Alimony: Factors Taken into Consideration
One of the great uncertainties that divorce clients deal with at the outset of divorce is the likely outcome of either side’s application for an order of alimony, or spousal support. In many marriages, one party largely supports the other or there is an inequity in earnings throughout the marriage which results in the parties sharing their financial responsibilities in such a way that makes sense for the family unit during the marriage itself. Upon divorce, however, there is often one party who has been supported by the other during the marriage, who is now facing the prospect of either seeking additional gainful employment or receiving spousal support, whether rehabilitative or lifetime, to enable that spouse to meet his or her continuing financial obligations or to be able to eventually become self-supported.
To answer the most frequently posed question first: there is no “formula” for alimony in Connecticut. Many judges, family law practitioners, and even family relations counselors employ different guidelines in certain cases, but the length, amount, and terms of alimony are designed to be case-specific, and may be as flexible as the broad variety of factual scenarios that come before the Superior courts week in and week out.
An alimony award is based primarily upon a spouse’s “continuing duty to support” the other, even after the breakdown of the marriage, and is governed by Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-82. Not unlike equitable distribution discussed above, similar factors are used by the Connecticut Superior Court, Family Division to decide whether alimony is appropriate in any given case, as well as how long and how much. The factors listed under Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-82(a) are:
- Length of the marriage;
- Cause(s) for the dissolution;
- Amount and sources of income;
- Vocational skills;
- Estate and needs of each party;
- Award under §46b-81 (equitable distribution) and;
- Parent awarded custody, desirability of such parent securing employment.
It is important to know that in Connecticut, courts may only enter alimony awards during or at the conclusion of the dissolution proceeding. If a party is not awarded alimony at judgment, he or she will be precluded from returning to any court to seek alimony at any time in the future. In some cases, an immediate alimony order is not appropriate, so courts may enter a nominal award, often set as one dollar per year. This effectively suspends the payor’s obligation, while preserving the recipient’s right to receive alimony at some point in the future. Orders may leave the duration of the nominal award indefinite, or may specify that an automatic termination will occur after a designated period of time.
If you have any questions about divorce and alimony in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.