Posts tagged with "custody modifications"

Court Permits Transfer of Guardianship to Out-Of-State Aunt

In a decision involving the Department of Children and Families, a Connecticut trial court granted a maternal aunt’s motions for out-of-state placement and transfer of guardianship.  The children were originally removed from the mother’s care pursuant to an Order of Temporary Custody upon allegations that they were being denied proper care and attention, and were living under conditions injurious to their wellbeing.  After the children were committed to the care of DCF and placed in a foster residence, their maternal aunt, who lived in New York, filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings to obtain guardianship.

The Court’s Findings 

In granting the aunt’s motions, the Court explained that pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-129(j), if a court determines that commitment should be revoked and the child’s guardianship should vest in someone other than his or her parents, or if parental rights are terminated at any time, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that an award of legal guardianship or adoption to a relative who is licensed as a foster parent shall be in the best interests of the child.

That presumption may be rebutted only by a preponderance of the evidence that such an award would not be in the child’s best interests and that such relative is not a suitable and worthy caregiver. In Re Noella A., Superior Court, Judicial District of New London, Docket No. K09CP09011902A (March 24, 2011, Mack, JTR).

Employing the aforementioned standard, the Court found that although the children had progressed well in foster care, there was no showing that the same progress could not be made if they lived with the maternal aunt.  The Court also found that in living with the aunt, the children would be with their cousins in an equally secure, safe, caring, and nurturing environment.

The Court further explained that even though the children established a bond with their foster parents, there was nothing to suggest they could not do so with their extended family. Ultimately modifying the permanency plan from termination of parental rights and adoption to transfer of guardianship, the Court stated it could not find that placement with the aunt would not be in the children’s best interests.

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.

Grandparents Who Seek Visitation Over Parental Opposition Have a Tough Legal Hill to Climb

Can grandparents get visitation rights to their grandchildren even if the child’s parents oppose such visitation? The answer is yes, but not without a tough standard to overcome. In 2002 the Connecticut Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in Roth v. Weston. The Court held “a rebuttable presumption [is created] that visitation that is opposed by a fit parent is not in a child’s best interest.”

“In sum, therefore, we conclude that there are two requirements that must be satisfied in order for a court: (1) to have jurisdiction over a petition for visitation contrary to the wishes of a fit parent; and (2) to grant such a petition.” Roth v. Weston, at 234.

Roth’s Jurisdictional and Evidentiary Standard 

The court in Roth then set forth both a jurisdictional and evidentiary standard: “First, the petition must contain specific, good faith allegations that the petitioner has a relationship with the child that is similar in nature to a parent-child relationship. The petition must also contain specific, good faith allegations that denial of the visitation will cause real and significant harm to the child … The degree of specificity of the allegations must be sufficient to justify requiring the fit parent to subject his or her parental judgment to unwanted litigation. Only if these specific, good faith allegations are made will a court have jurisdiction over the petition.” Id.

“Second, once these high jurisdictional hurdles have been overcome, the petitioner must prove these allegations by clear and convincing evidence. Only if that enhanced burden of persuasion has been met may the court enter an order of visitation. These requirements thus serve as the constitutionally mandated safeguards against unwarranted intrusions into a parent’s authority.” Id. at 234–35.

This much stricter standard puts the parents’ right to make decisions for their child above all else. Later, “Public Act 12–137 codified Roth’s jurisdictional and evidentiary standard in § 46b–59, and additionally expressed various factors to guide the court in its decision making. The current version of § 46b–59 now enumerates factors for the court to take into consideration.” Miller v. Voisine, 2013 WL 1800414.

Assessing a Parent-Like Relationship

The statute states in relevant part: “(c) In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between the person and the minor child, the Superior Court may consider, but shall not be limited to, the following factors:

  1. The existence and length of a relationship between the person and the minor child prior to the submission of a petition pursuant to this section;
  2. The length of time that the relationship between the person and the minor child has been disrupted;
  3. The specific parent-like activities of the person seeking visitation toward the minor child;
  4. Any evidence that the person seeking visitation has unreasonably undermined the authority and discretion of the custodial parent;
  5. The significant absence of a parent from the life of a minor child;
  6. The death of one of the minor child’s parents;
  7. The physical separation of the parents of the minor child;
  8. The fitness of the person seeking visitation; and
  9. The fitness of the custodial parent.”

Specific to grandparents, the statute further states “(d) In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between a grandparent seeking visitation pursuant to this section and a minor child, the Superior Court may consider, in addition to the factors enumerated in subsection (c) of this section, the history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship between the grandparent and the minor child.” Id. at 8.

This standard is often tough to overcome by a grandparent. The legislature’s purpose when enacting this statute was to protect a parent’s right to raise their children and prevent unwanted intrusion that could be detrimental. But, this is not an impenetrable wall. If a grandparent can show a history of regular contact, demonstrating a substantial relationship in which continuation would be in the best interests of the child, a court will allow visitation despite parent objection.

