Posts tagged with "Connecticut Family Law"

Considering Fault in a “No-Fault” Jurisdiction

During an initial telephone call or divorce consultation, prospective clients often ask whether Connecticut is in fact a no-fault jurisdiction.  People typically equate that concept with the idea that marital property will automatically be divided equally, with each party receiving fifty percent.  Although Connecticut is indeed a no-fault jurisdiction, one should not presume that, regardless of the circumstances giving rise to the dissolution, each party will necessarily receive fifty percent of the marital estate.

To be sure, there are several recognized grounds for a dissolution of marriage, many of which constitute the common understanding of “fault.” As set forth in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40, a Court may consider causes such as:

  1. adultery
  2. fraudulent contract;
  3. willful desertion;
  4. habitual intemperance; and
  5. intolerable cruelty.

If proven, a finding of fault may impact orders regarding property division and/or financial awards.

Connecticut is often referred to as a no-fault jurisdiction because a Court may dissolve a marriage simply because it has broken down irretrievably.  Although this provision allows couples to get divorced without proving fault on the part of either party, it does not mean the causes for the breakdown of the marriage, if there are any, are always irrelevant.  It simply means that a Court is not required to find fault before it dissolves a marriage.  Posada v. Posada, 179 Conn. 568 (1980).  This allows parties to obtain a divorce without exposing their private affairs in a public forum.

Importantly, even if a Court specifies that a dissolution is predicated on an “irretrievable breakdown” in the relationship, it is not precluded from considering causes when entering orders regarding property division and/or when making financial awards. Sweet v. Sweet, 190 Conn. 657 (1983).   Indeed, under C.G.S.A. §46b-81, the Court must consider the causes for the dissolution of marriage in fashioning orders regarding property division, and under C.G.S.A. §46b-82, must consider the causes for the dissolution in fashioning alimony orders.

As each matrimonial case presents its own unique circumstances, it is very important to understand the parameters of the factors set forth above, and the degree to which Courts will consider fault in a particular case.  It is also important to understand how to present such circumstances in an effective and meaningful way.  Should you have any questions regarding your own case, please do not hesitate to contact our office.  If you have questions regarding fault and no-fault jurisdictions, or any family law matter contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Court Rules it Has Authority to Award Child Support and Alimony Even if Parties are Living Together

In a dissolution action currently pending in the Stamford Superior Court, Judge Tierney recently ruled on what appears to be an issue of first impression regarding pendente lite child support and alimony.  In Peterson v. Peterson, Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford, Docket No. FSTFA094015636S (Sept. 21, 2011, Tierney, J.), the parties were married on May 23, 1985 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  They are both in their early fifties and are both in good health.  The wife is a Program Administrator earning $3,287 per month, and the husband is a lawyer who, at one time, earned approximately $500,000 annually, plus bonuses.

Despite the fact that the parties continued residing in the marital home during the pendency of the action, the Wife requested unallocated alimony and child support in the amount of $6,500.00 per month.  The court framed the principal issue as follows: “Does the Superior Court have the authority to enter pendente lite alimony and child support orders when the parties are residing together?”

Generally speaking, in determining pendente lite alimony and child support, one must consider the factors set forth in Connecticut General Statutes §§ 46b-83 and 46b-84.  With respect to pendente lite child support, those factors include the respective abilities of the parents to provide such maintenance, as well as the age, health, station, occupation, earning capacity, amount and sources of income, estate, vocational skills and employability of each of the parents, and the age, health, station, occupation, educational status and expectation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of the child.  With respect to pendente lite alimony, the court must consider the length of the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties, and, in the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability of such parent’s securing employment.

After setting forth case law precedent and relevant legislative developments, the Court in Peterson found that §§ 46b-83 and 46b-84 are silent as to whether the parties must live separate and apart in order for the Court to enter pendente lite alimony and child support orders.  Indeed, as the Court explained, “Nowhere in these statutes does there exist any requirement that the parties live separate and apart as a condition of a pendente lite alimony order.”  Id.  The court further found that older decisions citing “abandoned” and “living apart” as conditions of pendente lite alimony have been rejected by more recent decisions that do not mention either phrase.  Thus, Judge Tierney ultimately held that there is no current statutory or case law authority to support the proposition that parties must be living apart in order for the Court to enter pendente lite alimony or child support, and, therefore, the Superior Court has the authority to enter such orders even when the two parties continue to reside together.

