimony is based on the principle that a spouse has a continuing duty to support the other spouse.
– Spousal Support Connecticut Spouses Can Receive
The main types of alimony available in Connecticut include:
Alimony Pendente Lite
In law, “pendente lite” means “during litigation.” Alimony pendente lite is a type of alimony that is provided to a lower-earning spouse pending the finalization of divorce and the determination of the court whether that spouse qualifies for permanent alimony.
Alimony pendente lite is essential as it helps the requesting spouse adjust to single life. Alimony laws in CT provide for temporary alimony as it helps the requesting spouse maintain the lifestyle established during their marriage. Particularly, this type of alimony helps that spouse meet their reasonable needs, such as rent, utilities, and food expenses.
In Connecticut, this type of alimony is also referred to as time-limited alimony. In many marriages, one spouse often gives up their opportunity to advance their education or career for the sake of homemaking.
Moreover, in the event of a divorce, such a spouse can request the court to order rehabilitative alimony to help them further their education, work training, or other skills that will help them become self-sufficient.
However, rehabilitative alimony is not solely meant for this reason. The court can order it if the requesting spouse has other valid reasons for the court to consider.
Upon the dissolution of marriage, alimony may be awarded to cover the long-term financial needs of a spouse. Often, the finalization of divorce means a significant reorganization of the family as issues such as child custody, support, and division of property have to be addressed.
While permanent alimony or lifetime alimony is less common now, a judge can award it if the requesting spouse is less likely to attain self-sufficiency due to some reasons. Courts may award permanent alimony to spouses who have been in long marriages and are less likely to return to the workforce. Advanced age and disability (mental or physical) are other reasons why a court may award permanent alimony.
– Enforcement of Alimony Orders in Connecticut
Spouses must obey alimony orders issued by a court with proper jurisdiction. A person who disobeys a court order is said to be in contempt and can be punished for such an offense. While civil contempt may be punishable by fines and imprisonment, these penalties are conditional and one can avoid them by doing as ordered by the court.
Where the obligor owes alimony arrearages and fails to make ongoing payments, the recipient can request the court to grant property liens. These are legal claims on a person’s assets that allow the holder to gain access to the property if arrearages are not paid. If a court grants a lien on property, the holder can force a lien sale of the property and collect alimony arrearages.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony
Unlike in many states, alimony doesn’t automatically end when the recipient remarries. Spouses who wish that alimony obligation be terminated upon remarriage of the recipient must clearly state that in their divorce agreement. If the court deems that agreement fair and equitable, it will make it a court order and enforce it.
In Connecticut, a court that awards alimony upon the termination of marriage may order the payor to get life insurance as security for alimony payments. The latter would ensure the continuity of alimony payment even upon the death of that spouse. While this is not a frequent occurrence, it shows that the death of the obligor doesn’t always end alimony.
– Modification of Alimony in Connecticut
Alimony orders can be modified by the court upon a spouse’s request, provided the divorce decree or divorce settlement agreement doesn’t preclude modification. Such modification of a periodic alimony or support pendente lite order can only happen if a spouse shows a substantial change in circumstances of either spouse. It can also happen if a spouse shows that the final alimony order substantially deviates from the spouse support guidelines established by the CT alimony laws.
Courts are likely to modify an alimony order in such cases as living together with another person constitutes a change of circumstances that alter the financial needs of that spouse. However, in cases where the final divorce judgment incorporates an agreement in which the spouses agree to circumstances other than those provided in the CT alimony statutes, the court will enforce such agreements and enter orders accordingly.
– Termination of the Alimony in Connecticut
The termination of the payment of the periodic alimony would come from the modification of an alimony order which could also could mean suspension, reduction. The Superior court can modify the judgment entered by another court regarding the payment of periodic alimony upon notice and hearing.
Such modification may occur if the requesting spouse shows that the recipient is living with another person in a manner, and the court finds it fit to modify, suspend, reduce or terminate alimony.
When spouses in Connecticut call it quits on their marriage or civil union, the financial situation of one spouse may necessitate the provision of alimony. We’ve discussed the various aspects of alimony in CT, including requirements for qualification and the types of alimony available. Below, we outline the takeaways of this discussion:
- Alimony is money paid by one spouse to the other purposely to help them meet their reasonable needs and become self-sufficient
- Alimony can be agreed upon by spouses or can be ordered by the court
- Connecticut courts have broad discretion in determining the type, amount, and duration of alimony to award
- Alimony orders can be enforced in various ways, including contempt proceedings and liens on property
- Connecticut alimony orders can be modified if a spouse proves a substantial change of circumstances for either spouse
Spouses who are considering a legal separation or divorce may discuss alimony terms if one spouse demonstrates a need for financial support. Alternatively, they can take their case to court if they can’t reach an agreement.
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