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Alimony & Property Distributions in a Divorce: Why Hiring a Lawyer Can Help

Understanding the Basics of Alimony, and How it is Determined

Our Connecticut divorce lawyers counsel, advise, and advocate for clients contemplating or facing a divorce throughout the state, including Milford, New Haven, Orange, Hartford, Hamden, and more.  We understand the sensitivity involved in a divorce, and we know the laws.  We also know that it is not just family laws which must be considered; instead, knowledge of finances, taxes, and issues involving children are essential components to successful divorce representation.  We use our knowledge and experience to comprehensively advise clients on concerns and issues specific to their situation.  If you have a question, please call our New Haven County divorce attorneys.  Let our legal team, be your legal team.

In Connecticut, you do not need to prove fault to file for divorce.  In fact, you can file for a divorce, and the Court can enter a judgment of divorce, on the basis of an ‘irretrievable breakdown.’  That breakdown can be attributable to a variety of different reasons:  financial troubles (a term which encompasses many troubles such as extreme spending, hiding money, controlling money, gambling, not allowing a spouse access to family finances or financial records, etc.), extramarital affairs, career difficulties, changes in personality, substance abuse issues, falling out of love, and others.  You will need to both allege and prove the irretrievable breakdown.  You can also allege (and, will have to then prove) another no-fault basis for divorce: the parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the eighteen months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect that they will be reconciled.

However, you can file for a divorce and cite fault, which also must be proven, and allege any of the following reasons:

(1) adultery; (2) fraudulent contract; (3) wilful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty; (4) seven years’ absence, during all of which period the absent party has not been heard from; (5) habitual intemperance; (6) intolerable cruelty; (7) sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year; (8) legal confinement in a hospital or hospitals or other similar institution or institutions, because of mental illness, for at least an accumulated period totaling five years within the period of six years next preceding the date of the complaint.

See Conn. Gen. Stat.§46b-40(c) (2008)

Whatever the basis for the divorce alleged, it must then be proven.  Upon a satisfactory finding of the Court that the grounds for the divorce, as alleged in the Complaint, have been proven, the Court can then enter a judgment of divorce. That said, regardless of the reason alleged, the financial determinations require that several factors be considered in making any property or financial award.  These factors do include the cause of the eventual breakdown of the marriage.  As there exists no hard and fast rule in making property awards, or financial awards, in a divorce in Connecticut,  it is important that you explore with your attorney what financial considerations you have specific to your case, and work with your attorney to structure the arrangement best for you.  Should the parties then fail to reach an agreement, it is equally important that your divorce attorney know and understand the laws in Connecticut so that he or she can best advocate for you in front of the Court.

The law in Connecticut, as it differs from many other states, allows the Court to assign to either the husband or the wife all or any part of the estate of the other.   Connecticut also does not distinguish between the actual title, or ownership, of the property – meaning, all property of each party is considered fair game.  However, the law in Connecticut, as outlined in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81, does require that certain factors be considered (notably, not with equal weight) in assigning and valuing property, including:

the length of the marriage, (2) the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation,  the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.  In addition, the Court must also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates.

Notably, while the acquisition of property (meaning, the purchase or method of getting the property) is a factor, so is the cause of the breakdown, and so is the amount of income and the needs of the parties.  So, while each of these factors must be considered, one factor may be given more weight than another.

Sometimes property transfers (both real – as in housing, and personal – as in cars and other assets) are preferable to alimony because it is not considered to be taxable income.  This can be a drawback to alimony for many people, and is certainly something that a knowledgable and qualified divorce attorney should explore with you.

Similarly, unlike child support, the amount of spousal support – or alimony – to be awarded by the Court is not calculated in accordance with guidelines.  Instead, alimony in a divorce is ordered after the Court considers several factors, including:

the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties and the award, if any, which the court may make pursuant to section 46b-81, and, in the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability of such parent’s securing employment.

See Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-82.

It is important to note that, while the law requires the Court to consider all of those factors, the Court is not obligated to weigh the these factors equally.  That means that the Court may give weight more to one factor, such as the cause of the breakdown, than another, which is why alimony is so often a subject of dispute.  Additionally, if you waive your right to alimony at the end of your divorce, you cannot go back at a later time and request it – not 1 day later, not 1 year later.  That is why it is so important to get it right the first time – and why it is always best to consult and work with a knowledgeable Connecticut family lawyer.

Know your rights – and your value – and protect yourself.  If you are contemplating or facing a divorce, call our legal team.  Our New Haven County divorce lawyers will work with you to advocate for your interests and protect your rights.