Lawsuit Challenges Connecticut Alimony Laws
Having plaintiffs from across Connecticut was intended to show the widespread impact of alimony awards in this test case, said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Martin Karlinsky.
According to the plaintiffs, alimony is awarded in fewer than 20 percent of divorces in Connecticut and only "when the employment earnings of the husband are believed to materially exceed those of his wife."
Not only are the plaintiffs seeking to change Connecticut family law, they also appear to be trying to break new constitutional ground by having the right to end a marriage recognized as a fundamental liberty interest. The right to marry has been recognized as a fundamental liberty interest in the past.
Just as same-sex marriage litigation around the country heats up, this case "is just another frontier in the battle for equal rights and fairness," said Karlinsky, whose Manhattan-based Karlinsky LLC focuses on constitutional law and complex business, civil, commercial and personal litigation but not on family law.
The plaintiffs are seeking to challenge the Connecticut scheme for awarding alimony under a higher constitutional standard. They claim that "no state law may interfere with or burden these rights unless the law is necessary to promote a compelling state interest and is the most narrowly drawn means of achieving that interest."
Connecticut's "standardless" regime for alimony "seems to result in mistreatment and a lack of standards and lack of ability to predict what the law will require, no matter who applies it," Karlinsky said.
There is no meaningful appellate review of alimony awards, the plaintiffs pointed out, because the standard of review on appeal is whether trial courts "could not reasonably conclude as it did, based on the facts presented."
Trial courts are not required to explain what weight they assigned to any factor in awarding alimony, the plaintiffs also argued.
Alimony first started in England during an era in which ecclesiastical courts would only permit limited divorces where spouses could live apart but husbands remained legally responsible for supporting their wives, according to the plaintiffs' papers. "The word 'alimony' derives from the Latin 'alimonia,' which means 'sustenance,'" the complaint said.
The plaintiffs also are challenging awarding attorney fees in alimony cases because, they said, in no other type of civil case do litigants have to pay for the other side's legal fees ahead of time.