How Connecticut Courts Evaluate Alimony Disputes

On Behalf of | May 13, 2021 | Divorce

Connecticut law does not provide an absolute right to alimony to any particular party in divorce. In fact, a litigant must specifically request that an alimony determination be made, unless the parties enter a stipulated agreement regarding spousal support. There is no predefined formula for calculating spousal support if alimony is an issue for judicial determination in a  Connecticut dissolution. In general, there may be large disparities in income between the spouses during a marriage.

Connecticut courts generally have broad discretion in determining spousal maintenance matters, including whether alimony is appropriate, the amount of the obligations, as well as the duration. Alimony determinations are generally detail-oriented—fact specific inquiries.

Understanding The Purpose Of Connecticut Alimony Determinations

The purpose of alimony is to allow the disadvantaged spouse to maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce is finalized as the litigant experienced during the marriage, to the extent possible. Hornung v. Hornung, 323 Conn. 144. (2016). Courts evaluate not only a litigant’s standard of living, but also their station in life. Connecticut law provides a framework of the evidence parties may present for courts to consider in determining alimony, including (§ 46b-82):

  • The length of the marriage
  • The causes for annulment, dissolution or legal separation
  • The age and health of the parties
  • Occupational, education and vocational skills of the parties
  • Amount and sources of income, as well as earning capacity of the parties
  • Employability of the parties
  • The estate and needs of the parties

Financial awards in divorce are often interwoven. In considering the award of alimony, courts consider asset and property distribution. Similarly, in cases involving a parent who has custody of minor children the court should consider the impact of custody obligations on employment opportunities for the custodial parent as a part of the determination of the parent’s station in life.

Connecticut law allows the court to order an obligor to obtain life insurance to secure alimony obligations, unless the obligor proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is uninsurable, does not have the resources to pay for the insurance or such life insurance is not available to the litigant. An alimony award must be obeyed unless and until it is reversed, modified or extinguished through the court or operation of the law.

Courts may order time-limited alimony to allow the financially disadvantaged litigant sufficient time to pursue educational opportunities or otherwise acquire skills to become self-sustaining. This rehabilitative alimony is payable for a specifically defied time-period that the court determines is a reasonable amount of time to obtain sufficient skills to become self-sufficient. The court must articulate the basis for the time period, and the record must support the court’s durational finding.

Thorough Preparation And Argument Is Critical In Complex Alimony Disputes

Financial disclosures as required in the automatic orders and mandatory discovery rules of the Connecticut family court are important sources of information for determining potential alimony obligations. However, a sophisticated analysis of the evidence and thorough presentation to the court of evidence related to each factor is critical in a strategic plan to obtain the best possible results.