Education Law

Educational Expenses in Divorce

Educational expenses in divorce include expenses associated with higher education. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56c, an educational support order is defined as an order requiring a parent to provide support for a child or children to attend, for up to four full academic years, an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction.  Parties may request an “educational support order” either at the time of the divorce or at some point afterwards.  If the Court does not enter an educational support order at the time of the divorce, however, the parties must specifically request that it retain jurisdiction over the matter, otherwise they will be precluded from seeking such an order at a later date.

Additionally, although C.G.S. §46b-56c defines “necessary educational expenses,” parties should cite the statute or define the phrase themselves if they enter into a separation agreement.  Indeed, if they fail to do so, the meaning may be left open to interpretation.  In Bollinger v. Feldman, Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford, Docket No. FA020731923 (Nov. 18, 2010, Adelman, J.), the parties obtained a divorce by way of an agreement containing a provision titled “College Education of the Children.”  When one of the children took a college-level summer course for credit (while still a high school student), the father refused to contribute toward the tuition fee, claiming that it did not fall within the meaning of “college expenses” as set forth in the parties’ agreement.

The Court noted that the parties did not reference C.G.S. §46b-56c in their agreement; rather they used the phrase “all college expenses.”  However, the parties did not define the phrase, include qualifying language such as “reasonable and necessary,” or specify that such expenses would include only post-secondary education.  On that basis the Court held that since the course was given at a college, and the child earned college credits for her work, the expense must be covered under the parties’ agreement.  Given the vast array of expenses associated with sending a child to college, it is important to pay close attention to the language used in a separation agreement.  Indeed, as the case above illustrates, if parties fail to do so, they could find themselves litigating an otherwise avoidable issue.

If you have questions regarding educational expenses in divorce, or any family law matter contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

After-School Program Liable for Child’s Death

Five-year-old Anyah Raven Glossinger was legally blind and had low-functioning autism. On January 23, 2008, she was found underwater in a mineral pool where she was taking therapy. She died the next day and investigators ruled her death accidental. A jury, however, just ruled that the children’s center was responsible and awarded her father $400,000 in damages.

She lived in Cathedral City, California with her mother, Emily Wereschagin. After her lessons in a special education kindergarten class at a local school, Anyah participated in the “Little Bridges” after-school program. As part of the program, Anyah took part in hydrotherapy, a common activity and exercise for people with autism.

In July of that year, Anyah’s father, Michael Glossinger, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against practically everyone connected to Anyah’s death, including the local school district, three workers at the Little Bridges program and the foundation that operated the program. According to his suit, everyone involved knew Anyah was blind and autistic, yet failed to give her a life vest and the proper supervision, and so she drowned. Recently, a jury agreed and awarded Glossinger $400K to compensate for his past and future loss of Anyah’s companionship.

As California attorney Jon Mitchell Jackson explains, “Anyah’s father was likely able to introduce evidence at trial showing the loss he experienced up to the trial date without having Anyah in his life. The missed meals, playtimes and birthdays. Everyday experiences that would put a smile on any parent’s face and a song in their hearts. He also likely introduced evidence of reasonably anticipated future harm (loss of future companionship) by sharing with the jury the time he would have spent with Anyah had it not been for her untimely and tragic death. His future Thanksgivings will not include her presence and the beautiful smile of his little girl.”

Absence Doesn’t Matter

According to Glossinger’s own testimony, he lived in Mill Valley, California, about 500 miles from Anyah and her mother. He didn’t visit her very often, either. He testified, however, that shortly before Anyah’s death, he and Wereschagin agreed on and made arrangements for him to come and visit Anyah.

During the trial, defense attorneys questioned both parents about their parenting and custody arrangements, perhaps in an effort to make the jury believe that Glossinger’s suit was a more about a “money grab” than vindicating the death of his child. If indeed that was a defense strategy, it didn’t work – the jury saw a father who lost a daughter. Estranged as he may have been, Anyah was still Glossinger’s child, and he had every right to sue for her wrongful death.

Lessons Learned

Glossinger’s motive aside, the jury’s verdict should put childcare workers on notice, or at least remind them of, their duties to protect and safeguard those who are left in their care. Whether they’re special needs children or not, facilities and programs for after-school activities have the legal responsibility to provide safe physical surroundings, as well as adequate adult supervision. Programs such as Little Bridges that cater to special needs individuals and likely receive state and/or federal funding usually have stricter rules to follow, such as licensing and training for workers and facilities.