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.

Court Modifies Unallocated Alimony and Support Down to $3,200 per Month

In Rosen v. Grand, Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk, Docket No. FSTFA044000277S (Aug. 25, 2011, Wenzel, J.), the plaintiff’s husband filed a motion to modify his unallocated alimony and support payments six years after the parties’ divorce.  The plaintiff and defendant were originally married in 1989 and had two children together. When they were divorced on January 13, 2005, the court incorporated into its final decree the terms of a separation agreement entered into between the parties.

The Alimony and Child Support Agreement

Under the terms of that agreement, the plaintiff was required to pay unallocated alimony and child support to the defendant, who had primary physical custody of the children, in the amount of $7,292 per month.  The agreement provided that the amount of alimony could be modified upon a substantial change in circumstances.

On November 22, 2010, the plaintiff filed a motion to modify his unallocated support obligation, which the court previously reduced to $4,000 per month.  In reviewing the then-current circumstances of the parties, the court found that the defendant wife changed her employment from an advertising group, where she was compensated based on commissions, to a charitable association where she served as a regional director and was paid a salary. Though the wife testified she experienced a slight reduction in income, her financial affidavit actually reflected a slight increase.

The Court’s Findings

The plaintiff claimed that his income had decreased between thirty-five and forty percent since the last modification.  To support this claim, the plaintiff pointed to the financial affidavits he filed in both the previous hearing and the current hearing.  In his prior affidavit, the plaintiff showed gross weekly income of $2,707 and net weekly income of $2,359.  In the more recent affidavit, however, he demonstrated gross weekly income of $5,019 and net income of $1,348. The main reason for the change was an additional entry shown as a deduction on the more recent affidavit for “chiropractic expenses” in the amount of $3,109 per week.

Although the court recognized the deduction, because the previous modification took place approximately halfway through the previous year, the court adjusted it, ultimately finding that the plaintiff’s weekly net income for the basis of the motion for modification was $1,950, a seventeen percent decrease.  Notably, the Court also took into consideration the fact that in June 2011, the youngest child, who was eighteen at the time of the hearing, will graduate from high school and no longer be entitled to support.

Ultimately finding that the foregoing factors constituted a substantial change in circumstances, the Court reduced the plaintiff’s support obligation to $3,200 per month effective January 1, 2011, then $2,700 per month effective July 1, 2011.

Should you have any questions relating to alimony, or divorce proceedings generally, please feel free to contact Joseph Maya, Esq. by telephone at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at  JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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.

Former Wife Found in Contempt For Refusing to Pay College Expenses

A decision rendered in the Connecticut Superior Court illustrates the potential consequences of entering into an ambiguous agreement regarding the payment of college expenses.  In this particular case, the parties obtained an uncontested divorce on September 8, 2008.  Pursuant to the terms of their separation agreement, the parties were each responsible for paying 50% of their children’s “actual college education.”

Except for the designation “actual college education,” the language of the agreement tracked the language of C.G.S.A. §46b-56c in that educational costs were to include room, board, dues, tuition, books, fees, registration costs, and application costs up to the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student.

When the parties’ older son attended technical school, both the mother and father contributed to the cost.  However, when the parties’ younger son enrolled in college, the mother refused to contribute, claiming she was entitled to a credit because the younger son’s technical school education was not “actual college” as set forth in the parties’ separation agreement.  The father filed a motion for contempt against the mother seeking an order of enforcement.

Relying, at least in part, on another Connecticut Superior Court decision which addressed a nearly identical issue, the Court found that the term “college” as used in the parties’ separation agreement did in fact include technical school.  Therefore, the mother was obligated to contribute toward both the older son’s vocational education and the younger son’s college education.  Since she failed to do so, the Court found the mother in contempt and ordered her to pay the husband the outstanding balance within thirty days.

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

The Best Divorce Lawyers CT: Divorce Attorneys Fairfield County, Connecticut

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group consists of a dedicated team of lawyers committed to representing its clients through the most complex divorce proceedings.  As a significant portion of our Matrimonial Law Group’s client base consists of high net-worth individuals, we have experience dealing with the valuation and division of a variety of assets including businesses, residential and commercial real estate, high-end personal property, trusts, various retirement vehicles, as well as stocks, bonds, and other securities.

Our matrimonial lawyers also counsel the Firm’s clients through the formation and execution of pre-marital agreements and often collaborate with our Trusts & Estates Group regarding issues involving trusts, testamentary instruments, and estate planning.  With attorneys licensed to practice in Connecticut and New York, we routinely handle cases originating in Fairfield County, Westchester County and New York City.

