Month: February 2019

What is an Educational Support Order?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

Does the Court have the Authority to Order a Party to Contribute to a Child’s College Expenses? 

Yes.  Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(a), the Court has jurisdiction to enter an order requiring one or both parents to provide support for a child to attend 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 for a total of four full academic years.  

Are there any Prerequisites for the Court to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Yes.  The Court may not enter an educational support order unless the Court finds, as a matter of fact, that it is more likely than not that the parents would have provided support for a child’s higher education or private occupational school, had the family remained intact.  

What does the Court Consider in Determining Whether to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(c), in determining whether to enter an educational support order, the Court shall consider all relevant circumstances, including: (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. 

What Expenses Qualify as “Educational Expenses?”

An educational support order may include support for any necessary educational expenses, including room, board, dues, tuition, fees, registration and application costs, books, and medical insurance.  

What is the Maximum Amount of an Educational Support Order?

An educational support order may not exceed the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student at the time the child matriculates.  The “UConn cap” applies to the entire educational support order for both parents.

Could Parties Agree to Alternate Arrangements regarding Educational Support Orders?

Yes.  The “UConn cap” may be exceeded by the parties by agreement.

When can the Court enter an Educational Support Order?

The Court may enter an educational support order at the time of a decree of dissolution, legal separation, or annulment.  The Court may reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date.  This is usually done in cases of young children.  If the Court does not reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date, then no educational support order may be entered thereafter.  If the Court does reserve jurisdiction, a party may petition the Court to enter an educational support order at a later date.  

When do Educational Support Orders Terminate? 

An educational support order must terminate no later than a child’s attaining age twenty-three.

Could an Educational Support Order be entered for a Child’s Graduate School Expenses?

No, the Court does not have jurisdiction to enter an educational support order for a child’s graduate or postgraduate education beyond a bachelor’s degree.  However, parties may agree to be responsible for and share these expenses.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience in addressing disputes related to a child’s post-secondary educational support throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut, whether the issue arises incident to a dissolution of marriage action or post-judgment.

Should I Hire a Private Investigator for my Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Private investigation of issues in a high conflict divorce can be extremely helpful and an efficient method of fact gathering prior to and during a divorce, as well as post-dissolution.

How Can I Locate Hidden Assets?

A private investigator may uncover jointly held assets that were wrongfully transferred into solely held accounts, which is prohibited in Connecticut upon initiation of a divorce action.  It is not uncommon for a spouse to suspect that funds are being diverted into undisclosed assets. An investigator can help with finding them and your attorney may in turn seek a court order to restore the funds or account for them at the conclusion of the divorce.

How do I Track Improper Transfers?

An experienced private investigator may be able to search databases and records to identify wrongful financial conduct.  In a Connecticut divorce, expenditures made by a spouse for a purpose outside of the marriage (such as gambling or an affair) can often be quantified and may in some cases constitute what is called a dissipation claim for the other spouse to receive a credit when assets are divided.  Having a trained professional obtain this information rather than doing it yourself may be critical to the process of presenting evidence later to ensure admissibility because wrongfully obtained information may be ruled inadmissible in court proceedings. 

How do I Catch my Cheating Spouse?

A picture is worth a thousand words.  In some cases, a picture or video surveillance of a spouse’s conduct can be used in a variety of ways, not just proof of infidelity.  For example, to show the spouse who is claiming inability to be gainfully employed pictured on the golf course or at the casino on a week day.  Sometimes the situation is reversed, and a spouse wants to know whether s/he is being tracked, surveilled or hacked by the other.  A private investigator can conduct a sweep of the residence, vehicle, phone and computer to find out.

How can I Prove Cohabitation?

A former spouse paying alimony finds out that the recipient spouse is in a relationship and needs to know whether it is to the level warranting a reduction or termination of alimony payments under the cohabitation statute.  Cohabitation requires proof of living together and a measurable economic benefit to the alimony recipient.  “Living together” does not necessarily mean residing together under the same roof at a single address.  A court can find that spending several nights a week together satisfies the requirement, depending on the situation.  Surveillance is one of the best ways to demonstrate the actual time spent together.

How do I Prove a Parent is Unfit?

