Common Myths With Respect to Alimony in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Myth #1: Alimony is awarded for half the length of the marriage
  • Myth #2: Lifetime alimony means that the alimony payor must pay alimony for the rest of his or her life
  • Myth #3: My spouse works full-time; therefore, I do not have to pay alimony

There is No Law in Connecticut Stating that Alimony is Awarded for Half the Length of the Marriage

At Broder & Orland LLC, we hear many of the “myths” about alimony that our Fairfield County divorce clients learn, oftentimes through their social circles or the Internet.  It is important for us to dispel these myths so that our clients have the correct information before making decisions about alimony in their cases.  In some cases, people are pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that the myths about alimony are not true.

One of the most common myths divorce attorneys hear from clients from Greenwich to Fairfield is that the term of alimony is half of the length of the marriage.  It is important for clients to realize that there is no law in Connecticut that says that alimony should be awarded for half of the length of the marriage, or for any other length of time, for that matter.  Judges in Connecticut have discretion under our law to award alimony for the length of time that they deem appropriate based on the facts of the case and the statutory factors set forth in General Statutes Section 46b-82, including the ages of the parties, the parties’ amount and sources of income, their health, their employability, and the assets awarded to them pursuant to the divorce, amongst other factors.  The length of the parties’ marriage is one of the factors that judges can consider in determining the duration of the alimony term, but it is not the deciding factor.

In some cases, half the length of the marriage is the appropriate duration of alimony because of the specific facts of the particular case.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are no “rules” as to what the duration of alimony must be.  Fairfield County divorce attorneys advise clients as to what the reasonable ranges are for the duration of alimony in a particular case based on their experience in the field and review of trends in Connecticut case law.

In settlements, duration of alimony can be negotiated to achieve a client’s particular goal.  Sometimes, a client may be willing to receive a lower amount of alimony than what may be typical based on the facts of the case in exchange for receiving alimony over a longer period of time.  Others prefer a higher amount of alimony over a shorter period of time than the norm.

Lifetime Alimony is not as Daunting as it Sounds

In long term marriages, particularly where one spouse did not work or received significantly less income during the marriage, the breadwinner spouse will hear that he or she has exposure for paying “lifetime alimony.”  Not surprisingly, this is often an unwelcome proposition for the breadwinner spouse.  At Broder and Orland LLC, we have clients ask us whether that means that they must pay alimony until they die.  They also want to know whether lifetime alimony means that they cannot stop working.

Lifetime alimony in Connecticut means that the alimony payor must continue pay alimony for so long he or she is working and earning income.  Unlike defined alimony terms that end on a specific date, lifetime alimony is written in Court decisions or settlement agreements as ending “upon either party’s death or the alimony recipient’s remarriage.”  What this language means is that, if the alimony payor continues working until age seventy-five and earns income from that employment, he or she will still have an obligation to pay alimony.

Lifetime alimony does not, however, prevent a person from retiring at a reasonable retirement age, usually no earlier than age sixty-five, though every case is different.  Reasonable retirement age can be dependent on the industry in which the alimony payor works or his or her profession.  Once the alimony payor is ready to retire, assuming that he or she is retiring at a “normal” retirement age, he or she has the right to file a Motion to modify his or her alimony obligation, requesting that alimony should cease on the basis of retirement.  Unlike defined alimony terms, lifetime alimony awards put the onus on the alimony payor to go back to Court to request modification of the alimony award on the basis of retirement.  Lifetime alimony does not mean, however, that the alimony payor cannot retire.

Alimony is Sometimes Awarded to a Spouse Who Works Outside of the Home

Some people living in Greenwich and Stamford may be surprised to learn that sometimes alimony is warranted in cases where both parties are gainfully employed outside of the home.  In certain situations, typically where there is a marked income disparity between the parties, the spouse who earns more income will have to pay alimony to the other spouse for a period of time.  The amount of alimony in these types of cases is usually less than what the alimony payor would have had to pay had the other spouse not worked outside of the home.

Contact a Top Fairfield County Divorce Attorney to Discuss Connecticut Alimony Law

There is no substitute for seeking the advice of an experienced attorney with respect to what the law is in Connecticut regarding alimony.  At Broder & Orland LLC, we can dispel any myths people may have heard regarding the amount of alimony typically awarded or the length of time for which it is awarded.