Matrimonial Law Representation

Our Matrimonial Law Group represents clients in dissolution and separation proceedings, custody and child support cases, as well as post-judgment custody and support modifications.  Our matrimonial lawyers handle each and every case professionally and diligently.  Though we aggressively litigate our more acrimonious cases when required, we always take into account the individual and unique needs, position and desires of each client, and recognize the importance of negotiating settlements when appropriate.  Our matrimonial lawyers are well versed in the mediation process as well, and are often retained in a neutral capacity, providing our clients with an alternative to the traditional adversarial divorce model.

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group is dedicated to providing its clients with high quality representation, including a thorough knowledge of the law, unsurpassed attention to detail, unwavering client support and constant preparedness.  We understand that our clients are often in the worst situations they will ever personally encounter, and seek, at every turn, to alleviate their fears while protecting and advancing their interests in a court of law.

Our firm provides representation in all trial and appellate courts for matters relating to dissolution of marriage including: legal separation, property division, alimony, child custody, child support, and visitation rights. We are experienced in dealing with the legal, financial, emotional and psychological issues arising in family and matrimonial relationships. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals in matters involving all types of divorce and family law issues.

Maya Murphy’s offices are located in Westport, Connecticut and serves clients in locations including Stamford, Hartford, New Haven, Danbury, Waterbury, Bridgeport, Greenwich, Norwalk, Milford, Stratford, Fairfield County, Hartford County, New Haven County, Litchfield County, Middlesex County, Tolland County, Windham County, and New London County.

To discuss a case please contact Joseph C. Maya at (203) 221-3100 in Connecticut or (212) 682-5700 in New York. Mr. Maya can be reached via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Leading Divorce Law Firm in Fairfield County Connecticut: Maya Murphy

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group consists of a dedicated team of lawyers committed to representing its clients through the most complex divorce proceedings.  As a significant portion of our Matrimonial Law Group’s client base consists of high net-worth individuals, we have experience dealing with the valuation and division of a variety of assets including businesses, residential and commercial real estate, high-end personal property, trusts, various retirement vehicles, as well as stocks, bonds, and other securities.

Our matrimonial lawyers also counsel the Firm’s clients through the formation and execution of pre-marital agreements and often collaborate with our Trusts & Estates Group regarding issues involving trusts, testamentary instruments, and estate planning.  With attorneys licensed to practice in Connecticut and New York, we routinely handle cases originating in Fairfield County, Westchester County and New York City.

Matrimonial Law Representation

Our Matrimonial Law Group represents clients in dissolution and separation proceedings, custody and child support cases, as well as post-judgment custody and support modifications.  Our matrimonial lawyers handle each and every case professionally and diligently.  Though we aggressively litigate our more acrimonious cases when required, we always take into account the individual and unique needs, position and desires of each client, and recognize the importance of negotiating settlements when appropriate.  Our matrimonial lawyers are well versed in the mediation process as well, and are often retained in a neutral capacity, providing our clients with an alternative to the traditional adversarial divorce model.

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group is dedicated to providing its clients with high quality representation, including a thorough knowledge of the law, unsurpassed attention to detail, unwavering client support and constant preparedness.  We understand that our clients are often in the worst situations they will ever personally encounter, and seek, at every turn, to alleviate their fears while protecting and advancing their interests in a court of law.

To discuss a case please contact Joseph C. Maya at (203) 221-3100 in Connecticut or (212) 682-5700 in New York. Mr. Maya can be reached via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com

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.

GPS Evidence Stricken: A Victory for the Fourth Amendment

GPS Evidence Stricken: A Victory for the Fourth Amendment

GPS units are not only handy devices that are, for many, becoming indispensable on the roads, but the technology is increasingly being utilized by law enforcement officials to track suspects, gather evidence, and ultimately build cases against criminal defendants.

Advocates of individual civil liberties and opponents of excessive governmental intrusion argue that the surreptitious placement of a GPS device by the police under a private citizen’s automobile runs afoul of the Constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures.  Prosecutors, on the other hand, contend that police have the right and option to view individuals operating their vehicles on private roads without a warrant, and the GPS device is merely an extension of such ability.

A defendant’s constitutional challenge to the practice was upheld in the Court of Appeals in New York (resulting in a reversal of a conviction, and ultimately a dismissal of criminal charges).  The issue is ripe to be challenged in Connecticut and other jurisdictions across the nation.

Our firm in Westport 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.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation. Divorce is difficult, education is power. Call today.

Breaking News: CT Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

Breaking News: Connecticut Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

In a narrowly split decision, the CT Supreme Court held that same-sex couples have the right to marriage, protected by the Connecticut State Constitution. Justice Palmer authored the decision, joined by Justices Harper, Katz and Norcott. The full text of the 85-page decision can be found on the judicial branch website: http://www.jud.ct.gov/.

Our firm in Westport 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.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation. Divorce is difficult, education is power. Call today.

