After a divorce decree has been entered, the circumstances of the former spouses creating a need to modify the original support award. The most common reasons for requesting a modification are financial - especially in the current economy, where many people have had their work hours reduced, been laid off or lost their jobs.
Under Connecticut law, either spouse can petition the court for a post-judgment modification of alimony unless the divorce decree precludes modification. The modification may be a request to increase or decrease the award, or temporarily or permanently stop the payments.
The party requesting the modification has the burden of proving to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original support award was entered, or since the last time the order was modified. There is no set list of what constitutes a "substantial change in circumstances" - instead, the court considers the parties' individual circumstances when making this determination.
The court will specifically consider whether there has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of one or both of the parties. This could include either party getting a new job or a raise or other increase in their compensation. It also may include either party experiencing a decrease in compensation or changes in the assets of either party.
Other factors that may indicate a substantial change in financial circumstances include:
- Deteriorating health of either party
- Loss of child support or change in child custody
- Remarriage or cohabitation
If the court finds that there has been a substantial change in either party's financial circumstances, then the court will consider the same set of factors it looked at when the alimony award was first entered. These factors include:
- The length of the marriage
- The cause of the divorce
- The age, health, station, occupation and sources of income of the parties
- The vocational skills and employability of the parties
- The estate and needs of each party
- If one parent has custody of minor children, the desirability of that parent securing employment
The court will balance the financial needs of the party receiving the alimony with the financial ability of the paying spouse to make the payments before granting the modification.
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