Connecticut Divorce and Spousal Support
First off, you should understand under what circumstances alimony will occur. If, over the course of your marriage, you and your spouse both worked, had similar incomes, and had some independent finances, alimony may not get awarded to your case. Alimony is rehabilitative in nature. The purpose of alimony is to keep both parties at a comparable level financially to where they were before.
For example, spousal support can get awarded in a divorce if you had a lengthy marriage where one spouse worked. The stay-at-home spouse probably has outdated job skills or no job skills at all. They likely have no individual pension and limited ways of finding a job. The stay-at-home spouse in the relationship might receive alimony to help pay bills while they find a job. It is also important to understand that spousal support is rehabilitative in nature. This means that its sole purpose is to get someone back on their feet.
What is Alimony?
Here is the definition of alimony as provided by the Connecticut General Assembly: 46b-82.(Formerly Sec. 46-52). Alimony. (a) At the time of entering the decree, the Superior Court may order either of the parties to pay alimony to the other, in addition to or in lieu of an award pursuant to section 46b-81.
The order may direct that security be given therefor on such terms as the court may deem desirable, including an order pursuant to subsection (b) of this section or an order to either party to contract with a third party for periodic payments or payments contingent on a life to the other party. The court may order that a party obtain life insurance as such security unless such party proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such insurance is not available to such party, such party is unable to pay the cost of such insurance or such party is uninsurable.
In determining whether alimony shall get awarded, and the duration and amount of the award, the court shall consider the evidence presented by each party and shall consider:
- The length of the marriage.
- The causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation.
- Each party’s age, health, station, occupation, amount, and sources of income.
- Earning capacity.
- Vocational skills.
- Estate and needs of each of the parties.
- The award, if any, which the court may make pursuant to section 46b-81,
- In the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has gotten awarded, the desirability and feasibility of such parent’s securing employment.
(b) If the court, following a trial or hearing on the merits, enters an order pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, or section 46b-86, and such order by its terms will terminate only upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the alimony recipient, the court shall articulate with specificity the basis for such order. (c) Any post judgement procedure afforded by chapter 906 shall be available to secure the present and future financial interests of a party in connection with a final order for the periodic payment of alimony.
Types of Spousal Support
Different types of spousal support will get awarded depending on your personal situation. Some types of alimony only last for a few months or years. Others can last for much longer. One type of spousal support consists of temporary spousal support, also referred to as pendente lite. To receive this type of spousal support, you will have to file temporary orders during the divorce.
This type of alimony allows both spouses to maintain their lifestyles while they are going through this difficult process. This is achieved by having the spouse that makes more money pay support to the spouse that doesn’t. Temporary spousal support will occur in a situation like the one I listed above. It happens when one spouse makes much more money than the other. Temporary spousal support is especially common in situations where only one spouse in the relationship has a job.
This type of spousal support is exactly what it sounds like – temporary. When your divorce gets finalized, these payments will no longer occur. This is because the spouse with a lower income needs to support themselves.
Another form of alimony is called periodic alimony. If you had temporary alimony during your divorce, you could get periodic alimony when the divorce ends. This type of spousal support is paid to the spouse with the lower earnings during the marriage. The divorce will clearly change this spouse’s income and lifestyle. This spouse will receive spousal support for a certain period of time and in a certain amount. Periodic alimony typically ends after a certain amount of time. Alimony also can terminate upon the receiving spouses’ remarriage, and in some circumstances, cohabitation. Cohabitation in Connecticut gets defined under specific statute.
One other type of spousal support is called permanent alimony. While the previous types of alimony mentioned are meant to be temporary, this type of support is permanent. Permanent alimony can only get terminated by one of two events. The first is if one of the parties involved in the agreement dies. The other is if the party that receives the spousal support remarries.
Sometimes cohabitation could end such alimony award. Despite the fact that permanent alimony is rarely terminated, it can be adjusted based on the financial situation of both the payer and the recipient. For example, if the payer gets a promotion, the recipient can petition for larger payments. The logic here would be that the person paying the alimony would be in a position to pay more without having it affect his or her financial standings.