If you have any questions regarding child support, or any family law matter please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Visitation and Custody Interference: An Overview

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

One of the biggest questions in a child custody case is “Who will get custody and visitation rights?” The answer to this crucial question can be complicated. Once settled, things don’t always go smoothly. This article walks you through some common questions concerning visitation and custody interference issues.

My ex has physical custody of our kids. I am always very prompt in sending my support check, but lately, I’ve been feeling that I don’t have enough time with my kids. Is it a good idea to stop paying my child support as a way to force my ex into giving me more visitation?

No, it is not a good idea. In fact, it could backfire and result in you having less or no time with your children. Visitation and child support don’t have anything to do with each other from a legal standpoint, and a judge would probably come down on you hard for withholding your support.

Try having a civil conversation with your ex about having more time with your kids. If that doesn’t work, you can request a modification of the visitation schedule in court.

Joint physical custody is another option if you and your ex don’t live too far apart. Courts will only grant this option if it won’t harm the children and if the parents demonstrate that they can work together.

Our visitation order clearly states that my ex-wife must pick up our daughter at a certain time on a certain day each week, but she is consistently late and sometimes doesn’t bother to show up at all. This is very hard on our daughter, and it often interferes with my life as well. Can I do anything about this?

The first step (as it usually is) is to talk to your ex-wife and get an understanding for the reasons why she’s late or a no-show. If her job or family responsibilities are the cause, you may be able to fix the problem with a few simple schedule changes.

If she doesn’t have a valid reason and you can’t work out a solution, you can ask a judge to enforce or change the visitation order. You should create a list of all the times your wife shows up late or doesn’t show up at all so you have some documentation of the problem. The court will definitely be more interested in how the situation is affecting your daughter than how it is inconveniencing you, so make sure to focus on her rather than on yourself.

I have joint legal custody of my son with my ex-husband. Every time we have to make a decision about our son’s religion, healthcare or education he fights me tooth and nail. I feel that he is just trying to be difficult — do I have to consult him about these things?

Sharing legal custody can present a wide range of problems, especially when the relationship between the former spouses has deteriorated. As tough as it may be, though, you still need to keep your ex-husband in the loop when it comes to these decisions, as you may violate a court order if you keep him in the dark. If your ex challenges your unilateral decision-making in court, a judge could end up awarding him sole legal custody, so it’s better to comply with the terms of the original order until it can be modified.

As always, you should try as hard as you can to work it out amongst yourselves. Try to get inside your ex’s head and figure out why he obstructs these decisions. Perhaps he feels that he doesn’t have enough visitation with your son. If so, a few more visits might resolve the issue.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

I have joint legal and physical custody of my children with my ex-wife. She never seems to do anything to help with chores or scheduling, so I end up doing all the laundry, shopping and planning. How can I get her to pull her weight?

First, examine the situation and see if there’s a reason why your ex hasn’t helped out with these responsibilities. She might have personal or work issues that prevent her from doing all that she should. She may not even realize that you feel this way.

Talk to her and ask her to help out. If that doesn’t work, send her a cordial letter via certified mail listing the parental duties and requesting that she take over some of them. If she doesn’t respond or start pitching in within two or three weeks, you may have to go to court to change anything.

Also think about asking a mediator to step in. Impartial mediators can really help a situation like this. Sometimes an outside voice repeating what you’ve already said can get the desired results.

I’ve had sole physical custody of my son for his entire life. His father recently promised him a car if my son comes to live with him. Can I fight this in any way?

Before you try to fight the move, ask yourself if it could actually be a good choice for your son.

If you still object to the switch, it’s within your rights to prevent your son from leaving. If you choose to do so, however, your ex-husband could go to court and ask for a change in the custody order. When children get older, judges will generally give greater weight to their preferences. That doesn’t mean that a judge will rubber-stamp your son’s wish to go live with his father, but it does make it more likely that the judge will allow your son to make his own choice.