Parents Take Heed, Too

“While filing suit for monetary damages will never make the grieving family whole again,” explains Simon Johnson of the Ohio-based Simon W. Johnson Law Office, “it is the only remedy available at law that can create some closure and finality to their tragedy.” And, while it may sound naive to some, a goal of any wrongful death suit is to make sure the same tragic mistakes don’t happen again – either by the same person or company or others who perform the same services.

In Anyah’s case, California’s Department of Social Services stepped in a few months after Anyah’s death and shut down Little Bridges. There’ll be no more victims of neglect there. Glossinger’s suit takes things a step farther and, hopefully, childcare programs in California and elsewhere are taking steps to make sure a similar tragedy doesn’t happen with them.

Parents need to take steps, too, to prevent the unthinkable from happening to their children. “To be safe, parents should always assume the worst when entrusting their child’s safety to others,” advises Mr. Jackson. In pools and other swimming situations, make sure the facility has the proper number of trained lifeguards and safety devices (locked fences) available and in place. In other activities, make sure people are correctly trained and equipment is properly maintained. How do you do this? You ask questions and even more important, you make sure you get answers.”

As a parent whose child participates in any sort of after-school activity, when was the last time you asked yourself, “Is my child safe?” Take it upon yourself to:

  • Talk to other parents, friends, neighbors and staff at your child’s school about the program, especially anything good or bad they may know about it
  • Visit the program or facility in person and speak with the people running it. Ask about their backgrounds, experience and training
  • Ask if program employees have undergone background checks
  • Check with your state and local social services agencies and local school boards to make sure programs, facilities and workers are properly licensed and if any complaints have been filed against them
  • Drop in unexpectedly from time to time to see how your child is being treated and supervised during the program. Better yet, volunteer some of your time and see how day-to-day operations really work

There’s no information about whether or not Anyah’s parents did any of these things, and of course, there’s no guarantee the tragedy could have been avoided even if they had. We owe it to our children, though, to do what we can to avoid tragedies like Anyah’s and to hold people accountable when the unimaginable happens.

By: Dave Baarlaer, Lawyers.com

At Maya Murphy, P.C., our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to achieving the best results for individuals and their families and loved ones whose daily lives have been disrupted by injury.  Our personal injury attorneys assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and throughout Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to a childcare negligence or injury, a wrongful death claim or a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our Westport office by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com 

Decision Suggests Educational Support Orders May Not Be Applied Retroactively

A case decided by the Connecticut Appellate Court, suggests Educational Support orders entered pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56c may not be entered retroactively.  In Kleinman v. Chapnick, 131 Conn. App. 812 (2011), the parties had two children who were over the age of eighteen and enrolled as full-time college students.  During the divorce proceedings, the parties’ older daughter was a senior and their younger daughter was a freshman.  In February 2010, after the parties entered into a final agreement on custody and visitation, a two day trial ensued regarding financial issues.

As part of its decision, the Court ordered the husband to pay 100 percent of the statutory expenses for the education of the parties’ younger daughter beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.  As the Court did not enter an order with respect to the 2009-2010 school year, the wife filed a Motion to Clarify, Correct and/or Reargue.  The Court subsequently heard the wife’s motion, but declined to change its position.

On appeal, the Connecticut Appellate Court found that the husband made voluntary payments for the 2009-2010 school year that exceeded his statutory obligation under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56c.  More importantly, however, the Court held that Section 46b-56c contains no language authorizing retroactive application, pointing out that various provisions contained within the statute suggest that it is intended to apply prospectively only.  In a footnote, the Court further explained that child support orders cannot be retroactive, and an order for post-majority educational support is in fact an order for child support for college education.

Should you have any questions regarding educational support in the context of divorce proceedings, please feel free to contact Attorney Michael D. DeMeola.  He practices out of the firm’s Westport office and can be reached by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or email at mdemeola@maylaw.com.

No Child Left Behind – Connecticut

No Child Left Behind – Connecticut

            One of the legislative centerpieces of Federal Education Law is “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (“NCLB”).  The Act is 670 pages in length and almost as controversial as it is long.   Therefore, parents should be familiar with at least its stated purpose and general provisions.  NCLB does not, however, give parents the right to sue on behalf of their children. 

