Divorced Men File Lawsuit Claiming Alimony is Unconstitutional

Friday, November 22, 2013
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Condemning alimony as “an historical anachronism…from an earlier legal era when the rights of women…were radically different than they are today,” four divorced men last week sued Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for enforcing the state’s alimony law, which they say is “unconstitutionally vague.” Their complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, asks the court to declare that the relevant state statutes violate the 14th Amendment and to permanently enjoin the state from enforcing them.


Although the complaint takes note of national conditions when it states that “former spouses pay approximately $9 billion in alimony each year,” the lawsuit is specific to Connecticut and rests on two main propositions.


Based on Supreme Court cases like Loving v. Virginia (which struck down anti-miscegenation laws) holding that the right to marry is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the 14th Amendment, the complaint argues that “the right to end a marriage, and the right to remarry are fundamental liberty interests” as well.


The plaintiffs, all of whom are divorced men ordered to pay alimony, criticize Connecticut’s alimony laws on the grounds that they are “unconstitutionally vague, giving no notice to citizens contemplating marriage or divorce what fate may befall them in a divorce proceeding. The Legislature, by failing among other things even to identify the purpose or aim of alimony, has delegated basic policy decisions to the judiciary without any meaningful guidance.”


According to the complaint, the state’s alimony laws are so vague that judges may do pretty much whatever they want. Although the statutes list 17 separate factors for judges to consider in awarding alimony (“the length of the marriage, the causes for the…dissolution, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties…the division of the spouses’ marital property [and] in the case of a parent [with] custody of minor children…the desirability and feasibility of such parent’s securing employment”) the complaint states that “definitive case law holds that the court is free to assign to each factor whatever weight the court deems appropriate in any individual case” and may even “consider factors other than those identified in the statute.”


In light of the fact that Connecticut case law holds that trial judges need not explain what factors they considered or how they calculated alimony in their written decisions, the complaint argues that, “meaningful judicial review of trial court awards of alimony is impossible.” The Supreme Court has long held that a statute is unconstitutional if it so vague that an appeals court cannot determine if a trial court’s decision is consistent with it or not.


The end result is to undermine marriage, argue the five divorcés. Because the state’s alimony laws make it “impossible for any married person in Connecticut to know, even within a reasonable range, what financial penalties will be imposed upon him in a divorce judgment,” people are “discourage[ed]…from marrying at all, whether or not they are in a committed relationship and whether or not they are raising children.”


The plaintiffs are not alone in their criticism of Connecticut’s alimony law. A reform proposal was considered last year by the state legislature, which created a task force to study the use of financial guidelines in determining alimony. The results of that study are expected in February.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Divorced Men Call Alimony Unconstitutional (by Christine Stuart, Courthouse News Service)

Constitutional Law: Orr v. Orr (pdf)

Lawsuit Challenges Connecticut Alimony Laws (by Amaris Elliott-Engel, Connecticut Law Tribune)

