Courts Permitted to Award Time Limited Alimony for Rehabilitative Purposes

Determining Alimony Award

In determining whether alimony should be awarded- as well as the duration and amount of the award- there are several statutory criteria that must be considered.  Although these well-settled factors provide courts and litigants with some direction, there is no precise formula, and judges are afforded significant discretion is fashioning support awards.  In a recent appellate decision, the Court pointed out that in exercising such discretion, trial judges may consider whether time limited alimony is appropriate merely for rehabilitative purposes in cases where a future event will enable an ex-spouse to become self-sufficient.

Marmo v. Marmo

In Marmo v. Marmo, 131 Conn. App. 43 (2011), the Connecticut Appellate Court explained that although the traditional purpose of alimony is to meet one’s continuing duty to support, courts have begun to limit the duration of alimony awards to encourage the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient.  The underlying policy is that limiting awards may provide an incentive for the spouse receiving support to use diligence in procuring training or skills necessary to attain self-sufficiency.

The Court further explained, “[a]nother valid purpose for time limited alimony is to provide interim support until a future event occurs that makes such support less necessary or unnecessary.”  Id.  For example, interim support may be appropriate until a minor child reaches the age of majority.  Other examples might include bond maturation, trust disbursement, or mortgage maturation. Id.  One caveat to this rule is that there must be sufficient evidence to support a trial court’s finding as to the duration established. Id.

Marmo, Supra

In Marmo, supra, the parties were married for approximately seventeen years.  However, the trial court found that the wife had experience working as a computer department manager of a third party administrator.  Although she left that position due to her pregnancy, at the time of trial she was employed by a local board of education working with computers part-time.  Importantly, the wife testified that she was in the process of completing a bachelor’s degree to enable her to obtain a teaching certificate.

She expected to complete her degree in December, 2009 and obtain her certification two years later, at which time she planned to teach computer technology in elementary or middle school.  The wife further testified that she intended to sell the marital residence when the children were out of high school.  Without necessarily explaining its rationale, the trial court awarded the wife alimony in the amount of $825.00 per week for a period of four years.

The Appellate Court

The Appellate Court ultimately held that the trial court’s alimony award was appropriate.  In support of its decision, the Court noted the foregoing evidence, ultimately concluding that the time limited award met the purpose of helping the wife rehabilitate and become self-sufficient.  Essentially, the Court awarded her support until she was able regain full time employment, which also coincided, in terms of timing, with the parties’ children graduating from high school.

Should you have any questions regarding alimony in the context of a divorce proceeding or post-judgment modification, please do not hesitate to contact Maya Murphy, P.C.  Attorney Joseph C. Maya welcomes inquires and can be reached in the Westport office by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at jmaya@mayalaw.com. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.