Alimony & Spousal Maintenance

Alimony & spousal maintenance is continuing support from one spouse to another for a specified period of time. When individuals enter into a marriage each spouse is viewed as owing a duty of support to the other; much like a contractual obligation. When alimony is awarded in a divorce it is viewed as being based on this continuing duty of one spouse to the other. But there is no absolute right to alimony & spousal maintenance. There is no gender bias either; the law of Connecticut is gender neutral. Either spouse may be awarded alimony from the other. In making an award of alimony the court will consider many factors. There is no specific formula to determine the calculation or duration of alimony. A court will measure a spouse’s duty of support against the reasonable limits of the other party’s ability to pay.

A spouse is not automatically entitled to or awarded alimony & spousal maintenance by the court. A motion must be filed requesting a hearing for the court’s determination and a court order awarding alimony. Alimony can be awarded permanently or temporarily. Temporary alimony may be awarded to a party to cover their immediate needs from the date of filing a petition for dissolution of marriage until the entry of the final judgment.

The purpose of “temporary” alimony is to satisfy current support needs. The parties individual financial circumstances will be reviewed and evaluated and the spouse seeking support will be required to demonstrate his or her financial need and the other party’s ability to pay, among other factors.

What Is Temporary Alimony?

Temporary alimony can be rehabilitative. Rehabilitative alimony is more typically awarded in short and medium length marriages. It could be awarded to allow the receiving party the opportunity to re-enter the job market and attain self-sufficiency by renewing previous employment skills or to acquire new skills through training and education. The receiving party has the burden of providing the court with a detailed rehabilitation plan, such as enrollment in school or vocational training. This type of alimony is usually granted to an individual who sacrificed a profession or discontinued the pursuit of an educational degree in order to maintain a home or care for children and now wishes to pursue a career.

The purpose of permanent alimony & spousal support is to enable a spouse who has forgone economic opportunities in furtherance of the marriage to continue to live at the same standard of living as enjoyed during the marriage. More commonly it is seen as a result of the termination of a marriage of longer duration, usually 17 years or more, yet it is not uncommon to be awarded in marriages lasting as little as seven years. As a general rule, the longer the marriage, the greater the chance that there will be an economic disparity and the greater an alimony award may be. There are instances where permanent alimony will be awarded in marriages of less than seven years, usually based upon the receiving spouse being seriously injured or unable to work based upon an incurable disease. It is important to remember, however that in order for the court to grant permanent alimony, the requesting party has the burden of proving that the paying party has the ability to pay.

A qualified family law attorney should be consulted to identify and define your support needs and to analyze and review your options with you.  If at the start of a divorce action, or even during the entire time that the action is pending in court, the parties continue to reside together and maintain their pre-suit sharing of income and debt, there may not be a reason to obtain a temporary court order. Parties either alone or with the assistance of their attorneys often negotiate and implement a voluntary support agreement. Your divorce attorney should be consulted about advantages that may be available by having an order entered by the court, either based on a voluntary agreement with your spouse or entered after a contested hearing.  Additionally there are tax implications and enforcement remedies available when alimony is paid by court order to consider.

How Is Alimony Determined?

In determining whether to award alimony or maintenance, a court makes a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony or maintenance and whether the other party has the ability to pay. If the court finds that a party has a need for alimony or maintenance and that the other party has the ability to pay, then in determining the proper type and amount of alimony or maintenance, the court considers all relevant factors including, but not limited to: the length of the marriage, cause of the breakdown of the marriage (fault), the age and health of the parties, pre-divorce standard of living and lifestyle, occupations, vocational skills, employability and income, education, the assets of each party, property division, the needs and liabilities of the parties, and the desirability of a custodial parent securing employment if there is a very young child or a situation where the parent who will have custody is limited or prevented from seeking or maintaining full employment such as the special needs of a child.

If you do not reach a voluntary agreement with the other party and it is left to a judge to make an alimony decision, the court has broad discretion to fashion an award, whether it is temporary or permanent, periodic or by lump sum payment.

Judith Goldberg, Attorney & Mediator.   Connect With Judith