Children and Divorce

An interesting article appeared on entitled, "10 Things Children of Divorce Wish Their Parents Wouldn't Do."  The list includes the following:

1.  Badmouthing the other parent

2.  Discouraging the kids from talking about their other parent

3.  Divulging the dirty details of the divorce

4.  Keeping kids completely in the dark

5.  Skipping family events because your ex will be there

6.  Making the situation all about you

7.  Making the kids feel guilty for spending time with their other parent

8.  Justifying your bad behavior

9.  Putting your kids in the middle and

10. Making everyone feel your unhappiness

To read more, you can visit the following link at



Connecticut Child Support Guildelines

The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines must be considered whenever a child support amount is determined. There is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of the award from the Guidelines is the amount of support to be ordered. This presumption can be overcome with a finding that the Guideline amount would be inequitable.  The Guidelines are to be considered in addition to and not in lieu of the criteria established by other child support statutes. See C.G.S. sec. 46b-215b.

Revisions to the Child Support Guidelines became effective on July 1, 2015. The last time the Guidelines were revised was ten years ago in 2005.

C.G.S. sections 46b-215a-1 to 46b-215a-6 contain the revisions to the Guidelines.  Some of the revisions include a clarification of the definitions of gross income, allowable deductions, health care coverage and expenses, net disposable income, shared physical custody and qualified child. Other revisions were made to the tables and the worksheet. A careful review of the Guidelines is needed to understand all of the revisions made.

Given the complexity of the Guidelines, you should consult with an attorney to make sure you are calculating the child support amount correctly.

Alimony in Connecticut

Alimony or spousal support is money paid by one spouse to his or her spouse based upon a continuing duty to support. Unlike child support, there is no formula for calculating alimony.  If the parties cannot agree on whether or how much alimony should be paid, then a judge will make that decision.

There are several factors that a judge can consider in awarding alimony. Under C.G. S. section 46b-82, these factors include: the length of the marriage;
                                the causes for the divorce or legal separation;
                                the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills
                                    employability, estate and needs of each spouse;
                                the award, if any, regarding property distribution under C.G.S. section 46b-81; and
                                the custodial parent's desire to secure employment

Pursuant to caselaw, a judge can also consider other factors such as the tax consequences of an alimony award. Unlike child support which is nontaxable, alimony is currently taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor. Commencing in the year 2019, alimony will no longer be taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor.

A judge has broad discretion in awarding alimony. For example, alimony can be paid in a lump sum at one time or it can be paid in periodic payments over a specific time frame or it can paid in both a lump sum and in periodic payments.  It can be as little as $1.00 per year or a much higher amount. Unlike a property division, alimony can be modifiable if so stated in the court order.

If no alimony is awarded by the judge when the divorce or legal separation decree is entered, then neither party can return to court and ask for alimony.

The Goal of A Divorce

The goal of a divorce is not to pick winners and losers.  Rather, the goal is to stabilize the parties and the children and help them move on with their lives.

Try not to be overly combative.  The nastier a divorce is the more your lawyer gets paid and the less money there is for you, your spouse and your children. It is very costly to try a divorce case and if your case is appealed to the appellate level and then the supreme court level, there will be additional costs.

There are times when you do not have a choice and the case must be tried.  Perhaps a spouse is being unreasonable. For example, one spouse is refusing to pay alimony when the case clearly calls for alimony. Or your spouse's behavior is harmful to the children. Or there is domestic violence or substance abuse involved which needs to be addressed in court.

However, the fact is most cases settle and do not go to trial. Given that fact it makes sense to attempt to try to work in a noncombative fashion with the other side if possible.  This can be accomplished with mediation or with the collaborative divorce process or through litigation with two lawyers who can negotiate on behalf of you and your spouse in a professional and cordial manner.


Parental Responsibility Plan

If there is a dispute between parents regarding the custody, care, education and upbringing of their child in a divorce, legal separation or custody action, the parents must file a proposed parental responsibility plan with the court.

Connecticut General Statute section 46b-56a(d) lists six items which must be included in the plan:

(1) a schedule of the physical residence of the child during the year,
(2) provisions on decision-making authority between the parents regarding the child's health,      education and religious upbringing,
(3) provisions for the resolution for future disputes between the parents,
(4) provisions regarding parents' failure to honor their responsibilities under the plan,
(5) provisions for dealing with the child's changing needs as the child grows and matures, and
(6) provisions for minimizing the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict, encouraging the parents in appropriate circumstances to meet their responsibilities through agreements, and protecting the best interests of the child.

According to C.G.S. section 46b-56a(e), the objectives of a parental responsibility plan "are to provide for the child's physical care and emotional stability, to provide for the child's changing needs as the child grows and to set forth the authority and responsibility of each parent with respect to the child."


Custody Actions

There has been an increase in the number of couples who do not marry and instead just live together. The 2010 U.S. Census data states that unmarried couples made up 12% of U.S.couples in 2010 which is a 25% increase in 10 years.  (See, Fewer couples embrace marriage;more live together, USA Today, June 2, 2011).

The reasons given in the USA Today article for the increase in unmarried couples living together include changing attitudes and the economy. Although it is cheaper to live together, couples are unwilling to marry due to the precarious nature of jobs and relationships. (See, Fewer couples embrace marriage; more live together, USA Today, June 2, 2011).

In Connecticut, a custody action can be filed in family court if an unmarried couple has children.  To start a custody action, a "custody/visitation application" must be served upon the other party.  This differs from a divorce action, where a "complaint" is served upon the other party. Both actions require that Automatic Orders be attached to the application or complaint.

In a custody action, the court orders are limited to issues that affect children such as custody, visitation, education and child support; whereas, in a divorce action, the court can also order alimony and a division of the assets and liabilities.

If an unmarried couple does not have children, neither a custody action nor a divorce action can be filed in family court.  Instead, the couple can file a partition action in civil court to address real estate issues. However, no alimony or a division of other assets, such as pensions, can be awarded because the couple did not marry.


No-Fault Divorce in Connecticut

Connecticut statutes determine how a marriage can be terminated.  Under C.G.S. sec 46b-40 (a), a marriage is dissolved only by (1) the death of one of the parties or (2) a decree of annulment or dissolution of the marriage by a court of competent jurisdiction. In the "olden days," a party had to allege and prove fault such as adultery or willful desertion in order to be granted a divorce.

Now a party can simply allege and prove that the marriage has "broken down irretrievably" in order to be granted a divorce. This is referred to as a no-fault divorce. If a party would like to allege fault in the complaint, he/she is free to do so but it is not required. Most often, a party simply states that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Even though fault does not have to be alleged in the complaint, it can become a major factor in determining the various aspects of a divorce such as alimony and property division. Another way to view it is that fault can become a part of a divorce case through the backdoor. It is not needed to start and obtain a divorce, but it is often considered when determining the financial matters such as alimony and the division of assets.