On the other hand, if the person paying the alimony loses their job, or if they take a pay cut, a petition can occur to have the alimony amount decreased. The person paying the alimony would argue that they are no longer in a position to pay the same amount.
Alimony is typically modifiable. This means that upon a substantial change of circumstances, the award of alimony, amount and/or term could get modified with good cause. You should consult with your attorney to make sure specific provisions are in your divorce agreement to specify if alimony is modifiable.
Rehabilitative alimony is alimony given from one spouse with significant financial assets and job experience to another spouse who does not have these individual characteristics and needs time and money to attain them. One spouse might make payments while the other goes back to school or gets job training.
The options for alimony are: (1) none, (2) $1.00 per year, (3) lump-sum alimony or (4) periodic alimony. If the divorce judgment provides for $1.00 per year, that figure give the court the authority to modify the amount in the future, if the legal requirements for modification are met. “Rehabilitative alimony” is transitional support awarded to one of the spouses during a period of education or training necessary to achieve self-sufficiency or make up for time that the spouse has been withdrawn from the workplace. If you are awarded no alimony you cannot change that in the future based on circumstances. Because alimony is deductible to the party who pays it, it is a device to shift the tax burden to the spouse who is likely in a lower tax bracket. Alimony is therefore an important divorce financial planning device.
Contempt of Paying Alimony
In many cases, after divorce end, one person will stop making alimony payments to their ex. This may come about as the result of the person who has to pay alimony falling on hard times and having a difficult time making payments. The loss of a job, medical problems, etc. might be the reason that alimony payments have stopped.
In other cases, the person who has to make alimony payments might simply grow tired of making payment to their ex. This person may have moved on and is trying to support another family, and doesn’t want to keep paying their ex. No matter what the reason is for one ex to stop paying alimony to the other, the court will respond in the same way. Failure to make court-ordered alimony payments will not be tolerated by the court. If you are not receiving alimony from your ex, there are some steps you should follow.
In the event that your ex-spouse stops making alimony payments, you should contact them and discuss the issue. Try to find out why the alimony payments have stopped. Make sure that your ex knows that you will go to court if the alimony payments do not start back up. Also make it clear that you intend to receive reimbursement for the payments that your ex missed.
If your ex continues to refuse to make alimony payments to you, you will have to file a motion with the court. In this motion, you will have to ask a judge to force your ex to resume payment of alimony. This is oftentimes referred to as a motion for enforcement or a contempt motion. Once a contempt motion gets filed, you can ask the judge to hold your ex in contempt. By asking the court to do this, you are stating that the court order for alimony is being ignored.
If a judge finds your ex-spouse in contempt, the first step will be having your ex pay the overdue alimony. There might exist an additional fine that your ex will have to pay if found in contempt. If your ex still refuses to pay alimony, a judge can put your ex in jail. If you are found in contempt of the court because you don’t pay alimony, you will face serious consequences. You can go to jail if you do not follow a court ordered alimony request.
Remember, regardless if you are the payor or payee, you should documents payments made and received. In the event you go to court, having documentation and proof of payments or lack thereof is always important and helpful to the court.
Waiver of Alimony in Connecticut
If the parties waive their right to alimony, or if the court’s judgment contains no provision for alimony, neither party can go back into court at any time in the future to request that alimony occur, even if situations change drastically. Unless an alimony provision exists, the door will close forever.
What to Do When Alimony Ends
When alimony is no longer available, what is the next step? For starters, make sure your ex has stopped paying at the right time. If alimony ends sooner than it should, you should have a lawyer involved. You might want to take your ex-spouse to court. Also, now that you are not receiving alimony, if your children are still young, you may be able to increase the child support you get from your ex-spouse.
Another good idea would be to find a better job that will pay better because you no longer have that second check coming in. So when your alimony ends, check your divorce agreement and see if it is the appropriate time for you ex to stop paying you. Look for a job or a better paying job in order to make up for the money you are no longer receiving. Do what is best for you and your children once alimony ends.
If you have alimony-related questions, please contact my office. I can assist you in this process and make sure that you and your spouse reach a fair settlement.