How Does the New Tax Law Impact Alimony in Connecticut Divorce Cases?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • The new tax law signed on 12/22/17 eliminates the alimony deduction for divorces and separation agreements signed after 12/31/18.
  • A payor cannot deduct alimony payments; a recipient will not pay tax on alimony.
  • The effect of the new law may mean greater tax impact for divorcing spouses and less available dollars for ex-spouse and children.
  • This law will affect alimony and unallocated alimony and child support payments.
  • Consult with counsel about finalizing your divorce by 12/31/18.

Should I make sure to get divorced in 2018, if I am going to pay or receive alimony? The short answer is that it would seem that way from what we can tell now. That is because on December 22, 2017, President Trump signed a sweeping tax overhaul bill, which includes an elimination of a 75 year-old tax deduction for alimony payments. This new measure will go into effect for divorces and separation agreements signed after December 31, 2018.

Currently, alimony is tax deductible to the payor and includible as taxable income to the recipient. The advantage of this is that it maximizes the available dollars to the recipient and makes it more attractive to the payor, by minimizing the overall tax effect. This paradigm has been instrumental in reaching out of court settlements in many cases as it typically will lower the tax bracket of the payor, shift dollars to the recipient who most often is in a substantially lower tax bracket, and reduce the amount of taxes that is paid to the federal government.

Additionally, in Connecticut divorces, we often see what’s known as “unallocated alimony and child support.” This is a combination of alimony to an ex-spouse and child support for the children. Child support, if paid separately, is not tax deductible by the payor or includible by the recipient, however when paid as an unallocated order, it is treated as alimony i.e. deductible and includible. Again, fashioning an unallocated alimony and support order has been an effective tool in maximizing available dollars, limiting taxes and most importantly, settling cases. Under the new tax law, the deduction for unallocated orders will be eliminated, after December 31, 2018.

It would appear, based on the above, that the new tax law will have a profound effect on the post-divorce financial situation of divorced parties, by increasing the tax burden and thereby making less money available to the recipient spouse and children. The practical effect is that it is likely to make divorce negotiations more difficult.

While alimony reform laws have been hotly debated in the last several years and states differ as to the availability and application of alimony, many Greenwich and Westport divorce lawyers have found alimony to be essential in allowing spouses to adjust to the post-divorce family economics. At the same time, skilled divorce attorneys have been able to settle cases by carefully crafting alimony and unallocated support payments that work to the advantage of both parties and the family.

If you are currently in the process of divorce and alimony is likely to be in the picture, you should consult with your attorney about concluding your case this year. Likewise, if you are thinking about filing for divorce this year or if your spouse is likely to do so, you should talk to an attorney about how the new law might affect you and whether or not your goal should be to get it done in 2018. Bear in mind, in Connecticut, divorces can often be a drawn out situation. It is not uncommon for them to take at least a year, start to finish. Now is the time to think about accelerating your case if the new tax law could have negative consequences for you.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, we have years of experience in crafting separation agreements that take into account the tax advantages of alimony and unallocated support payments. We have also been successful at trial in obtaining for our clients orders that recognize the tax implications of these payments and which minimize the tax effect while maximizing the available dollars for the post-divorce family.