How Long Does Alimony Last?

White square with a gold border and the black words “How Long Does Alimony Last?” with the Freed Marcroft family law firm logo in the lower right corner.There 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 key 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 major 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.

Alimony Timeframes

There are three basic alimony timeframes in Connecticut:

Time Limited 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 with respect to whether and how it awards alimony.  An experienced divorce lawyer can give you tailored insights based upon your particular circumstances and goals.

Open Ended or Lifetime Alimony

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 do 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 with respect to whether and how it awards alimony.

Very generally speaking, lifetime alimony tends to be more likely in cases where there was a long 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.

Permanent Alimony

It is a misnomer to call lifetime alimony permanent.  Almost all alimony orders terminate on the death of either party or the remarriage of the alimony recipient.  Once the court issues an alimony award, the parties may request modification or termination of that award upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.  By agreement, spouses can specify whether alimony may be modified and under what circumstances.

Read: Can Alimony Be Changed in Connecticut?

The Comprehensive Connecticut Alimony Guide

Alimony is one of the most important 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.  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.

Read: Alimony: The Comprehensive Connecticut Guide

Next Steps

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.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us either here or by phone at 860-560-8160.

Written by Meghan Freed