During 2014, alimony laws throughout the east coast will be going through significant changes. States including Massachusetts and New Jersey have already proposed new alimony laws to override their old systems. In 2013, HB 6688 was passed in Connecticut. HB 6688 introduces sweeping changes to Connecticut’s alimony and property division laws, which many considered outdated and biased against men. In fact, in 2013, four plaintiffs filed suit claiming that the current Connecticut alimony laws were unconstitutional and archaic. In this suit, the plaintiffs asserted that the current Connecticut alimony laws did not provide judges with significant guidance for making their alimony award and property division decisions.
HB 6688 repealed and replaced the Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-8. Under Section 46b-8, when determining what alimony should be awarded, the court was advised to consider the cause of the divorce, length of the marriage, and each party’s age, occupation, health, sources and amounts of personal income, employability, and personal needs. However, Section 46b-8 did not advise on when a court should actually award alimony. It also did not provide direction regarding how much alimony should be paid and for how long. This lack of guidance caused significant confusion and widely diverse outcomes throughout Connecticut in the awarding of alimony during divorce proceedings.
Under HB 6688, the Connecticut alimony and property division laws will provide more guidance for judges entering alimony awards. The law requires that all alimony awards and property divisions be gender neutral. The act requires courts to still consider most of the factors under Section 46b-8, but now a party’s education and earning capacity are additional factors for consideration. HB 6688 also increases the amount of evidence that must be considered by the court before awarding alimony and assigning property. Instead of just granting lifetime or indefinite alimony, the court must provide a specific basis for such a grant.
Furthermore, judges must now modify alimony orders by applying the same criteria that must be utilized to establish an alimony award. In the past judges where given great deference and leniency in the modification of alimony awards. The most important thing to come out of the HB 6688 was the creation of the Connecticut Law Revision Commission (“CLRC”). The CLRC was created to evaluate and study the adequacy and fairness of Connecticut’s state alimony statutes. By February 1st, 2014 the CLRC must present its findings and recommendations to the Judiciary Committee and chief court administrator. Hopefully, the CLRC’s findings will provide some guidance regarding when alimony awards should be granted, and for how long.
Here in Connecticut the horizon holds a more fair and gender neutral alimony system. If you have any questions about how HB 6688 will affect your divorce, alimony award, or property divisions, you should contact the knowledgeable family law attorneys here at our law firm in Fairfield County, Connecticut.