How Long Does Alimony Last?
Updated November 22, 2023
There are three major questions when it comes to alimony. First, will there be alimony at all? Second, if so, how much? Third, for how long?
Read on to learn the answer to the third question: “How long does alimony last?”
Purpose of Alimony
The concept of alimony in Connecticut divorces flows from spouses’ joint and continuing duty to support each other, even after a marriage has ended. The history and underlying purpose of alimony are crucial to understanding how modern courts determine the length of alimony.
History of Alimony
Connecticut wives had no right to a separate legal identity until the legislature passed the Married Woman’s Act in 1877. Since women had no right to buy, sell, or own property, there was no concept of alimony. After 1877, Connecticut courts recognized a husband’s responsibility to support his wife, including alimony — provided the wife didn’t fail in her marriage duties. In the 1970s, the legislature made significant changes to Connecticut’s family law, including no-fault divorce and the court’s ability to award alimony to either the husband or the wife. In 2013, the legislature revised the statutes to include gender-neutral language inclusive of spouses of the same sex.
Continuing Duty to Support
By the 1970s, it was clear that both spouses have an ongoing duty to support each other. This is why we can have lifetime alimony — which can go on until the recipient spouse’s death. But more and more courts have begun to place a time limit on alimony.
There are three basic alimony timeframes in Connecticut:
- “Temporary” or “pendente lite” alimony while the divorce is pending
- ‘Time limited” or “rehabilitative” alimony (relatively short-term), and
- “Open ended” or “lifetime” alimony
There are two main theories behind putting time limits on alimony.
The first, and probably the most common, is “rehabilitative alimony.” The theory is that limiting the alimony term encourages the recipient to incentivize the alimony recipient to obtain the skills, training, or education to become financially self-sufficient — and to provide support while that occurs.
Second, time limited alimony can provide interim financial support until a future event occurs that reduces the need for support. For example, it’s possible that alimony might end when a child reaches maturity, or a trust begins distributing funds.
As to the timeframe a court will use in a particular case, it is highly fact-specific. The key is to remember that although there are factors for alimony awards, both divorce itself and alimony specifically are equitable in nature. The court has abundant discretion concerning whether and how it awards alimony. An experienced divorce lawyer can give you tailored insights based on your circumstances and goals.
Open Ended or Lifetime
Lifetime alimony does still exist in Connecticut, although it is becoming less common. In fact, as of 2013, courts must specify their reasons when awarding open ended alimony.
As to under what circumstances courts award it, the key is to remember that although there are factors for alimony awards, both divorce itself and alimony specifically are equitable in nature. The court has abundant discretion concerning whether and how it awards alimony.
Very generally speaking, lifetime alimony tends to be more likely in cases where there was a long-term marriage, one spouse worked outside the home, and the other spouse did not. It’s also possible that a spouse’s disability might play a part in persuading a judge that a lifetime award is appropriate.
It is a misnomer to call lifetime alimony permanent. Almost all alimony orders terminate on either party’s death or the alimony recipient’s remarriage. Once the court issues an alimony award, the parties may request modification or termination of that award if they can show a substantial change in circumstances. By agreement, spouses can specify whether alimony may be modified and under what circumstances.
When it comes to alimony duration, there are several common misconceptions that can cause confusion and uncertainty. Let’s address some of these misconceptions to provide a clearer understanding:
1. Alimony is always awarded for long durations: While some cases may involve alimony awarded for an extended period, it is not always the case. Alimony duration is determined based on various factors, and it can vary significantly depending on the circumstances of the case.
2. Alimony is never awarded for the rest of your life: While it’s unusual, Connecticut courts sometimes still award lifetime alimony.
2. Alimony duration is set in stone: Alimony duration is not necessarily set in stone and can be modified under certain circumstances. Changes in income, remarriage, or cohabitation can be grounds for modifying alimony duration.
3. Alimony is only awarded to women: Alimony can be awarded to either spouse, regardless of gender. The purpose of alimony is to address the economic disparities between the parties and ensure financial support for the recipient spouse.
4. Alimony is punishment for the paying spouse: Alimony is not intended to be a punishment for the paying spouse. It is a means to provide financial support to the recipient spouse and help them maintain a similar standard of living post-divorce.
It is crucial to separate fact from fiction when it comes to alimony duration to make informed decisions and understand your rights and obligations.
The Comprehensive Connecticut Alimony Guide
Alimony is one of the most critical issues in divorces. And, it’s one of the most confusing. There are no set formulas or rules on (1) whether there will be alimony, and, if so, (2) how it’s calculated, or (3) how long it will last. The good news is that this means there is tremendous flexibility to craft an individualized approach. To prepare to make solid and informed decisions, you need to understand how alimony works. Our Comprehensive Connecticut Alimony Guide tells you everything you need to know about alimony in Connecticut.
To start making a plan for your divorce, reach out. Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals. We analyze those goals, plus the facts of your case, and present you with recommendations and options to move forward.