If you're contemplating divorce because your spouse cheated, you might be wondering if you'll get alimony (also called "spousal support"). In Connecticut, judges consider several factors to determine how much alimony is appropriate, if any. This article provides an overview of alimony and divorce in Connecticut and whether adultery has an impact on spousal support, child support, and child custody.
Alimony isn't awarded in every case. When a judge awards alimony, one spouse (the obligor) must pay the other spouse (obligee) a set amount of money for a set amount of time. The goals of alimony are to equalize the standard of living between the spouses, balance the spouses' financial situations, and help keep both spouses out of poverty.
People generally think of alimony as something that's awarded when a divorce is finalized. That's how it often happens, but frequently a judge will order one spouse to pay "temporary alimony" while the divorce is pending. That way, the supported spouse won't fall into a deep financial hole waiting for the divorce to be finalized.
For more detailed information how the amount of alimony is determined, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Connecticut.
Marriages end for a variety of reasons. Historically, most states required the spouse seeking a divorce to prove the other's fault. Today almost all states recognize "no-fault" divorces. In a no-fault divorce, the spouse seeking a divorce has to claim only that the couple can't get along and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Connecticut's divorce laws allow couples to seek a either a no-fault or fault-based divorce. Most couples seek no-fault divorces. However, if you're getting a divorce in Connecticut due to cheating, you can seek a divorce based on one of the recognized grounds, which includes adultery.
Adultery is defined in Connecticut as "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than such person's spouse." When one spouse can prove to the judge that the other committed adultery, the judge can consider the cheating when evaluating an alimony award.
In Connecticut, adultery can play a role in how a judge decides alimony, but it's just one of many factors a judge considers, and the judge can decide how much weight to give it. Specifically, Connecticut judges must consider the following when deciding alimony:
Because Connecticut law says the judge must consider the reasons for the divorce, this means a judge will weigh evidence of adultery and the impact it had on the marital estate (the couple's total assets and liabilities) as well as the effect it had on the breakup of the marriage. For example, the judge might increase the amount and duration of alimony owed by an adulterous spouse to an innocent spouse. Or, when the spouse who will be receiving alimony is the one who committed adultery, the judge could decide to decrease the amount and duration the paying spouse has to pay.
Connecticut judges will consider adultery only when making their initial alimony decisions. If the spouses want to modify (increase, decrease, shorten, or lengthen) an alimony order after the divorce is finalized, they will not be able to introduce evidence about adultery or any other kind of misconduct.
When Connecticut judges decide child custody they do not consider either parent's fault in ending the marriage. A child's best interests— not a parent's infidelity—are central to any custody decision. Additionally, child support awards are largely based on the parents' income, not their fidelity during marriage. What this means is that a spouse's affair probably won't affect a child custody decision or child support award in Connecticut.
A qualified family law attorney can answer any questions you might have about adultery and alimony. For self-help purposes, you can look at the Connecticut Judicial Branch's Self Help Section and Connecticut's official court forms. You can also browse the CTLawHelp.org site for resources and assistance from a network of nonprofit legal service providers dedicated to helping low-income Connecticut residents with legal problems.