Year: 2016

CHILD SUPPORT PART II: THE CONNECTICUT CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES

As discussed in Part I of this series, child support is the obligation that a parent has to contribute to the financial costs of raising their child. Child support must be determined in the following actions in which the parties have minor children: dissolution of marriage, annulment of marriage, legal separation, or child custody proceedings. A court is required to consider a multitude of factors as listed in Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-84(a). In addition to these factors, Connecticut has adopted the Child Support Guidelines, which must also be considered by a court.

Divorce attorneys in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westport, are familiar with both the statutory criteria and the Child Support Guidelines, and at Broder and Orland, LLC, our attorneys are skilled at understanding and applying the law and the nuances of determining child support.

At their most basic level the Child Support Guidelines are a mathematical formula based off of the Income Shares Model. The Income Shares Model takes into account the incomes of both parents and presumes that a child in a divorcing family should receive the same portion of parental income that he/she would have received if the parents had continued living together. The Child Support Guidelines use the Income Shares Model to determine an appropriate amount of the parents’ combined income that should be designated as child support.

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DIVIDING QUALIFIED RETIREMENT PLANS IN A DIVORCE VIA QDRO

For many divorcing couples in Connecticut, retirement assets — such as 401k plans, pension plans or IRA accounts — represent a substantial portion of the marital estate. This tends to be especially true in marriages of long duration. Accordingly, it is not surprising that many of our clients express concerns about whether they will be entitled to share in retirement assets that are titled in their spouse’s name and, if so, what this will look like. Just like assets such as bank accounts, real estate, cars or jewelry, retirement assets are a form of property that can be divided at the time of a divorce. In fact, the division of retirement assets is often a critical component of a divorce settlement or divorce decree.

As an initial matter, it is important to understand that many different kinds of retirement assets exist, and that they are all divisible in a divorce in one form or another. The focus of this article, however, is on employer-sponsored “qualified” retirement plans, which are retirement plans that are afforded special favorable tax treatment because they satisfy certain federal requirements. Common examples of qualified retirement plans that may comprise part of a marital estate are 401(k) plans or pension plans. Fortunately, for divorcing couples, there is a mechanism called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (commonly referred to as a “QDRO”), pursuant to which qualified retirement plans may be divided between divorcing spouses (whether at a 50/50 allocation, or otherwise) without these funds losing their favorable tax treatment and without application of any early withdrawal penalties. In short, a QDRO is a judicial order that assigns to the non-titled spouse (referred to as the “Alternate Payee”) the right to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable to the titled spouse (referred to as the “Participant”) under a qualified retirement plan.

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LEGAL SEPARATION V. DIVORCE

Often clients come into our office asking about the difference between obtaining a legal separation and obtaining a dissolution of marriage, the term used in Connecticut for a divorce. The common misconception is that a legal separation can be obtained more quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively than a divorce. The only significant difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that parties to a legal separation are not permitted to get remarried, but the parties pursuing a legal separation have to go through the same process as they would if they were pursuing a divorce, including the time and fees required to accomplish same.

There are two common reasons that top divorce attorneys in Greenwich, Westport, Stamford, Darien, and New Canaan encounter for clients seeking a legal separation over a dissolution of marriage. The first most common reason is that the parties may be unwilling to seek a dissolution of marriage for religious reasons, but may be unwilling to continue to live together or rely upon an informal agreement for living apart.

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WHAT DIVORCE PROCESS IS RIGHT FOR ME? PART II – COLLABORATIVE

The previous post discussed mediation and this post will continue with collaborative divorce.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

Collaborative divorce offers an alternative between mediation and litigation. In a strict collaborative process, the divorcing couple executes a contract binding each other and his or her respective attorney to the non-adversarial process and disqualifying the attorney’s right to represent his or her client in any future litigation. The collaborative process generally follows the same track as the mediation process, with the exception that each spouse is represented by an attorney instead of having a mediator facilitate the process.

The major advantage of collaborative divorce compared to mediation is the fact that each spouse is represented by an attorney. First, this generally provides a person with added comfort since his or she will have an experienced advocate on his or her side, which means the spouses will not have to navigate through potentially complex issues alone. Second, representation should help level the proverbial playing field, since an experienced family law attorney should have the requite knowledge and skills to: (a) request production of the necessary information and documents and (b) analyze the information and documents on behalf of the client to properly advise the client as to reasonable settlement options related to legal custody, physical custody, alimony, child support, housing, division of bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, and the division of personal property. Third, on the date of the divorce, each spouse will be represented by an attorney in court, instead of going through the uncontested divorce hearing unrepresented.

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PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS IN CT PART 1: SHOULD I HAVE A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT?

Many brides and grooms in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport often wonder whether or not they should enter into a Prenuptial Agreement, sometimes called a Premarital Agreement, prior to getting married. In Fairfield County, Connecticut, Prenuptial Agreements have become more common in light of factors such as the high rate of divorce and the trend toward people marrying later in life after having amassed wealth.

