Connecticut law gives judges broad discretion in resolving alimony disputes. Courts weigh many factors when spousal support is an issue. It is important to note that alimony is not always a given. There is no absolute right to alimony. Moreover, a party must affirmatively request alimony during the divorce proceeding to place the issue before the court. A party must seek spousal support before the judge enters the divorce decree. Failure to request alimony in the divorce waives the issue.
There is no set formula or guideline to calculating potential alimony payments. The Connecticut alimony statutes provide a list of factors that courts may weigh. Judges generally have discretion in considering the factors, and do not have to give each factor equal weight. Whether alimony is justified in any particular divorce is highly dependent on the individual circumstances of the parties. For instance, two professionals who have parity in status, income, health and other factors likely have little need for spousal support. Conversely, if divorcing spouses have been married for 30 years and have a large disparity in education, earning capacity, vocational skills, or similar factors, the analysis is often different.
Understanding The Types Of Spousal Support
Courts may award alimony pendente lite during the divorce process. This is a temporary form of support to keep the status quo during the proceedings. Alimony may be awarded for rehabilitative purposes to provide financial resources to the recipient to have time to gain employment skills. In other situations, especially after a long-term marriage, alimony may serve to allow a financially disadvantaged party to maintain a similar standard of living after the dissolution as he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
Courts may enter an order that terminates upon an event, such as the death of either party or the remarriage of the alimony recipient. In these situations, the court will explain its reasoning in the judgment. Similarly, the parties may enter into a stipulated agreement to terminate alimony upon the occurrence of a condition subsequent, such as the retirement of the obligor, or when the payor reaches a specified age.
Alimony And The Post-Divorce Future
When spousal support continues for an extended period, it is more likely that a substantial change of circumstances may occur that may justify a post-divorce alimony modification. It is important to include the reasons for alimony in any stipulated agreement or in argument in the trial court, and whether there is an expectation that alimony will rise if the obligor’s income rises substantially in the years after divorce.
It is often tempting for many individuals to focus on the statutory factors when discussing strategy with their lawyers. However, the reasons for seeking alimony (or opposing an alimony request) and expectations related to post-divorce spousal support are meaningful in creating the initial strategy.