Posts tagged with "educational expenses"

Wife Found in Contempt of Court’s “Automatic Orders”

In a relatively recent decision rendered in a dissolution of marriage action, a wife was found in contempt for depriving her husband of information regarding the parties’ two minor children in violation of the court’s “automatic orders.”  In this particular case, the parties were married 1991, and were the parents of two children.  At the time of trial the husband was forty-three years old and in generally good health.  He had an associate’s degree and worked for a supply company earning approximately $51,000 annually.  The wife was also forty-three years old and in generally good health.  Although she stayed home to care for the family for a better part of the marriage, in 1999 she began working as an independent contractor selling kitchen products.  Later, she worked for a local board of education, and at the time of trial, was employed with a local newspaper earning roughly $20,000, plus commission, annually.

During the divorce proceedings, the husband filed a motion for contempt claiming the wife violated the court’s automatic orders in that she left the marital residence with the children and refused to disclose their location.  In reviewing the merits of the husband’s motion, the court noted that in a civil contempt proceeding, the movant must show by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of a clear and unambiguous court order, and willful noncompliance with that order.  According to the court’s “automatic orders,” entered upon the commencement of every divorce action, neither party is permitted to remove children from the State of Connecticut without prior written consent of the other parent.  Additionally, a party vacating the marital residence with minor children must notify the other parent of the move, and must provide the other parent of an address where the relocated party can be contacted.  Finally, where parents live separate and apart during a divorce proceeding, pursuant to the “automatic orders,” they must assist their children in having contact with both parents.

In this particular case, the court found that because the wife was served in hand with a notice of automatic orders, she clearly knew she had an obligation to inform the husband in writing of any relocation.  The court found that she also knew she had a duty to assist her children in having contact with their father.  Nevertheless, the wife willfully removed the children from the home, and kept their address from the husband absent a valid reason for doing so.  As a result, the husband did not know where the children were living until the day of trial.  The court further found that the wife willfully kept the children from having contact with their father in violation of the court’s clear and unambiguous automatic orders.

Should you have any questions regarding automatic court orders, or divorce proceedings in general, please feel free to contact Attorney Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.  He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at mdemeola@mayalaw.com.
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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.

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Paying College Education After Divorce

At the time of a divorce, parties can reserve jurisdiction, a court’s authority to decide an issue, over matters regarding their child’s post-secondary education expenses.  It is particularly helpful to reserve jurisdiction if the parties have young children, as a family’s needs may change and one parent may wish to seek assistance from the other parent in facilitating their child’s college education.

The court may enter an educational support order for any child under the age of 23 after considering the following factors:

  1. The parents’ income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents;
  2. The child’s need for support to attend an institution of higher education or private occupational school considering the child’s assets and the child’s ability to earn income;
  3. The availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans;
  4. The reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child’s academic record and the financial resources available;
  5. The child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education; and
  6. Evidence, if any, of the institution of higher education or private occupational school the child would attend.

It is important to note that in Connecticut, if the parties do not explicitly reserve jurisdiction, then the court will be unable to set down an educational support order after a divorce has occurred. The court is also restricted from entering an order beyond the cost of University of Connecticut tuition for a full-time student.

If you have questions regarding educational support orders, or any education matter contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

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.

Father Ordered to Contribute Toward Child’s College Expenses

In a decision rendered earlier this year, the Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed a trial court order requiring a father to pay post secondary educational expenses even though no finding had been made that the parties would have provided support for college expenses had the family remained intact. The parties in this action obtained an uncontested divorce in 2007. Pursuant to the terms of their separation agreement, the court retained jurisdiction “to allocate between the parties any and all college tuition and expenses incurred on behalf of the minor child…”

In 2009, the mother filed a motion seeking contribution toward college expenses from the child’s father. The court, presumably after a hearing, ordered the father to pay the mother $100 per week until the child reached the age of eighteen, and thereafter $100 per week directly to the institution. If and when the father regained employment, his payments were to increase to $160 per week. The order automatically expired after the child’s first year.

The summer immediately preceding the child’s sophomore year, the mother filed a second motion, requesting an increase in the father’s contribution, as well as an extension for the remainder of the child’s education. After a hearing, the court ordered each party to pay $9,334.50 for the upcoming school year. In the event the father did not receive an expected worker’s compensation or personal injury settlement, he was to pay $100 per week.

The husband appealed, claiming that in the underlying action, the court failed to make an express finding that had the family remained intact, the parties would have provided support for college expenses, as required by C.G.S.A. § 46b-56c(c). Although the Appellate Court agreed, it found the absence of the finding to be harmless error. The Court noted that at one point, the husband offered money from savings bonds in lieu of an educational support order, suggesting his intention to contribute toward the child’s college expenses. The Court also noted that the father never argued that he would not have provided financial support for the child’s college education. Rather, he focused on his inability to pay the amount requested by the wife. Additionally, the Court found that the husband never request that he be excused from contributing; he only requested that he be excused from contributing until he returned to work. Based on the foregoing, the Appellate Court found that the lower court implicitly recognized an intention by the father to provide support for college expenses. Glenn v. Glenn, 133 Conn. App. 397 (2012). In fact, the Appellate Court went one step further stating that in light of the facts and circumstances, had the lower court found that the father would not have provided support for the child’s college education, such a finding would have been clearly erroneous.

Should you have any questions regarding educational support orders, or divorce matters in general, please feel free to contact Attorney Michael D. DeMeola, Esq. He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at mdemeola@mayalaw.com.
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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.

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