Financial Orders May Be Intertwined, But A Full Understanding Of Purpose Is Needed For Proper Results

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2020 | Divorce

Financial orders in a Connecticut divorce are often intertwined. Although the underlying issues include distinctive purposes, the range of factors the court considers in crafting financial orders related to property division, alimony and support may overlap to some extent. It is important for litigants and their attorneys to provide a detailed analysis to mediators or the court of financial matters to avoid conflating the purposes of multiple aspects of the financial orders, as well as to protect against the possibility that one financial determination will undermine a different financial resolution.

Challenging Alimony As An Improper Allocation Of Property

In Hornung v. Hornung, 323 Conn. 144, 146 A.3d 912, 2016, the litigants  entered into a prenuptial agreement and on appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court did not raise issue with the overall property division under the terms of the prenuptial agreement. However, the trial court awarded the wife $40,000 per month in unallocated, time-limited alimony and child support, as well as $7.5 million in lump sum alimony to be paid semiannual installments of $375,000.

While the Court ordered that lump sum alimony was to be payable in installments, the amount of alimony was not modifiable and would not terminate upon remarriage of the wife or the death of either party. The husband argued on appeal that because the alimony and child support order exceeded the wife’s post-separation expenses (and because the trial court evaluated two factors in the property division statute that are not included in the child support statute), the trial court mischaracterized the award as alimony. The husband claimed the lump sum alimony order was the functional equivalent of a division of property, undermining the prenuptial agreement and property division resolution.

Alimony And Property Division Serve Distinct Purposes

In Connecticut, the purposes of property division and alimony are distinct from each other. The purpose of property division in divorce is to equitably allocate to each litigant his or her equitable share of the marital estate at the time of the dissolution. The purpose of periodic and lump sum alimony is grounded in Connecticut view that spouses have a continuing duty to support each other. See, Dubicki v. Dubicki, 186 Conn. 709, 714, footnote 2, 443 A.2d 1268 (1982). Alimony is also a mechanism that allows a disadvantaged litigant to preserve the standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage.

In Hornung, the Connecticut Supreme Court pointed out that the trial court had evaluated the lucrative, but varied income that the husband received. The high court reasoned that the trial court equitably awarded alimony in a manner that complied with the husband’s ability to pay with varying, but substantial income streams.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court rulings as the combined, unallocated alimony and support orders were supported by evidence of the wife’s primary care of four children, including special needs issues, as well as evidence of additional need. The additional lump sum was affirmed as the high court found the remedy was awarded within the trial court’s discretion in crafting an equitable result under the circumstances, consistent with the underlying purposes of alimony.

Preparation And Analysis Are Key

Financial disclosures required under the Automatic Orders and discovery rules of divorce are important aspects of preparing for negotiations, mediation and trial in a Connecticut divorce. Sophisticated lawyers. However, dig deeper into preparing and presenting the evidence throughout the process. An understanding of the individual purposes of each financial order and how they fit in to the overall result requires thorough analysis of all the circumstances and a strategic plan that can be presented to others to obtain meaningful results.

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