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Connecticut Alimony Law Gives Judges Broad Discretion

Greenwich, CT Divorce Attorney

Connecticut law directs judges to consider a list of specific factors in alimony questions.

Alimony - the payment of money support from one ex-spouse to the other - can have a major impact on the living standards of both payor and payee. Connecticut law gives judges deciding alimony questions broad discretion when compared to other states.

When a Connecticut judge issues a divorce decree or legal separation decree after a trial (or approves a separation agreement), he or she has discretion to include alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance in other states). When considering whether alimony is appropriate and its amount and duration, the law directs the judge to consider the evidence submitted by each spouse, as well as the following list of specific factors, which are often referred to in Connecticut as the mandatory factors:

  • Marriage length
  • Reason for divorce, a factor some other states do not allow to be considered in alimony questions, usually unless the reason relates to violence or abuse
  • Ages
  • Spouses health
  • Spouses station, i.e., the marital standard of living or lifestyle
  • Occupations of the spouses
  • Income amount and sources
  • Earning capacities
  • Vocational skills
  • Education
  • Employability
  • Spouses estate, meaning each of their present and vested assets
  • Needs of each, including living expenses and debts
  • Property division
  • Desirability and feasibility of a parent working when he or she will have custody of children

The judge is not required to weigh these factors equally. Notably, as articulated in the Connecticut Practice Series, state case law also allows the court to consider other factors, in addition to those on the mandatory list.

The law says that if the judge orders permanent alimony that ends only upon the death of either party or the payees remarriage, the order must contain a specific written explanation of the reasons for the order.

Another way alimony can become part of a divorce decree is through a negotiated separation agreement between the parties. When an alimony arrangement is part of such a stipulation, the parties submit the separation agreement to the judge. The law directs the judge to look into the spouses financial resources and actual needs to determine whether the proposed alimony is fair and equitable under all the circumstances.

If the judge approves the agreement concerning alimony, it becomes part of the divorce or legal separation decree, but if he or she finds it is not fair and equitable, the judge may fashion alimony that circumstances require.

While some have advocated for alimony reform in Connecticut, so far the law leaves significant discretion with judges. In some other states, spousal support laws have been reformed to require judges to follow certain formulas or to place limits on amount and/or duration.

Anyone in Connecticut concerned about the issue of alimony, whether as payee or payor, should speak with an experienced family attorney for advice and representation. From the Law Office of Douglas J. Wells in Greenwich, divorce attorney Douglas Wells represents clients in alimony, divorce and other family law matters. Contact our lawyer today.

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