          NCLB funds Federal programs established by the U.S. Department of Education aimed at improving the performance of schools throughout the 50 states by imposing greater accountability on public schools, expanding parental choice in the school attended by their child, and placing increased emphasis on reading and math skills.  NCLB has as one of its focal points improvement of schools and school districts serving students from low-income families.

            The theory underlying enactment of NCLB was that improved educational programs would enable students to meet challenging state academic achievement standards and thereby achieve their full potential.  Among other areas, the Act funds programs and resources for disadvantaged students, delinquent and neglected youth in institutions, improving teacher and principal quality, use of technology in schools, and fostering a safe and drug-free learning environment.  One source of controversy is the fact that NCLB allows military recruiters access to the names, addresses, and telephone listings of 11th and 12th grade students if the school provides that information to colleges or employers. 

          More specifically, NCLB requires states to strengthen test standards, to test annually all students in grades 3-8, and to establish annual statewide progress objectives to ensure that all students achieve proficiency within 12 years. There are no Federal standards of achievement; each state is required to set its own standards. Test results and state progress objectives must be stratified based upon poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and English proficiency to ensure that “no child is left behind.”  Schools and school districts that fail to make “adequate yearly progress” are subject to corrective action and restructuring.  Adequate yearly progress means, for example, that each year a school’s fourth graders score higher on standardized tests than the previous year’s fourth graders.

          Once a school has been identified under NCLB as requiring improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, local school officials must afford its students the opportunity (and transportation, if needed) to attend a better public school within the same school district.  Low-income students attending a “persistently failing school” (i.e., one failing to meet state standards for 3 out of the 4 preceding years) are eligible for funding to obtain supplemental educational services from either public or private schools selected by the student and his parents.  Under-performing schools are highly incentivized to improve if they wish to avoid further loss of students (and an accompanying loss of funding).  A school that fails to make adequate yearly progress for five consecutive years is subject to reconstitution under a restructuring plan.

          Simply stated, NCLB provides states and school districts unprecedented flexibility in their use of federal funds in return for more stringent accountability for increased teacher quality and improved student results.

          One of the stated goals of NCLB is that every child be able to read by the end of third grade.  To this end, the Federal government invested in scientifically based reading instruction programs to be implemented in the early grades.  An expected collateral benefit of this initiative is reduced identification of children requiring special education services resulting from a lack of appropriate reading instruction.  NCLB funds screening and diagnostic assessments to identify K-3 students who are at risk of reading failure, and to better equip K-3 teachers in the essential components of reading instruction.  Funds are also available to support early language, literacy, and pre-reading development of pre-school age children.

          In keeping with its major themes of accountability, choice, and flexibility, NCLB also emphasizes the use of practices grounded in scientifically based research to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers.  Once again, local school administrators are afforded significant flexibility in teacher staffing, provided they can demonstrate annual progress in maintaining and enhancing the high-quality of their teachers.

          Finally, in an effort to ensure safe and drug-free schools, NCLB, as proposed, requires states to allow students who attend a persistently dangerous school, or who have been victims of violent crime at school, to transfer to a safe school.  To facilitate characterizing schools as “safe” or “not safe,” NCLB requires public disclosure of school safety statistics on a school-by-school basis.  In addition, school administrators must use federal funding to implement demonstrably effective drug and violence prevention programs.

          It is within this overarching educational framework of NCLB that the State of Connecticut oversees and administers its constitutional and statutory obligations to educate your children.

 

Lower Court Erred in Denying Defendant’s Motion to Vacate Enhanced Sentence Because the Persistent Offender Provision Was Inapplicable

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed with a defendant that he was improperly sentenced as a repeat offender under General Statutes § 14-227a(g) and that the trial court erred in denying his motion to vacate.

In this case, the defendant was arrested on three separate occasions over the span of approximately three weeks. He was charged with three counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) in violation of § 14-227a, and each case was docketed in a different jurisdiction: Waterbury, Meriden, and Bristol. The defense counsel and Waterbury prosecutor reached a plea agreement, under which the defendant would be sentenced as a first-time offender twice and a second-time offender once. However, the Meriden prosecutor would not transfer his case unless the defendant first pled guilty. On December 15, 2008, the defendant entered a guilty plea in the Meriden case, which was then transferred to Waterbury for purposes of sentencing. The Bristol case was transferred as well.

