In certain cases a court is permitted to modify orders regarding alimony and child support after a divorce has been finalized. Although there are a variety of circumstances under which a modification may be warranted, cases often involve situations where one party’s income has significantly increased or decreased. In Dan v. Dan, 137 Conn. App. 728 (2012), the parties were divorced in 2000 after a twenty-nine year marriage. As part of their separation agreement, the husband agreed to pay the wife $15,000 per month in alimony, plus 25% of any amounts that he earned through performance based bonuses. The husband was obligated to make the payments until the wife’s death, remarriage or cohabitation, or until the husband retired or reached the age of sixty-five, whichever occurred first.
Approximately ten years later, the wife filed a motion to modify the husband’s alimony obligation, claiming that his income had increased significantly since the divorce, and that her own medical expenses had “skyrocketed.” The trial court found that at the time of the dissolution, the husband was earning $696,000 per year whereas at the time of the hearing, he was earning a base salary of $3,240,000. The court also found that the husband had recently exercised stock options in the amount of $3,000,000. The wife, on the other hand, was earning $8,000 to $12,000 per year from dividend income. She had a high school diploma, but no college degree, and had not been employed since 1977. The court also noted that she was taking medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Focusing its analysis on the length of the parties’ marriage, the amount and sources of the parties’ respective income, the parties’ health and the parties’ vocational skills, the court modified the husband’s alimony obligation to $40,000 per month plus 25% of any performance based bonuses.
The husband appealed, claiming that, among other things, the court erred in not limiting its consideration to circumstances that changed after the parties’ divorce. The Appellate Court disagreed, however, explaining that although the moving party must first demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification, once he or she has done so, the court must then consider all of the statutory criteria set forth in C.G.S. § 46b-82. In other words, in formulating the new alimony award, the court will consider the same criteria it considered in formulating an initial award even if some of the criteria do not pertain to the alleged change.
Should you have any questions regarding the modification of alimony or other financial support awards, please feel free to contact Attorney Joseph Maya. He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.