Month: April 2018

Common Myths With Respect to Child Support In Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Myth #1: There is no child support awarded in cases where parenting time is shared equally or nearly equally
  • Myth #2: Child support is meant to cover all of the costs of raising a child
  • Myth #3: Child support is paid until the children turn 21

Child Support is Sometimes Awarded in Cases Where There is Shared Custody

Clients in Greenwich and Stamford hear several myths and misconceptions about child support in Connecticut, which is determined in accordance with the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines.  At Broder & Orland LLC, one of our roles is to educate our clients about Connecticut law on child support so that they can make informed decisions when negotiating or litigating their cases.

Many clients are under the impression that a shared parenting plan, in which the parties share physical custody of the children, means that no child support will be paid from one party to the other.  Some divorce litigants in Fairfield County actually try to negotiate a shared parenting schedule because they think that it will exempt them from having to pay child support to the other party.  They can even go so far as to insist on an exact fifty-fifty parenting schedule for this reason.

Under the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines, shared physical custody is defined as “a situation in which the physical residence of the child is shared in a manner that ensures the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.”  In other words, the parenting time with the child or children does not have to be exactly equal for it to be considered shared physical custody under the Child Support Guidelines.  This is a common misconception that divorce clients have.  If a party has six out of fourteen overnights, that schedule would be considered shared physical custody.

In situations where there is shared physical custody, the Child Support Guidelines provide that child support should be paid by the party with the higher net weekly income to the party with the lower net weekly income in the amount set forth in the guidelines.

Parties can deviate from the Child Support Guidelines in shared physical custody cases, meaning that they can choose not to have the party who earns more pay child support to the other party, or they can choose to have that party pay a lesser amount of child support than prescribed by the guidelines.  Connecticut law supports such a deviation where: 1) the shared physical custody arrangement substantially reduces expenses for the parent with the lower income; or 2) the shared physical custody arrangement substantially increases expenses for the parent with the higher income; and, if one of the two former conditions is met, 3) sufficient funds are available for the parent with the lower income to meet the needs of the child.  Parties can also deviate in a shared physical custody case where their incomes are substantially equal.

Unless parties deviate from the Child Support Guidelines, as described above, a shared physical custody arrangement does not exempt the party who earns more from paying child support.

I Pay Child Support. Why Do I Have to Pay for Anything Else for My Child?

This is a question that we hear often at Broder & Orland LLC.  Child support is meant to be a contribution toward the basic household expenses incident to raising a child, such as food, clothing, and the child’s share of shelter expenses.  Connecticut’s Child Support Guidelines set forth the formula for determining the amount of child support to be paid in a given case based on the parties’ combined net weekly incomes.  The Child Support Guidelines are uniformly applicable throughout the state; there are no “Fairfield County” guidelines that take into account the fact that the cost of living in Fairfield County is much higher than it is in other parts of the state.

Child support does not include, however, all expenses incident to raising a child.  For example, extracurricular activities, work-related childcare, and unreimbursed medical expenses are not covered by the child support paid from one parent to another. Typically, the payment of these expenses is allocated between the parties pursuant to a settlement or final divorce judgment in a case.

Child Support in Connecticut Does Not Extend Until the Child Turns 21

Fairfield County divorce clients who work in New York are often surprised to learn that child support does not extend until a child’s twenty-first birthday because, in New York, that is the law.  In Connecticut, child support ends upon a child attaining the age of eighteen, but if the child is still in high school upon attaining the age of eighteen, child support ends when the child graduates high school or turns nineteen, whichever event happens first.  For parents who expect that their children will live primarily with them during school breaks and summers home from college, this can be disappointing news, as that parent will shoulder more of the financial burden related to the children during those years.  Sometimes, we factor this in as part of alimony negotiations in order to assist the parent who will be housing and feeding a college-age child the majority of the time.

Contact a Top Fairfield County Divorce Attorney to Discuss Connecticut Child Support Law

At Broder & Orland LLC, we can discuss with you how the law regarding child support applies to the particular facts of your case.

 

Are Communications With My Therapist or Marriage Counselor Admissible in Court?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • There are statutes in Connecticut that protect communications between individuals and certain treatment providers
  • The communications between a psychiatrist and patient as well as a psychologist and patient may be privileged if the communications occurred during diagnosis or treatment
  • Communications with a marriage or family therapist are privileged as long as the counselor has met certain certification qualifications

Divorce litigants in Fairfield County, Connecticut often ask whether or not statements made during therapy are subject to disclosure during divorce proceedings. Sometimes, people are afraid of saying something in marriage counseling or therapy that may “hurt” their divorce case. Most of the time, this concern is unnecessary. The laws of the state of Connecticut recognize that there are certain communications between individuals which should remain private and confidential. In fact, there are statutes in Connecticut which specifically provide criteria for determining whether communications with psychologists, psychiatrists, and marriage or family therapists are privileged. Whether or not communications are privileged really depends on the circumstances of the therapy as well as the qualifications of the therapist. For this reason, it can be helpful for potential clients to understand the nuances of the privilege in advance of engaging a marriage counselor or therapist.