On December 22, 2008, counsel submitted a new plea agreement to the court. Under its terms, the defendant would be sentenced as a first-time offender once (in the Meriden case) and a second-time offender on the other two counts. The defendant entered guilty pleas on January 12, 2009. The defendant, with support from the State, filed a motion to vacate the pleas and sentences, arguing that the pleas were improperly and illegally entered. The court denied this motion, and the defendant sought remedy with the Appellate Court, arguing that he should have been sentenced as a first-time offender for all three cases. He noted that “he cannot be subjected to the enhanced penalty… because his conviction in the Meriden case occurred after the conduct underlying the violations of § 14-227a in the Waterbury and Bristol cases.”

General Statutes § 14-227a(g) allows for enhanced penalties for repeat offenders in OMVUI cases. In State v. Burns, the Supreme Court of Connecticut determined that for this section to be applicable, a defendant “must [first] have been convicted under § 14-227a and later must have violated the statute.” In this case, the defendant was not convicted of OMVUI in the Meriden case “at the time of the commission of the second and third violations in the Waterbury and Bristol cases.” Instead, the defendant was sentenced in all three matters on the same date. As such, the Appellate Court found that the persistent offender provision did not apply, and the trial court erred when it did not grant the defendant’s motion to vacate.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Against Commissioner of Department of Motor Vehicles Barred by State’s Sovereign Immunity; Plaintiff Failed to Prove Any Exceptions Applied

In a recent criminal law matter, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport dismissed a plaintiff’s action against the defendant Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), because she was barred under sovereign immunity doctrine from bringing suit.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on or about July 11, 2006. The plaintiff was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a, and she refused to submit to an alcohol chemical test. The plaintiff pled guilty to this charge, and in light of two previous OMVUI convictions, her license was suspended for a year and she would be required to install an interlocking ignition device (IID) in her vehicle. The plaintiff received a revised suspension notice from the DMV stating her license would instead be suspended for three years because of her refusal to submit to the chemical test. In addition, the plaintiff would not be able to make use of the IID. See General Statutes § 14-227b(i)(3)(C).

The plaintiff filed motions with the court, asking it to enjoin the defendant from suspending her license beyond the initial one-year period. The plaintiff argued that the defendant exceeded his statutory authority and, as such, violated her constitutional rights. In its motion to dismiss, the defendant countered that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction because of the state’s sovereign immunity. He pointed out that the plaintiff did not seek declaratory or injunctive relief “based on a substantial claim that the state or its officials have violated [her] constitutional rights or that the state or its officials have acted in excess of their statutory authority.”

Sovereign immunity doctrine holds that a State cannot be sued unless it authorizes or consents to suit. There are only three statutory exceptions to this rule: waiver, violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional right by a state official, and action in excess of a state official’s statutory authority which violates a plaintiff’s right. If the second exception is asserted, State action will survive strict scrutiny analysis only if it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. In this case, the Superior Court found “little dispute” that highway safety is a compelling state interest and that the increased suspension and IID refusal was “both reasonable and necessary to achieve the goal of protecting the public safety.” Therefore, the Court found that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated.

Regarding the third exception, the DMV Commissioner has very broad discretion “to oversee and control the operation of motor vehicles generally.” Public policy concerns underpinning our motor vehicle laws center on the protection of the lives and property of Connecticut’s citizens. The legislature has also recognized the heavy burden placed on those convicted of OMVUI “in a society dependent on automotive transportation.” The use of IIDs helps alleviate these burdens, but it is a privilege of limited application, which does not encompass suspensions based on refusing to submit to an alcohol chemical test. In this case, the Superior Court found that the defendant “clearly” had statutory authority to impose the three-year suspension and refuse the plaintiff’s request to use an IID. Therefore, because the plaintiff failed to establish the applicability of either exception, the Superior Court held her action was barred by the State’s sovereign immunity.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

How to File a Personal Injury Claim Against a School in Connecticut

If you have a personal injury claim against a school, a school employee, or a similar
government entity or employee, you probably already know that it’s more complicated
than just suing a private homeowner for a slip-and-fall. But what makes it so
complicated, and what is the process?

