Dan v. Dan excludes increased income as sole basis for modifying alimony.

By Edward Jurkiewicz
In September 23, 2015
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In a recent decision (Dan v. Dan, 315 Conn. 1 (2014)) Connecticut’s Supreme Court narrowed the available bases for modifying an alimony award, and, in the process, gave an updated articulation of the theoretical underpinnings of alimony in general.

When the Dan parties divorced, in 2000, the husband’s annual salary was $696,000. The wife had not been employed in 23 years, and had several health problems. The court awarded the wife alimony of $15,000 per month. By 2010, the (now ex-) husband’s annual salary had increased to $3.24 M, plus $3M in “stock option cash-ins”. The wife filed a motion seeking an upward modification of the alimony award. The trial court granted the motion, increasing the award to $40,000 per month, and stating that the husband’s income level made it unnecessary to inquire into the actual needs of the parties- “there is more than enough money to meet and exceed the needs of each party”.

The husband appealed, arguing that the trial court had improperly modified the award based solely on his increased income, and had improperly considered some of the statutory criteria for alimony afresh, rather than limiting its inquiry to those factors that had changed since the dissolution judgment.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that “an increase in the supporting spouse’s income, standing alone, ordinarily will not justify the granting of a motion to modify an alimony award.”

Dan provides an interesting look at how our supreme court currently views the nature of alimony. The court wrote: “Historically, alimony was based on the continuing duty of a divorced husband to support an abandoned wife and should be sufficient to provide her with the kind of living she might have enjoyed….”

But, Dan held, “there is little, if any, legal or logical support…for the proposition that a legitimate purpose of alimony is to allow the supported spouse’s standard of living to match the supporting spouse’s standard of living after the divorce, when the supported spouse is no longer contributing to the supporting spouse’s income earning efforts….we can conceive of no reason why the supported spouse, whose marriage to the supporting spouse has ended and who no longer contributes anything to the supporting spouse’s earning efforts, should be entitled to share in an improved standard of living that is solely the result of the supporting spouse’s efforts.”

However, the court did state that “exceptional circumstances” might justify an exception to this general rule.

Whether Dan will accelerate a general trend to limit alimony, or will be applied more narrowly, remains to be seen.

For more information about divorce law, please visit my website at http://ljct-lawyers.com/practice-areas/divorce, or call (860) 299-6263 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation.

 

Hartford area bankruptcy attorney and divorce lawyer Edward P. Jurkiewicz has over 20 years of experience representing clients. Our firm represents debtors and creditors and handles both relatively simple divorces and bankruptcies and more complex litigation matters. With this depth of experience, our firm is able to anticipate and prepare for any potential issues that could arise in your bankruptcy, divorce or family matter.

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