In general terms, a Prenuptial Agreement is a contract that two people sign prior to getting married that outlines how assets and income will be treated in the event of a divorce, and oftentimes, when one spouse predeceases the other. These agreements can cover other topics as well, such as how a couple will share expenses after they are married or how a marital home will be purchased and maintained during the marriage. A Prenuptial Agreement can be as comprehensive and detailed as a particular couple wants to make it. At Broder & Orland, LLC, we tailor each Prenuptial Agreement to suit a particular couple’s needs.

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EMERGENCY MOTIONS

In Connecticut, divorces, post judgement motions and child custody issues can sometimes take months or even years to be resolved. Experienced divorce lawyers who practice in Westport, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan and who are faced with an issue in a case that requires immediate court intervention will consider applying for a restraining order, protective order or temporary injunction. These “emergency motions” are often the most efficient way to get a temporary decision on a time-sensitive issue; they are usually presented to the Court along with an affidavit signed by the applicant (the party requesting the relief) and decided based on the Application itself (without a hearing) on an ex parte basis (without notice to the Respondant).

Restraining and Protective Orders. Applications for Restraining Orders and Protective Orders are requests for judicial intervention and orders to confine the respondent’s actions or prohibit specific behavior for a brief period pending notice and hearing. In Connecticut, restraining orders and protective orders are typically filed when there is a continuous threat of imminent physical harm to the applicant or the applicant’s children. There are different types and levels of relief that are available, ranging from orders that the Respondent not contact the Applicant, orders that the Respondent must leave the marital home, to orders of temporary custody of minor children. The Applicant may also request certain limited financial orders in conjunction with a Restraining Order.

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PARENTING PLANS IN CONNECTICUT DIVORCE CASES

I am often asked, “What is a typical parenting plan in a divorce case”? Many people believe (assuming the mother works part-time or is a “stay-at-home” mother and the father works full time) that the children will be with the father as follows: (a) every other weekend from Friday evening through Sunday at dinner time and (b) have dinner with him one evening a week. While this may have been common practice 20 or 30 years ago, it is no longer typical.

Many top Fairfield County divorce lawyers will tell you that the every other weekend concept more commonly (a) starts on Friday and ends on the return to school Monday morning, or (b) starts on Thursday after school and extends to Sunday evening or Monday morning. A major factor in this determination is where both parties live and work in relation thereto. If the parties reside in, for example, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Stamford, Westport or Fairfield, and the father commutes to New York City, and has little flexibility with his work schedule, then the parenting plan would be more reflective of those from 25 years ago. However, if the father has some flexibility or works close to where he lives then it is more common for every other weekend to expand and have an additional midweek overnight.

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STARTING THE DIVORCE PROCESS

You finally summoned the courage to call a “divorce attorney.” Now what?

For many clients, the most difficult day of the entire divorce, is the day initial contact is made with a divorce attorney. Thoughts of divorce may have been festering for a long time. Or sometimes, there is a spontaneous revelation such as the discovery of an e-mail or a text message, which prompts that call. Regardless of the reason, the actual prospect that you may be divorced suddenly hits you in the face once you start the process. It is a scary proposition for most.

Clients are often referred to divorce attorneys through other people, including friends, family, therapists, and financial planners. Others, because they don’t have these personal contacts on which to rely or because they choose to be discreet, find their divorce attorney on line.

It is most typical that a brief phone conversation takes place between the attorney and potential client, after an initial conflicts check is performed. This serves as a preliminary screening to determine whether it is appropriate to set up an initial office consultation and also includes a discussion of the financial terms of that consultation. Some lawyers in Westport, Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, charge a fee for an initial office consultation; others do not. It is important to discuss that during the preliminary phone conversation.

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CHILD SUPPORT PART I: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

“How can I ensure the financial well-being of my children?” is one of the most frequent questions posed to divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport. Divorce is a difficult time for families and all parents want to know that their children will be taken care of both during the pendency of the litigation and long after the final papers are signed. Obtaining support for minor children is therefore one of the most significant issues in a divorce or separation proceeding, and Connecticut courts take the matter very seriously.

Child support cases can sometimes become difficult, depending on the particular circumstances of a given case. This multi-part series will discuss some of the major issues and considerations associated with child support in Connecticut.

Child support stems from a parent’s statutory and common law duty to support his or her minor children. Support payments are meant to cover a broad range of expenses for the minor child, including but not limited to basic necessities such as shelter, food and clothing. Under most circumstances a parent has a duty to support his or her minor child until that child is emancipated or reaches the age of eighteen; in the case where a child does not graduate high school by the age of eighteen, child support payments typically continue until the earlier of the child’s graduation from high school or the child’s nineteenth birthday. Child support is typically paid from one parent to the other parent on a monthly or weekly basis. Payments can be made via cash, check, direct deposit or through a wage withholding order on the payor’s earnings.

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