How Does Infidelity Affect Alimony Awards in Connecticut?
One of the questions we are asked at Freed Marcroft is how a spouse’s infidelity impacts alimony awards in a Connecticut divorce. Discovering that your spouse has been unfaithful can be emotionally devastating, and may lead you to the decision to end the marriage.
Connecticut law entitles you to a divorce that lets you start over. What is not so straightforward is to what degree infidelity affects alimony awards or property division.
Read on to learn more.
History of Infidelity’s Impact on Alimony
At one time, Connecticut prohibited a spouse who had sexual relations outside the marriage from receiving alimony. This is no longer the case. However, judges still have the authority to take infidelity into account when determining how much alimony a spouse may receive.
Factors That Affect Alimony in Connecticut
There is no formula for alimony in Connecticut. Instead, courts take several factors into consideration when deciding the amount and duration of a divorce alimony award in Connecticut. Those factors include the duration of the marriage and the age, health, employability of both spouses, and “the cause for the breakdown of the marriage.” This may make adultery relevant if your spouse committed infidelity frequently or was having an affair with someone else at the time you filed for divorce. Remember, though, while the court may consider the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, this is one of several factors the court considers and is very rarely a primary factor.
Timing of Infidelity
In order for fault to be considered in making alimony awards or distributing property, it must be the cause for the breakdown of the marriage. Therefore, adultery or infidelity that occurs after the breakdown is less relevant, because it cannot have contributed to the breakdown of the marriage. (That said, the court can consider post-breakdown behavior if its part of a pattern.)
Generally speaking, it is difficult to determine the date of the breakdown of the marriage. Arguably, for the plaintiff, the latest possible date of the breakdown is likely the date on the divorce complaint.
Likelihood of Infidelity Having a Significant Impact of Alimony
Now, just because the court has the discretion to do this, doesn’t mean the court is likely to do this. It isn’t.
It’s not hard to see why the serious emotional toll of infidelity leads some to overestimate its impact on alimony.
The practical reality is that evidence of adultery rarely leads divorce judges to penalize a spouse financially. In the rare times the court does, it’s generally in egregious cases and, even then, to a modest degree. That said, when a spouse spent substantial marital funds on an affair, courts may make the non-offending spouse financially whole.
If, for example, your spouse ran up the balance on your joint credit cards or used marital funds to buy gifts for their boyfriend or girlfriend, their affair increased your liability and decreased the value of the marital estate. A judge may opt to compensate you by awarding more alimony for a longer period of time.
Introducing Evidence Post Divorce
Spouses can only introduce infidelity as evidence in favor of alimony prior to the court finalizing their divorce decree. Once issued, neither you nor your former spouse can seek to modify an alimony order by introducing evidence of previous adultery or any other type of misconduct. These factors are only relevant when the court is initially deciding whether to award alimony, how much you are entitled to, and for how long.
The Comprehensive Connecticut Alimony Guide
Alimony is one of the most important issues in family law. And, it’s one of the most confusing. Connecticut doesn’t have 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. In order 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.