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Duty to Support Spouse Lives On After Divorce

In divorce, determining if one spouse must pay alimony to the other – and if so, how much and for how long – can be contentious. This is true whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Historically, the norm was to award alimony to a former wife because the law considered the divorcing husband to have “abandoned” her. As gender roles have evolved, however, so have alimony laws.

Alimony Law in Connecticut

The purpose of alimony, sometimes labeled spousal support or maintenance, is to continue each spouse’s “duty to support” when they separate or divorce. Each spouse took on this duty simply by entering into the marriage. As the names suggest, “support” and “maintenance” are based on the idea that the spouse receiving alimony needs money to achieve a standard of living that closely resembles everyday life during the marriage.

Sometimes awarded permanently, alimony is more commonly designed as temporary periodic payments until the receiving spouse can reach self-support. Connecticut law lists the factors for awarding alimony:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The causes for the dissolution of the marriage
  • The age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties
  • The property division which the court might make
  • In the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability of such parent’s securing employment

Behind each of these considerations is the duty to support, something the law uses to balance the spouses’ abilities to support themselves post-divorce. For instance, an incident of infidelity during the marriage technically should not sway the judge or dominate negotiations. If shown to be a cause of the divorce, however, it can make alimony appropriate under the second factor.

It’s easy to make the case for alimony if one spouse can easily pay his or her bills and living expenses while the other will struggle to make ends meet due to lack of education or employment. Most cases are not so clear-cut, but essentially, divorce should not result in severe hardship to either spouse.

Spouses in contested or uncontested divorces should work closely with a knowledgeable family law attorney to decide if alimony should be awarded. A skilled divorce attorney will argue on your behalf and help you get what you deserve in the divorce.