Psychologist/Patient Privilege

Connecticut General Statutes §52-146(c) details exactly what is considered a privileged communication between psychologist and patient. Generally speaking, for a communication between psychologist and patient to be considered as privileged, it must have occurred during consultation for purposes of diagnosis and treatment. This means that if you have a casual conversation with friend who is a psychologist, for example, you should not expect that communication to be privileged. The statute further requires that the psychologist be licensed to practice pursuant to state law.

Psychiatrist/Patient Privilege

Similar to the psychologist-patient privilege, the privilege between a psychiatrist and patient extends to any written or oral communications, or records, related to the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. The relevant statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-142(c)(a), defines a psychiatrist as someone who licensed to practice medicine and spends a substantial portion of his or her time devoted to the practice of psychiatry.

Marriage and Family Therapist

It would be very difficult to make any progress in marriage therapy if each party was afraid that his or her words could ultimately be used against that party. Accordingly, there is a statute in Connecticut that specifically addresses those communications that are made in marriage counseling or in family therapy. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. S52-146p, communications (written or oral) with a marriage or family therapist are considered privileged as long as the therapist is certified by the Connecticut Department of Health Services as a Marital and Family Therapist.

Waiving the Statutory Privilege

Generally, in order for privileged communications to be admissible in Court, there must be consent of the patient. In family or marriage therapy, which includes more than one person in treatment, communications remain confidential unless all of the parties to the therapy consent to the therapist disclosing communications. However, the statutes provide some exceptions to the requirement for consent, in limited circumstances. One example is if a party has introduced his or her psychological condition as an element of his or her claim, such as in a custody dispute, the communications may be disclosed without consent.

At Broder & Orland LLC we are experienced in divorce cases that involve psychologists, psychiatrists and marriage counselors and have litigated issues regarding privileged communications in courts throughout the state, including Stamford, Bridgeport, and Danbury.

Does Cheating Affect Child Support and Child Custody? Eric J. Broder Quoted in Romper, April 2018

 

Read both articles now:

Does Cheating Affect Child Support? Here’s When the Unfaithful Party May Have to Fork Over More

Does Cheating Affect Child Custody Arrangements? Here’s When Infidelity is Taken Into Consideration

The Connecticut Divorce and Children With Special Needs

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

  • In Connecticut, the divorce rate is higher for marriages involving children with special needs
  • Custody and Parenting Plans in a case where families have children with special needs often differ from more “typical” divorce cases
  • Alimony, Child Support, and Equitable Distribution of Assets need to be analyzed differently when you have children with special needs

There is a wide body of research confirming that parents of children with special needs have a higher divorce rate than those without special needs children.  As Connecticut divorce lawyers with offices in Greenwich and Westport, our firm has represented many parents of children with special needs.

As I have learned through my discussions with many parents of special needs children and with child therapists, one reason for the increased divorce rate among this group is that raising a special needs child often places many difficult and unforeseen challenges and stresses upon a family. Often there is very little, if any, “down time” for parents of special needs children, and little time to devote to each other, such as having a simple date night.

When a family with a special needs child goes through a divorce, the issues of child custody, visitation/parenting plans, alimony, child support, and the equitable distribution of assets can become more difficult to negotiate, and often require a greater deal of attention and analysis in order to ensure that the child’s needs are adequately addressed.

Custody in Cases Involving Children with Special Needs

In the case of a child with special needs, the hope is that the parents can share joint legal custody of the child, meaning that the parents consult with each other with respect to all major issues concerning the child (such as medical, educational, and religious issues), so that all major decisions are made jointly.  When parents share joint legal custody of a child, each parent has an equal voice and neither parent has greater decision-making authority than the other parent.  In the event the parties cannot agree upon joint custody and one or both parties is seeking “sole custody” of a child (wherein one parent has the right to make final decisions regarding a child in the event the parties cannot agree upon an issue), the process becomes much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive.  In such scenarios, a Guardian Ad Litem will often be appointed, the costs of which will paid for by the parties.  That individual will spend a great deal of time talking not only to the parents and the child, but also to any mental health professionals, teachers, caregivers, friends, and family that know the child and/or the parents well, or provide professional services to the child. Simply, your child’s entire community can become involved in the case.