Schools and their employees are often immune from liability for actions they undertake
within the course and scope of their duties. That immunity is not unlimited, however,
and particularly where a child’s injury is caused by gross negligence, malice, or
wantonness, you can be compensated with monetary damages. CGS § 4-141, et seq.
But, before you take your case to court, your case must be reviewed by the
Commissioner of Claims. Depending on the value of your case, the Commissioner of
Claims will review your case, and may conduct a fact finding investigation, including
witness interviews, document inspections, and other types of inquiries. The parties may
engage in discovery in some cases, and the Attorney General may also be permitted to
file a dispositive motion that asks the Commissioner to decide the issues in the case
just on the known facts and law, but without a full hearing or trial. Once the
Commissioner of Claims’ investigation (if applicable) is complete, s/he may issue a
decision, or if there are unresolved legal issues, they may authorize you to file suit in
court.

Navigating an administrative process with an administrative authority requires expert
guidance. Small mistakes such as misunderstanding a statute or missing a deadline
can impact or even eliminate your ability to seek relief. If you have a personal injury
claim against a school, school employee, or a similar government entity, the attorneys
at Maya Murphy, P.C. can assist you. Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya may be
reached directly by telephone at (203) 221-3100, ext. 110 or by email
at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

The above is not intended to constitute legal advice, and you should consult with an
attorney as soon as possible if you believe you have this, or any other type of claim.

Joseph Maya selected to 2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Westport, CT

 

Maya Murphy, P.C. is pleased to announce that Joseph Maya has been included in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Joseph Maya, a Connecticut and New York-based litigation attorney, was recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2022 edition. He has been rated Best Lawyers in America and ranks among the top private practice attorneys nationwide. Attorneys listed in this edition of The Best Lawyers in America were selected after an exhaustive peer-review survey that confidentially investigates the professional abilities and experience of each lawyer. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Mr. Maya has been practicing law in Connecticut for more than 25 years. He has been a licensed attorney in New York for more than 30 years.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer. “We are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide.”

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

 

Maya Murphy, P.C. has offices in Westport, CT and New York City. For additional information on Joseph Maya or Maya Murphy, P.C., please visit its website at https://mayalaw.com, or call 203-221-3100.

 

How NCLB Implements it’s Goals

One of the stated goals of NCLB is that every child be able to read by the end of third grade. To this end, the Federal government invested in scientifically based reading instruction programs to be implemented in the early grades. An expected collateral benefit of this initiative is reduced identification of children requiring special education services resulting from a lack of appropriate reading instruction. NCLB funds screening and diagnostic assessments to identify K-3 students who are at risk of reading failure, and to better equip K-3 teachers in the essential components of reading instruction. Funds are also available to support early language, literacy, and pre-reading development of pre-school age children.

In keeping with its major themes of accountability, choice, and flexibility, NCLB also emphasizes the use of practices grounded in scientifically based research to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers. Once again, local school administrators are afforded significant flexibility in teacher staffing, provided they can demonstrate annual progress in maintaining and enhancing the high-quality of their teachers.

Finally, in an effort to ensure safe and drug-free schools, NCLB, as proposed, requires states to allow students who attend a persistently dangerous school, or who have been victims of violent crime at school, to transfer to a safe school. To facilitate characterizing schools as “safe” or “not safe,” NCLB requires public disclosure of school safety statistics on a school-by-school basis. In addition, school administrators must use federal funding to implement demonstrably effective drug and violence prevention programs.

It is within this overarching educational framework of NCLB that the State of Connecticut oversees and administers its constitutional and statutory obligations to educate your children.

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Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free consultations to all new clients.

What Services Are Required for School-Aged Children with Autism in Connecticut?

Children with autism are eligible for special education and related services in Connecticut.  State and federal law does not require local school districts to provide particular services for children with autism.  These laws do require school districts to identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a free and appropriate public education tailored to their individual needs.

Specific services for autistic children depend on his or her disability and individualized educational program.  This program is established by the child’s planning and placement team.  A planning and placement team is a group consisting of the child’s parents, teachers, and educational specialist that evaluate the child’s services annually.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.