Fairfield County Divorce Guidebook: A Roadmap to Matrimonial Law in Connecticut

The matrimonial law group at Maya Murphy PC has published a 66-page publication devoted exclusively to the subject of matrimonial law in Connecticut.  Intended as a guide for divorcing spouses, the publication covers the major areas, concerns, and focal points of family law cases in our court system.  Husbands and wives confronted with the difficult prospect of divorce are encouraged to read the guidebook in order to demystify the process and to enable them to better communicate with their attorney of choice.

The publication may be viewed by following this link: Fairfield County Divorce Guidebook.

Copyright © 2012 · Maya Murphy, P.C.
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Our firm in Westport 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.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation. Divorce is difficult, education is power. Call today.

When Third Party Custody is Awarded in Connecticut

CT Third Party Custody 

Third party custody can be awarded in Connecticut under some very exceptional circumstances. Most third-party actions fail and custody is ultimately awarded to a parent because they have a fundamental right to raise their children. The Connecticut Judicial Branch put out a few publications that outline what it takes for a third party to win in a custody action and the standards that will be applied to such actions.

That publication included an analysis of a landmark case in Connecticut, Fish v. Fish, that helped shape the law on this issue in Connecticut. That case has since been cited as the proper way to interpret C.G.S.A. 46b-56 and 46b-57 which deal with custody and visitation. The CT publication and Fish v. Fish will be excerpted in the following to explain this tricky custody issue.

Basic CT Principals

To begin it is helpful to outline a few basic Connecticut principles. First, “third parties cannot initiate custody proceedings, unlike third parties who are permitted to initiate proceedings in visitation cases.” Fish v. Fish, 285 Conn. 24, 72 (2008). Therefore, in order for a third party to make a claim for custody, they would have to intervene in an already initiated custody proceeding.

Next, a third party attempting to intervene in a custody proceeding needs to have proper standing. Unlike a parent who clearly has standing in a custody proceeding, a third party needs to overcome this constitutional hurdle by properly alleging a parent-like relationship.

As stated in Fish, “. . . to avoid constitutional infirmity, the standing requirement that a third party allege a parent-like relationship with the child should be applied for all of the reasons described in Roth to third party custody awards and to third parties seeking intervention in existing custody proceedings.” Id. at 44.

Overcoming a Strong Parental Presumption

If a third party does intervene properly and has standing, then the third party needs to overcome a strong parental presumption. “The statutory presumption in favor of parental custody may be rebutted only in exceptional circumstances and only upon a showing that it would be clearly damaging, injurious or harmful for the child to remain in the parent’s custody.” Id.

“Where the dispute is between a fit parent and a private third party, both parties do not begin on equal footing in respect to rights to care, custody, and control of the children. The parent is asserting a fundamental constitutional right. The third party is not. A private third party has no fundamental constitutional right to raise the children of others.

Generally, absent a constitutional statute, the non-governmental third party has no rights, constitutional or otherwise, to raise someone else’s child.” Id. at 46. Most jurisdictions have observed that third-party custody awards should be exceptional in nature and that the concept of detriment involves a type of analysis qualitatively different from that involving the best interests of the child.

Fish Court Conclusion

The Fish court concluded, “that the statutory presumption in favor of parental custody may be rebutted only in exceptional circumstances and only upon a showing that it would be clearly damaging, injurious or harmful for the child to remain in the parent’s custody.”

See In re B.G., 11 Cal.3d at 698. “We add that this does not mean temporary harm of the kind resulting from the stress of the dissolution proceeding itself but significant harm arising from a pattern of dysfunctional behavior that has developed between the parent and the child over a period of time.” Id. at 57.

“Such a standard is not constitutionally infirm or susceptible to the criticism sometimes leveled against the “best interests of the child” test because it does not allow the court to apply its own “personal and essentially unreviewable lifestyle preferences.” Roth v. Weston, 259 Conn. at 223.

“At the same time, the standard we adopt is narrowly tailored to limit the scope of intervention to those exceptional cases in which parental custody would result in significant harm to the child, thus serving the compelling state interest of protecting the liberty interests of the parents while remaining sensitive to the child’s welfare.” Id.

To Summarise

As you can see there are significant hurdles for a third party to overcome if they have a legitimate reason for wanting custody of someone’s child. In summation, the party must prove by a fair preponderance of the evidence facts demonstrating that he or she has a relationship with the child akin to that of a parent, that parental custody clearly would be detrimental to the child and, upon a finding of detriment, that third party custody would be in the child’s best interest.

Third-party custody is an uphill fight and only a very experienced attorney can help a client navigate these rough waters. If you need a lawyer’s assistance in a custody matter, don’t hesitate to call one of Maya Murphy’s experienced family law attorneys for a free consultation at 203-221-3100.

Written by Kyle M. Buonocore, Excerpts from Fish v. Fish, 285 Conn. 24 (2008).

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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.