Demystifying Alimony

By Thomas D. Colin, partner and former Connecticut Superior Family Court Judge

One of the most frequently asked questions any divorce lawyer gets involves alimony.  What is it?  When is it ordered?  How much?  How long will it last?  What happens if I lose my job and can’t pay it?  What if I live with another person?  

As a former Family Court Judge who is now a partner in divorce and family law firm, here are the most common questions I get:

  1. What is alimony?  Alimony is spousal support.  Just like child support is to support a child, alimony supports a former spouse after a divorce or to a current spouse during a pending divorce.  Some states call it maintenance. 
  2. Is it automatic in every divorce?  No, it is determined on a case-by-case basis.  
  3. How is it paid?  There are a few structures such as a fixed amount ($5,000 per month) or a fixed percentage (25% of net income per month) or a hybrid ($5,000 per month plus 15% of bonus).  
  4. How is it determined?  In Connecticut there are many factors that determine alimony including length of the marriage, ages of the spouses, incomes, work skills, health of the parties, division of assets and causes for the marriage breakdown.
  5. How long is it paid?  Alimony is generally paid until one or more of the following events:  death, remarriage, or a specific date.  In addition, if a recipient is living with another person who provides financial assistance that impacts that person’s needs significantly, that can affect alimony.
  6. What if the alimony payor cannot pay?  Alimony is generally modifiable if circumstances change substantially after a divorce unless otherwise precluded.  
  7. What if the alimony payor does not pay?  Enforcement of an alimony order is available through the contempt powers of the court, which may include warnings, fines, jail or other sanctions.  
  8. Is alimony taxable?  No, alimony ordered after Jan. 1, 2019 is not taxable to the recipient.  Alimony ordered before that date is generally taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor unless otherwise stated.  
  9. I am getting divorced and don’t know how to handle alimony. What should I do?  Seek the advice of an experienced, respected and knowledgeable divorce lawyer who can review the facts and circumstances of your situation and provide detailed advice and planning.  

Thomas D. Colin, is a former Connecticut Superior Court Judge who served as the Presiding Family Court Judge in Fairfield County, Connecticut.  He is now a partner at Siegel, Colin & Kaufman.  Contact him for help with divorce, including alimony, legal separation; custody and visitation; child support and division of marital assets.

You can reach Tom at


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