Remember not to badmouth your ex based on your personal feelings about him, but if you think that he is a danger to your son in any way you should explain this to both your son and the court.

You could also avoid court altogether by trying to reach a compromise. Increased visitation might satisfy your ex while allowing you to retain custody of your son.

Over spring break, my ex took our kids on a trip, but didn’t tell me where they were going. Is there anything I can do to make sure I know of future vacation plans ahead of time?

That’s a difficult question. Unless your custody and visitation arrangement states otherwise, your ex can take the kids wherever they want as long as the trip doesn’t place the children in any danger. And yet it is probably in the children’s best interest that you know where they are going in case an emergency comes up.

Ask your ex to give you information about any future vacation plans. Explain that you want to know for safety purposes, not to hinder the plans in any way. If he doesn’t provide the information in a few days, send a certified letter that politely repeats your request. You may want to send a copy to your ex’s attorney — a lawyer can usually convince a client to cooperate, if only to help their case should the matter go to court.

If you still don’t receive a response you can file an “order to show cause” demanding that your ex appear in court and list the reasons why he shouldn’t have to disclose the vacation plans to you. It is likely that a judge will order your ex to tell you the plans.

My ex-husband often returns the kids late after his scheduled visitation. I’m worried he may be thinking of not returning them at all one day. Is there anything I can do?

It might be possible to clear everything up by talking to your ex about his tardiness. He might not know that his actions have caused you so much worry.

If your ex does fail to return the kids, his actions break both criminal and civil law, and also violate the custody and visitation orders that you have in place. At this point, the police can step in to recover the children, and they can charge your ex-husband with kidnapping. You can also sue him for damages.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

My ex-wife has sole physical custody of our kids, but I have visitation on alternating weekends. She just told me that she plans to take a job across the country, however, which would mean that I could only afford to see my kids every few months. What can I do?

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer for this question. State law controls, and states differ greatly when it comes to relocation issues. Some states protect the non-custodial parent’s right to maintain an ongoing relationship with their children, while other states protect the custodial parent’s right to relocate for employment or family reasons.

Try to reason with your ex-wife by explaining your desire to keep seeing your children regularly and laying out your financial limitations. If this doesn’t work, you should probably consult with your attorney to learn more about the laws in your state.

I have an infant child, and the child’s father has visitation rights every other weekend. He lives in a tiny apartment that isn’t baby-safe and doesn’t have the necessary items, like a crib, stroller or infant tub. Can I prevent the visits?

It’s best to comply with visitation order, lest you anger a judge and risk having to give up some of your custodial rights. You can provide what the baby needs, and you can also firmly suggest that the father purchase the necessary supplies. Unless the visitation order explicitly states that the father must buy certain items, however, he isn’t legally required to do so.

Consider going back to court to modify the visitation order. Judges will usually require parents to have all reasonable items for the care of the baby.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Divorce Basics: Filing and Associate Fees

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

What are filing and other associated fees within a divorce action?

What should I expect to pay for when filing for divorce? A divorce litigant, even one who represents himself or herself, should be prepared to pay certain court costs for the privilege of utilizing the court system. The filing fee to start an action is $350.00. A state marshal will be needed to serve the summons and complaint on your spouse in all cases, and rates for service generally range from $50.00 to $100.00, depending on the method of service and the number of attempts. If there are minor children of the marriage, once the action is commenced, both parties will be required to participate in a Parenting Education Class at a cost of $125.00 per person.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Divorce Basics: No-Fault in Connecticut

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

What Is No-Fault in Connecticut?

What is the no-fault rule? What does it mean to have no-fault divorce? How does it work in CT? Does it apply to me? The general rule in Connecticut, and other “no-fault” jurisdictions is that a spouse is not required to prove “grounds” (a reason) to obtain a dissolution of marriage. Where fault does not exist, a court will grant a divorce on the ground that the marriage has simply “broken down irretrievably with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.” Nevertheless, many divorcing spouses will come into litigation painfully aware of the “cause” for the breakdown of the relationship – which begs the question: if the other spouse was the reason for the divorce, will the judge listen, and will it matter?