See all 11 comments


wyman 6 years ago
We have the same archaic permanent alimony laws in South Carolina. We have formed an organization, SC Alimony Reform, and we have been trying to reform these horrible laws for the last 7 years. However, one senator continues to object to the bills that we introduce. I feel sure that this senator is in the pockets of the matrimonial attorneys in SC. Our next step may be to sue in the Supreme Court and try to get these laws declared unconstitutional. We are also in the preliminary talks with the other states (about 25 other states are trying to change their own alimony laws...about half of the nation) to try and form a national organization and take this to the federal level if necessary. These laws are so unfair. One side wins the lottery while the other side has a prison sentence hanging over their heads. One side gets all of the benefits while the other side gets nothing. If the courts want to enforce the ex continuing his/her life as they have become accustomed to, then the payer should get the same consideration. 50% of marriages end in divorce. That means that 50% of everyone that marries will very likely end up paying permanent alimony and be obligated to support another person for the rest of their lives. If you cannot pay you go to jail. This is like debtor's prison which was done away with years ago. My advice is do NOT divorce in South Carolina. Contact SCAlimonyReform.com if you would like to help us change these archaic laws.
bob 7 years ago
dk - your spouse left you on the street which is terrible. But some of these men were probably divorced by their wife AND PUT INTO LIFELONG SLAVERY TO THE LADY. At least you have your freedom.
dk 7 years ago
My Ex LIED, STOLE, ABUSED, CHEATED while I was in Chemo twice... and got away with it. ALL. The SELF-EMPLOYED are the WORST. I suffered 16 years of BC, built 2 houses with him, raised 2 kids with his learning disability... and was thrown out on the street as a used up no one. Don't tell me CT men are suffering.... I call BS. No FAULT Divorce is the problem.
nway@gmail.com 8 years ago
I think if vows are broken there should be a 70/30 split of assets, no alimony in favor of the spouse betrayed. In addition the third party is fined the 30% for interfering with a marriage and liable for the alimony, and or child support. This would surely put an end to betrayals. You betray a spouse or break a vow you forfeit your rites to alimony and 50% of assets. In addition attorney fees are paid by the betrayer. After all a wedding vow is an oral contract to forsake all others til death. Please also include the use of technology, Emotional affairs, and sexting is an affair.
sandy oestreich 9 years ago
Oh, my gosh! I'd heard about Family Court judges and how subjective they are, esp. whether they favor the status quo on equal treatment of the sexes, or whether they favor the status of the male or female involved. It sounds like such a mess, with influence peddling, too close buddying between certain judges and attorney-friends. What CAN be done to more closely approach objectivity in judicial decisions so antiquated? People who come to court are in emotional pain. How is it not cruel to inflict overt bias and blatant sexism by the judge? Seems the whole American climate is one of greed, arrogance, violence, and other abuses of power. Sorry if I seem to be in abject negative mood. I'm always looking to find another, but OBJECTIVE, MATURE, RATIONAL nation to move to.
Victor Harrison 10 years ago
The current system also encourages RICO, with judges leaning in favor,not or what is right, just, and fair, but to their "buddies", attorneys that they are buddies with, and grant them what they ask for during the trial for their client, without consideration if it violates state statutes or not. Divorce court in Florida is held in the judges chambers between just the parties involved in order to shield the injustice that occurs in Family Courts from the public that would gasp, and easily be able to see the rampant bias that exists between the judge and his buddy attorney, and as they watch corrupt judges and crooked attorneys totally make up unsupported opinions that violate state statutes, and judges freely display their "GOD" complex, and destroy any faith in the justice system with their biased rulings.They destroy the lives of others and treat ones that are there only in an effort to end a toxic relationship and are seeking disillusionment of their marriage, like they are hardened criminals with the lifetime sentences that they pronounce on their innocent victims, with rulings that are harsher and longer lasting than a rapists or armed robber, and then they legally rob the parties of their wealth by allowing the crooked attorneys totally liberty to charge any fee without any ceilings. The whole system is corrupt and needs to go the way of all waste products, and flushed down the toilet into the murky quagmire of corruption that it equates to.
Lee Kallett 10 years ago