Parenting Plans for Children with Special Needs

Connecticut divorce parenting plans for children with special needs often require approaches that differ from traditional parenting plans and in such scenarios there is not really a “typical” plan.  In order to devise a plan that adequately addresses a child’s special needs, it is strongly recommended that parents work together with the child’s medical provider and/or mental health professional.  For example, transitions between houses are often an issue that must be appropriately addressed.

Is Alimony different in Cases Involving Children with Special Needs?

The amount and term of alimony can differ in cases involving a child with special needs if the child’s needs require one of the parents to stay home to provide extra care. Accordingly, this parent will not be able to work or develop a career as easily as others. In these circumstances, a solution may be a longer alimony term for the recipient.

Is Child Support different in Cases Involving Children with Special Needs?

The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines do not specifically address or have any separate designation for children with special needs. However, there can be a deviation from the standard child support amount based upon consideration of a child’s special needs. Typically, child support ends at the later of a child reaching the age of 18 or graduating from high school but not later than the age of 19. In the case of a child with special needs, however, child support may be extended until age 21.  In addition to regular child support, any and all unreimbursed medical expenses (including appropriate child care expenses) will be apportioned between the parents subject to their financial situations.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of a child’s special needs, there may be other entitlements available to the child such as social security disability.

Equitable Distribution of Assets

In dividing assets, parties who have the financial ability to set aside funds for the care of a special needs child will often do so through a special needs trust. It is also strongly recommended that a Trust and Estates lawyer be involved to help the parties plan properly for the future care of their child.

With offices located in Greenwich and Westport, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC have extensive experience in negotiating and drafting divorce agreements involving children with special needs and we offer comprehensive guidance through the wide range of issues that arise during a divorce.

Post-Divorce Housekeeping

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • Post-divorce housekeeping items require your immediate attention
  • Attend to provisions relating to your Parenting Plan and financial distribution
  • Utilize your attorney, accountant, counselor and other professionals to effectuate terms
  • Keeping good records will be critical for post-divorce enforcement

So now you are divorced. But before you close the book, there is one more chapter which requires your attention. That is: Post-Divorce Housekeeping. It is critical that you take certain steps to make sure the provisions of your Separation Agreement (if your case was settled) or the Court’s Judgment of Dissolution (if your case went to trial) are effectuated. You should carefully review one more time whichever of these documents pertains to your situation with an eye toward what must be done. Divorce attorneys who practice in Westport and Greenwich will typically provide you with a checklist or a summary of follow-up items. As much as you may want to leave your divorce in the rear-view mirror, it is important to tie up all the loose ends.

Below is an example of the more common post-divorce items that require attention. It is by no means exhaustive and every case is different, so make sure to consult with your divorce attorney for the particulars of your situation:

  • Discuss any changes in your Parenting Plan with your children, utilizing the support of a counselor when appropriate.
  • Notify your children’s school and activity providers that the divorce is final and arrange for progress reports and notices to be sent to each parent.
  • Convert all joint bank and brokerage accounts to individual accounts.
  • Effectuate all money transfers.
  • Arrange for direct payments of alimony and/or child support.
  • Attend to any title transfers or refinancing of real property.
  • If real property is to be sold, enlist a broker, following the terms of your Separation Agreement or Judgment.
  • Transfer title to all vehicles as necessary.
  • Deactivate joint credit cards.
  • Attend to beneficiary changes for life insurance and retirement accounts.
  • Obtain any additional life insurance you are obligated to provide.
  • Make sure your attorney has arranged for the drafting and implementation of any QDROs which are necessary to divide certain qualified retirement plans.
  • Notify your health insurer of change in covered individuals and arrange for COBRA, if applicable.
  • Contact your accountant about changes in filing status.
  • If you are an alimony recipient, discuss with your accountant the need for quarterly estimates (discuss new tax provisions effective 1/1/19).
  • Change your Will and estate planning documents.

It is important to be organized and efficient with post-divorce items. Keep good records. If your ex-spouse fails to comply with his or her obligations, ask your attorney to follow up with written correspondence to opposing counsel. If that doesn’t work, it may be necessary to file a Motion for Contempt, which could mean a return to Court and an evidentiary hearing. Having good records will be critical in proving your case.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we are careful to advise our clients about post-divorce items, which require attention.  We understand the importance of follow-through to effectuate the terms of the Separation Agreement or Judgment of Dissolution.  In certain cases we may get involved in handling the enforcement of those terms, as well.