The answer is yes, to some degree. In fact, fault is part of the statutory framework of divorce in Connecticut, and although a party is not required to allege or prove fault, he or she is permitted to do so. If a party does allege fault, a judge may take the allegations into consideration when deciding how to divide the marital property and/or whether (and how much) alimony should be awarded to one spouse or the other. When the fault alleged by one party is substantial, and when it substantially contributes to the breakdown of the marriage or the loss of marital assets, a court is more likely to award that party a greater share of the assets or more alimony. Nevertheless, in the vast majority of court decisions judges mention fault as alleged by one side or the other, but usually find the parties equally responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Divorce Options: Litigation

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

What is litigation and when might a divorce case go to litigation? 

Many people wonder what litigation is or how it works. In divorce cases, litigation is typically a last resort. Supposed counseling has been ineffective or non-participatory. Mediation has either failed or is not a viable option since one or both parties refuses to attend – or perhaps emotional impediments loom too large. Divorce as an end result is a given; the only remaining route to that goal is litigation.

Litigation refers to the filing of a lawsuit. Initial pleadings are filed (more on this, below), the filing fee is paid, and the great unknown – the legal process – begins to take shape with its own deadlines, rules, procedures, and local practices. Every litigant in state court – lawyer or not – is presumed (for better or worse) to know the rules of court, which are set forth in a daunting publication known as the Connecticut Practice Book. The friendly-sounding, simple name is misleading. At multiple volumes, hundreds of pages (or countless clicks down the screen, since the Practice Book is also published and updated online), it is a tall order for most litigants in a divorce action to familiarize themselves with civil practice, filing of pleadings and motions, the “discovery” mechanisms available to each party, and the role of the judge in a dissolution action.

This publication is intended to demystify the process for the divorce litigant. It is not intended to replace the services of an experienced family law practitioner who can effectively advocate for a divorcing party. There are hundreds of attorneys in Fairfield County alone, a very many of whom claim to practice family law.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Divorce Basics: Residency Requirements And Determining Jurisdiction

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

How do I know when a Connecticut court has jurisdiction over my divorce case? 

It is important to understand when a court has proper jurisdiction over your case. A person’s residency determines such a factor. For a court to have “jurisdiction” – that is, in order for a judge to have the authority to dissolve a marriage – one party must have been domiciled continuously in the State of Connecticut for a period of twelve months prior to the date that the court issues the judgment. The residency requirement does not require you to have lived for the full year in the judicial district in which you have filed, and in fact, you may file for divorce before meeting the one-year requirement, as long as a full year has elapsed before the final date of your divorce. There are also less frequently-used bases for jurisdiction as well: the cause for the divorce arose after you and your spouse moved to Connecticut (but before you had been in the state for a year); you were Connecticut residents before going on active military duty which took you out of state; or you were previously a resident of Connecticut and moved back to Connecticut with the intent of making Connecticut your permanent residence. All of the above would give the courts in Connecticut the authority to grant your divorce. For further information and advice on this subject (especially if your factual circumstances are complicated), it is strongly suggested you seek the advice of an attorney.

If you have any questions about divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Division of Marital Assets in Connecticut

If you have questions about the distribution of marital property or divorce in Connecticut, please feel free to call the experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport today at 203-221-3100 or email us at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

In Connecticut, the property and debt issues are typically settled between the parties by a signed Marital Settlement Agreement or the property award is actually order and decreed by the Superior Court within the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

Connecticut is referred to as an “equitable distribution” state. When the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the Superior Court will take the following approach to dividing the assets; First, it will go through a discovery process to classify which property and debt is to be considered marital. Next, it will assign a monetary value on the marital assets and debt. Last, it will distribute the marital assets between the two parties in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is deemed by the Superior Court to be fair.

The following factors are considered by the court in determining the appropriate property distribution award: 1. length of the marriage, 2. the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, 3. the age, 4. health, 5. occupation, 6. amount and sources of income, 7. vocational skills, 8. employability, 9. estate, 10. liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income. The court shall also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates. (Connecticut General Statutes – Title 46b – Chapter 81).