I post this to inform the public about the current antiquated alimony laws still in existence around the country. This is my alimony horror story. In the no fault divorce state of Florida, the ex had many adulterous affairs with other women (while pregnant with the second and last child) and including her incestuous relationship with her own 20 year old female cousin. In 2003 she formed Tampa Chaverot-Jewish Lesbians of Tampa Bay while we were still married. Then, she gets rewarded for all this and her changed sexual orientation with lifetime alimony in 2006 by the Hillsborough County Court (Tampa Case No: 05-DR-013627) and I get punished financially. How is this right and just? It certainly isn't and the time to fix such an injustice is now. The duplicity continues and she blogs and writes as well as conducts her day to day life under an assumed last name, only using her legal last name on the driver's license and to cash the hefty checks I write. If you are outraged about this avaricious hypocrite, please get involved to fight the unjust alimony laws around the country. There is no reason why a judge can't order her to return to the workforce. She is a four year university graduate. The children are adults and no longer living in the home. There's no reason why an able bodied, healthy, educated woman can't be instructed by new law and guidelines to fully financially support herself. In a case similar to mine, a man paying lifetime alimony to his lesbian ex-wife had the alimony award overturned. A Minnesota court held that the “defendant’s post-decree lesbianism is a material change in circumstances which justifies the termination of alimony.” The case is Anonymous v Anonymous, 5 Fam.L Rptr. (BNA) 2127 (Minn.Dist.Ct.15 Nov 1978). This key point should be addressed in all proposed alimony reform legislation. Expanding the definition of "change in circumstances" beyond the financial to include a change in sexual orientation or gender will make the criteria more relevant to today. While the contemporary picture of marriage may be changing, here in Florida marriage remains between a man and a woman. Currently sexual reassignment surgeries are becoming more common place. Why should a spouse who believed they were marrying someone of the opposite sex, have to support that spouse who changes their gender or sexual orientation and redefines the marriage? The traditional marriage is broken through no fault of the other spouse. This is not like a couple who "fall out of love" or have grown tired of one another. Florida lawmakers should take into consideration this new reality and the changing landscape of marriage and reasons for divorce. Granting lifetime alimony to a spouse who changed sexual orientation or gender is absolutely an injustice. This needs to be stopped and such previous judgments overturned. Lifetime alimony affects the entire family and families are divided. Parental alienation occurs with the issue. The ex filed in the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, in and for Hillsborough County, FL Case No: 13-11991 Division G and on August 21, 2013 the judge ruled for Order of Dismissal of Temporary Injunction for Protection "The evidence presented is insufficient under Florida law". The ex-wife attempted in her demand to muzzle our alimony reform efforts. She even had our 18 year old son testify against me. My daughter also advocated against reform by visiting the Governor's office. She was interviewed by media as in this article. She provided a fake last name even though her legal last name is Kallett. http ://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/04/two-dozen-women-urge-scott-to-veto-alimony-bill. html Please support alimony reform. For more information and to join in advocating for guidelines and elimination of lifetime alimony please visit: florida alimony reform or family law reform• Elvina and Lee Kallett of St. Pete Beach, FL - Pays lifetime alimony to woman unable to remarry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l523XAgv_vc Lee Kallett of St. Pete Beach, FL - Pays $4K in permanent alimony to lesbian ex-wife www.youtube.com This is Lee Kallett and Elvina Kallett. He pays permanent alimony to a woman who left the marriage because she chose to live a lesbian
Erezstabul 10 years ago
WV has the same archaic rules! Something has to be done!
Peter Szymonik 10 years ago
Its is encouraging to see thousands of parents now using the power of social media to organize across the country and to challenge the failed policies a well organized divorce industry has imposed on this country and how they have co-opted our court system to their own financial benefit. This is a national embarrassment and tragedy that has accomplished nothing except to create a generation of children who grew up without both parents in their lives, bankrupted families for no good reason, and created a situation where people are not marrying so they never experience the abuse they and their parents suffered at the hands of dysfunction and corrupt "family" courts. Children and families are no different across state lines - and it is about time we have federal laws in place protecting the basic civil, human, and parenting rights of parents nationwide - and for states to get out of the business of divorce. www.galreform.org
Terrance Power 10 years ago
Our permanent alimony laws in a handful of states (CT, NJ, Maryland and Florida quickly come to mind) have no guidelines and only benefit the predatory litigating divorce attorneys in these states. States like Texas (which caps alimony at ten years and $5,000 per month for marriages of 30 years or more) don't have the same problems with financial destruction at the hands of the State Bar Family Section attorneys as the 12 or so states that have these outdated laws have. Support fixing the outdated permanent alimony laws in states that still have these rules on the books. Alimony Reform is pro-family and pro-children.

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