Posts tagged with "college"

College Expenses and Divorce

Going through a divorce is often a very emotional and overwhelming experience, often complicated by motions, discovery, court appearances and negotiations. By the end of the mandatory “cooling off” or pendente lite phase (Latin for “while the action is pending”), one may find himself or herself confused and eager to resolve the case. When considering the terms of a potential divorce settlement involving minor children, it is very important to keep future college expenses in mind. If overlooked, it may be very difficult or impossible to obtain contribution from a former spouse for books, tuition and/or living expenses should your child choose to attend college. There are various ways this issue can be addressed, and for a complete understanding, some fundamental information is useful.

Generally speaking, a divorce is typically resolved in one of two ways. The first is utilized when, despite efforts to come to a fair resolution, the parties are unable to agree on custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and/or the division of assets. When one or more of those aspects of the divorce remain in dispute, a trial will be necessary to obtain a final judgment. After hearing evidence and considering each party’s case, the Court will decide the terms of the divorce and enter orders accordingly. However, where parties are able to reach an agreement, the Court may rely on the terms of that agreement and enter orders in accordance therewith. Regardless of which avenue is taken, final court orders must ultimately be entered to formalize the dissolution of the marriage and define the terms of the divorce.

Though a divorce becomes “final” upon judgment, often orders require modification due to changes in circumstances which occur after the marriage is officially dissolved. Examples include modifying child support and/or alimony due to a change in one or both parties’ financial circumstances, or modifying custody or visitation due to changes in the characteristics of the parties’ home, work schedules or living conditions. Other times, it is necessary to add orders that simply were not ripe for adjudication at the time the divorce was obtained. Orders entered after a divorce becomes final are referred to as “post judgment” orders.

In Connecticut, educational support orders are governed by Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-56c. This statute authorizes the Courts to enter orders defining how the parties will handle their children’s “necessary educational expenses.” By statute, necessary educational expenses include room, board, dues, tuition, fees, registration and application costs up to the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student at the time the child registers. That being said, parents can agree to increase the limit beyond the amount charged by the University of Connecticut if they choose. The educational support order may include the cost of books and medical insurance for the child as well. An educational support order is limited to four full academic years at an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of obtaining a bachelors or other type of undergraduate degree, or vocational instruction.

Educational support may be handled at the time of the divorce or post judgment. When handled at the time of the divorce, the parties simply include in their separation agreement a provision outlining in detail how they will divide necessary educational expenses. As children are often young during the divorce and the parties’ circumstances at the time the child will be ready to attend college are unforeseeable, this issue is not always ripe for consideration at the time of the dissolution. In such cases, the parties may wish to defer the issue until the child is older. It is very important to note that if the parties choose to do so, they must include in their separation agreement a provision expressly requesting that the Court retain jurisdiction over this issue. If the parties fail to do so, the Court will not allow either party to request its involvement in the future.

Assuming the parties request that the Court retain jurisdiction over educational support, either may come back to Court at the appropriate time to request a post judgment educational support order. Once the post judgment action is commenced- as with the divorce itself- the parties may resolve the issue by agreement or request a hearing. Important to note is that whether the order is entered at the time of the divorce or post judgment, the Court must find that it is more likely than not the parents would have provided support to the child for higher education or private occupational school if the family remained intact. The parties may stipulate to this fact in an agreement. If a post judgment hearing is required, the Court will make that determination and by considering specific evidence including the parents’ income and assets, the reasonableness of the higher education considering the child’s academic record and financial resources available, as well as the child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education.

Attorney DeMeola in Maya Murphy’s Westport office. He welcomes inquiries and can be reached by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at mdemeola@mayalaw.com.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family 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 divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Court Orders Father to Pay College Tuition Up to Full UCONN Cap

A recent Connecticut Appellate Court decision emphasizes the importance of formulating clear and unambiguous language when crafting an agreement regarding the payment of college expenses under Connecticut General Statutes §46b-56. In Loso v. Loso, 132 Conn. App. 257 (2011), the parties entered into a post-judgment agreement pursuant to which the defendant is obligated “to pay for one-half the cost of [his daughter’s] college educational expenses for a four year degree net of scholarships or grants subject to the limitation that said cost shall not exceed the tuition for a full-time residential student at UCONN-Storrs.”

The Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for contempt, alleging that the defendant was obligated to pay one-half the cost of their daughter’s fall 2010 semester at Sacred Heart University, which included charges for a meal plan, health insurance, recreation and athletic fees, housing and tuition. The defendant contended that his obligation was capped at one-half the tuition for a full-time residential student at UCONN Storrs. After reviewing the plain language of the agreement, however, the Court held that the defendant was indeed responsible for one-half of the daughter’s educational expenses- not just tuition- but further held that his obligation was capped at the full amount of tuition for a student at UCONN Storrs, not one-half. It appears this issue could have been avoided altogether had the defendant specified that he would pay one-half of the college expenses up to one-half the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time residential student.

Once again, this case illustrates the importance of drafting clear and unambiguous language when crafting a provision regarding the payment of college expenses to ensure that the agreement accurately reflects the parties’ intentions. This is particularly true when a child will be attending an institution which costs more than the University of Connecticut, as a party could be ordered to pay well in excess of the expected amount.

Should you have any questions regarding payment of college expenses in the context of a post-judgment matrimonial case, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Attorney DeMeola welcomes inquiries regarding matrimonial matters and can be reached in the firm’s Westport office by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at mdemeola@mayalaw.com
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family 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 divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Recent Decision Suggests Educational Support Orders May Not Be Applied Retroactively

A recent 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.