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Alimony: Who Is Entitled to Spousal Support?

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce attorney about a divorce or family law matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 or email Joseph Maya, Esq. at JMaya@mayalaw.com

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Spousal support can be an extremely confusing area of divorce law, and there are many misconceptions about it. Contrary to popular belief, spousal support is not guaranteed to a wife, nor is it an entitlement for being married for a certain period of time. The truth is, no one is guaranteed spousal support regardless of how long they have been married, and spousal support can be paid to wives or husbands.

The purpose behind alimony is to allow a spouse with significantly less income to maintain a lifestyle similar to the one they enjoyed during the marriage. Spousal support is awarded on a case by case basis, and many factors are usually considered when a court decides whether, how much, and for how long alimony should be awarded.

Factors the court may consider include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The needs of the spouse requesting alimony
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony, and
  • The relative age, health, education, and work experience of both parties.

A spouse receiving alimony is generally expected to become self-sufficient at some point. However, a supported spouse who was a homemaker for the entirety of a long marriage may not be reasonably expected to become self-sufficient, and in these cases, spouses are sometimes awarded permanent alimony.

Typical situations that will cause spousal support to be terminated include: if the person receiving spousal support remarries, in the event of the death of one of the parties, or when the person receiving the support shares a home with a romantic partner.

It is also possible to modify spousal support payments upward or downward in the case that the income for either spouse is changed.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or family law 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 is difficult, but education is power. 

Divorce Basics for Same-Sex Married Couples in Connecticut

If you have questions about divorce or alimony in Connecticut, please feel free to call the experienced divorce attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport today at 203-221-3100 or email Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This article discusses the laws and rules related to getting a divorce in Connecticut. The same laws apply to same-sex married couples in Connecticut.

Grounds for Divorce

In Connecticut, you can file for divorce if your marriage is irretrievably broken or if you have lived apart for 18 months. This is considered a no-fault divorce. You may also file for divorce based on fault, meaning that the divorce is based on one spouse’s actions, such as adultery, abandonment, or intolerable cruelty. For a complete list of grounds, see Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-40(c).

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

You must be a resident of Connecticut for at least 12 months before you can file a petition for divorce. The court may enter a final decree of divorce no sooner than 90 days after you file the petition.

Property Division in Connecticut

Connecticut uses a system of equitable distribution to divide marital property and debts between spouses. This means that the court may award all or any part of the marital estate to either spouse based on what is fair and equitable. The judge may consider the length of the marriage, the cause of the divorce, and the age, health, occupation, sources of income, liabilities, and needs of each spouse. The judge may also consider each partner’s contributions to buying or improving a house.

Alimony

Connecticut courts may order one spouse to pay alimony. The judge will review several factors to determine the amount of the order, such as how long the parties were married, each spouse’s occupation, income, employability, and needs. To modify a permanent alimony award, the person requesting the modification must show that circumstances have changed so substantially that the current order is no longer appropriate.

Child Support

Both parents must financially support their children according to their respective abilities. Child support obligations continue until a child completes high school or turns 19, or, if the child is disabled, until age 21. In deciding an amount of child support, the court will use the state guidelines as a starting point and consider various factors including both parents’ income and earning capacity, and the needs of the children. To modify an order, a party must show a substantial change in circumstances or demonstrate that the support order deviates from the established child support guidelines. In Connecticut, child support orders are enforced by the Child Support Enforcement Services Unit.

Child Custody

In making a child custody or visitation order, the Connecticut courts are guided by the best interests of the child. The court may award custody to one or both parents, or to a third party if appropriate, but the presumption is that joint custody between both parents is best. The judge’s goal is to provide the child with active involvement by both parents; thus the court will look at the needs of the child, the parents’ ability to meet those needs, the relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment. The court will use a similar standard to determine whether custody and visitation should be modified. Parents may submit a proposed parenting plan to the court setting forth how they plan to share responsibilities of caring for the child. If the plan is satisfactory, the court will adopt the plan as its order.[1]

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

For a free consultation, please do not hesitate to call the experienced family law and divorce attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, CT at 203-221-3100. We may also be reached for inquiries by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.