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Potential Alimony Complications for Same Sex Divorcing Couples in Connecticut

White square with a gold border and the words “Alimony and Divorce for Same Sex Spouses” with the Freed Marcroft family law firm logo in the lower right corner.The impact of Connecticut law on same sex spouses when it comes to alimony in divorces can be confusing.

Read on to learn more.

Background on Marriage Equality

The legalization of marriage between partners of the same sex in Connecticut was a hard-fought battle. Decisions recognizing marriage equality in Connecticut in 2008, and then nationally in 2015, were celebrated across the United States—but didn’t come without some complexities. Many same-sex spouses still face a variety of issues that aren’t a reality in heterosexual marriages, and the same extends to the divorce.

Comparison Between Same Sex and Opposite Sex Alimony

From a legal standpoint, divorces between spouses of the same sex share many similarities with divorces between spouses of opposite sex. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a good thing. To date, laws have not evolved to account for some of the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples. As a result, it’s possible that a court might miss the mark when trying to resolve matters like alimony in a same-sex divorce.

To recognize how alimony may be an issue for same-sex divorcees, it’s important to understand how it’s typically handled in Connecticut courts. When one spouse is able to pay and the other has a financial need, the courts will generally consider awarding alimony. It’s often awarded in marriages where one spouse had a much larger income or acted as the primary “breadwinner.” Judges may award either temporary or permanent alimony once the divorce is final, as well as temporary alimony during the divorce proceedings. The court must consider a wide range of factors before making a decision, such as each spouse’s age and health, occupation and income, and any existing child support awards or payments.

Length of the Marriage and Same Sex Spouses

Where do the problems begin? For one, the length of the marriage is an important factor in alimony awards and calculations. Many courts tend to favor marriages of over 10 years in matters of alimony. Of course, while same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2015, many couples have been together for much longer. For example, let’s say a couple has been together for 30 years, and they married immediately at the end of 2008. If they divorced in 2017, the courts may treat them as if they were married only 9 years—even though they’ve been sharing property and assets, raising children, and making important mutual decisions together for much longer.

In scenarios like this one, Connecticut law may not take the couple’s entire relationship into account, which can impact alimony decisions. An ex-spouse in financial need, who has relied on their spouse’s income for so many years, may miss out on an important alimony award because the legal marriage period fell short of the favorable amount of time to be married.

Only a few years ago, same-sex couples faced a litany of challenges with taxes, Social Security, pensions, and more. While many of these problems have been mostly resolved, same-sex couples may still have to deal with legal issues or gray areas when it comes to property division in a divorce. Compounding this problem, a judge will also consider each spouse’s estate, or the assets and property they own, when calculating alimony. It can be even more difficult to make calculations without a clear delineation of who owns what.

Potential Advantages of ADR

Mediation and collaborative divorce both allow spouses to reach agreements outside of the courtroom.  Resolutions reached by same sex spouses may be more creative and reflective of their family structure and long term partnership than a judges’ decisions.  Of course, litigation may still be the preferred option for some couples.  

The Comprehensive Connecticut Alimony Guide

Alimony is one of the most important issues in family law.  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 Freed Marcroft