Monday March 19 was a huge day for Connecticut’s alimony reform movement. Eleven people, many of them members of CTAR, testified movingly before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, in Hartford, in favor of Raised Bill No. 5509. The day was very long – and stretched well into the night.
The committee did not vote on the bill yet; it has until April 2nd to do that. Between now then, we must contact committee members with our stories, especially where we are constituents, and we must get more alimony payers and their families involved in writing to legislators NOW. This is how a bill becomes a law: citizens take action.
As strong as our testimony was, we had plenty of opposition, in spoken and written testimony, from many legal and women’s organizations. Much to the astonishment of our members, lawyers said that they did not know of any alimony payers left with less money than alimony recipients. In an unexpected twist, some of the testimony of those who objected to reform inadvertently ended up speaking to the need for it. One lawyer said that the same case could have five different outcomes depending on the judge, without realizing that this itself is the reason we need reform with guidelines and structure, as #5509 proposes!
Among the highlights from our testimony:
A Hartford family lawyer with 45 years of experience, who testified to the near impossibility of obtaining a downward modification when the payers’ circumstances change, although current law permits modifications;
A woman in her 50s from Illinois, where indefinite alimony is unheard of. She is now married to a Connecticut alimony payer, whose ex-wife is under no obligation to work or become self-sufficient, while the new wife is retraining for a new career after years as a homemaker and is concerned that at retirement her husband’s alimony may not go down sufficiently after re-opening the divorce, as required under current law;
A 41-year-old doctor, married for 8 years, who has so little money left after paying alimony to an ex-wife who makes a salary in the high 5-figures, must borrow money to buy gas; when he returned to CT to be near his young son and took a job making less money in order to do so, his good parenting decision was noted but his modification was denied;
A 49-year-old surgeon, with tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait, is left with so little money after alimony and debts he was forced to assume that he is about to get a roommate and ride his bicycle to work to save money on gas;
A 68-year-old man whose working wife left him when he was 59, and he cannot retire because he is obligated to pay indefinite alimony.
A 60-year-old man who has paid alimony for 10 years after a 20-year marriage. The alimony continues indefinite; he is now self-employed with unpredictable, often scant, income. He now lives with his new in-laws because he must sell his house in order to pay his bills.
Legislators were very moved by these stories. It’s now up to you to write to your own lawmakers and send copies to each member of the Judiciary Committee.