New Canaan Alimony Lawyer
Alimony in Connecticut
Connecticut law offers no precise formula for calculating alimony (also referred to as “spousal support”), or even determining whether an award of alimony is warranted or appropriate in any given matter. As a result, whether alimony will be paid, how much alimony will be paid, and for how long it will be paid are often among the most challenging issues to resolve in a Connecticut divorce. Alimony is an area where positions are often apart by wide margins; a spouse who will be receiving alimony often feels that he or she should receive a very substantial amount of alimony for a long period of time, while a spouse who will be providing alimony often believes alimony should be somewhere between nothing and very little for a short period of time. Regardless of whether you may be entitled to receive alimony, or obligated to provide alimony, having an experienced family law attorney on your side to help you navigate this issue is critical.
Types of Alimony Available in Connecticut
Connecticut allows for two types of alimony: (1) pendente lite alimony – which refers to temporary financial support awarded during the pendency of a divorce action; and (2) permanent alimony – which refers to any post-divorce alimony obligations. In this instance, the word “permanent” is misleading, and it is important to understand that “permanent alimony” does not refer to lifetime alimony award. In most instances, post-divorce alimony has an eventual termination point.
What is the Purpose of Alimony?
In Connecticut, the generally accepted purpose of alimony is to enable a spouse who is financially disadvantaged through divorce to maintain a standard of living similar to that which he or she enjoyed during the marriage. Alimony may also be “rehabilitative” in nature. Rehabilitative alimony is designed primarily to allow a receiving spouse time to obtain further education, training, or other skills necessary to reenter the workforce and/or attain financial self-sufficiency.
How Long Will Alimony Payments Last?
The issue of alimony duration is just as complex as the question of amount. Alimony can be limited to a term of years or payable for a lifetime, depending on the particular circumstances of a case. Typically, alimony lasts for a specific length of time, but can also terminate early upon the recipient's remarriage, statutory cohabitation, or the death of either party.
In some cases, "lifetime alimony" may be negotiated or awarded by a Court. However, in this instance, “lifetime alimony” is really a misnomer. In Connecticut, lifetime alimony generally refers to alimony that must be paid for as long as the continues to work and earn income, or until he or she reaches a reasonable age of retirement.
Factors a Court Considers when Awarding Alimony
Like all issues emanating from a marriage, divorcing parties are, of course, free to negotiate an alimony settlement or, alternatively, a judge will determine the issue. If the issue is left for judicial determination, it is important to understand that unlike child support – where awards are determined pursuant to a prescribed mathematical formula – Connecticut law offers no precise formula for calculating either the amount or duration of alimony. Instead, in determining whether alimony should be awarded and the amount and duration of the award, judges are required to consider the following statutory factors:
- The length of the marriage;
- The causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation;
- The age of each spouse;
- The health of each spouse;
- The station of each spouse;
- The occupation of each spouse;
- The amount and sources of income of each spouse;
- The earning capacity of each spouse, if there is a claim that a spouse is unemployed or underemployed;
- The vocational skills, education, and employability of each spouse;
- The estate of each spouse;
- The needs of each of spouse, in light of the division of assets and liabilities; and
- If a parent to whom custody of the minor children has been awarded, the desirability and feasibility of such parent securing employment.
Notably, while a Connecticut judge is required to consider each of the foregoing statutory factors in fashioning an alimony order, he or she need not give each factor equal weight. Rather, the Judge may place varying degrees of importance on each criterion according to the factual circumstances of each case. While this can make it extremely challenging to predict what an alimony award may look like in any given case, our experienced New Canaan Alimony Attorneys can offer guidance based upon our deep knowledge of both statutory and decisional law.
What Are the Tax Implications Of Alimony?
Prior to enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, alimony payments were tax-deductible for the payor and taxable to the payee. This tax treatment of alimony benefited both parties to a divorce, as it enabled the parties to shift part of the family's overall tax burden from the higher income spouse to the lower-income spouse to create more disposable income for the family. However, as of January 1, 2019, alimony payments are not taxed as income for the payee and the payor cannot deduct payments from his or her income. This represents a dramatic change from the way that alimony had previously been taxed for approximately the previous 70 years. It is critical that tax implications be carefully considered before reaching an agreement on alimony.
Can Alimony Awards be Modified?
Yes. Unless divorcing parties agree to make alimony non-modifiable, then alimony after divorce can be modified under Connecticut law if one party can show that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances,” that warrants modification. A typical scenario in which an alimony award might be subject to modification is where a payor's income has substantially decreased due to circumstances outside of his or her control.
Get Help from a Connecticut Alimony Attorney
If you are engaged in a dispute over alimony, it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney review the specific circumstances of your case to advise you with respect to this complex issue. The Family Law Firm of Healy + Eliot can help. To schedule an in-person or virtual meeting with one of our New Canaan alimony lawyers, please call 203-652-8018 or complete our online contact form.