In a custody action, one parent may want to show that the other parent is not appropriately parenting, for example, driving the children in a vehicle without car seats/restraints, or driving them while under the influence.  Perhaps surveillance would show that the parent on duty left small children unattended at a park or other public place or perhaps show permissive behavior such as allowing teens to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana.

Another reality for divorcing parents includes the introduction by a spouse of his/her romantic partner to the children.  Sometimes a good way to alleviate some anxiety in this situation is to have a private investigator run a background check on the romantic partner.

Whatever the situation, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, have significant experience involving private investigators in developing the right legal strategy to optimize the desired result whether financial or custodial.

Common Law Marriage and Cohabitation Agreements in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Andy M. Eliot

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Connecticut?

No.  It is a common misconception that if unmarried couples reside together for a long enough period of time in Connecticut, a “Common Law” marriage is created, from which certain legal rights (such as alimony or property distribution rights) arise.  In fact, Common Law marriage is not recognized in Connecticut and, accordingly, no legal rights or consequences are accorded to unmarried couples who may reside together in a long-term romantic relationship.

Are there any Exceptions to the General Rule that Common Law Marriage is not Recognized in Connecticut?

There is one narrow exception to this general rule.  Generally, the validity of a marriage in Connecticut is determined by the law of the state in which the relationship was created.  Accordingly, if a couple established a Common Law marriage in a state that recognizes such relationships, the Common Law marriage that was established in the other state will be recognized in Connecticut.  The law of the state in which the common law marriage was claimed to have been contracted will determine the existence and validity of such a relationship.

May Unmarried Couples Enter into Binding Legal Agreements from Which Financial Rights and Obligations Arise?

Yes.  It is not uncommon for couples who are involved in a committed relationship, but who do not wish or intend to marry, to desire that certain financial rights and obligations that might otherwise only arise by way of marriage apply to them.  While cohabitation alone does not create any contractual relationship between cohabitating parties, or impose other legal duties upon such parties, in such scenarios the parties may enter into a written agreement, commonly referred to as a “Cohabitation Agreement.”

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a contract between unmarried cohabitants which allows the parties to contract to certain financial rights and obligations arising from their relationship, notwithstanding their intention to remain unmarried.  The state of Connecticut recognizes the legal validity of such agreements.  Typically, such agreements address rights and obligations pertaining to financial support (akin to alimony), or distribution of property in the event the relationship ends.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Enforceable in the same Manner as Divorce Agreements?

NoAlthough Cohabitation Agreements are recognized in Connecticut, financial disputes between unmarried cohabitants emanating from such agreements must be resolved by means outside the statutory scheme for dissolution of marriage.  Specifically, this means that Cohabitation Agreements must be considered under general contract principles.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have experience drafting and negotiating Cohabitation Agreements for clients throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.

Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut?

To commence a divorce action in Connecticut, the Plaintiff must plead a statutory approved ground for seeking the divorce.  You cannot simply plead: “I do not want to be married.”  If a Court finds sufficient evidence to support a finding that the ground occurred, it has jurisdiction to grant the divorce.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40(c), the only permissible grounds are as follows:

  1. The marriage has broken down irretrievably;
  2. The parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the eighteen months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect that they will be reconciled;
  3. For purposes of this statute, “adultery” means voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than such person’s spouse;
  4. Fraudulent contract;
  5. Willful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty;
  6. Seven years’ absence, during all of which period the absent party has not been heard from;
  7. Habitual intemperance;
  8. Intolerable cruelty;
  9. Sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year; and
  10. Legal confinement in a hospital or hospitals or other similar institution or institutions, because of mental illness, for at least an accumulated period totaling five years within the period of six years next preceding the date of the complaint.

Can I Plead More than One Ground in a Divorce? 

Yes, you can plead more than one ground in a divorce.  However, except for rare circumstances, a party almost always solely pleads “the marriage has broken down irretrievably.”  This is because it requires minimal proof, i.e. one question “Has your marriage broken down irretrievably?”, whereas the other grounds may require substantial discovery, opposition, time, and resources to ultimately arrive at the same result, which is the granting of a divorce.

Is Connecticut a Fault Divorce State? 

No, Connecticut is a “no fault” divorce state.   In 1973 the Connecticut Legislature passed Public Act 73-373 which amended Connecticut General Statutes (“C.G.S.”) §46-32 (now known as §46b-40) to permit a divorce upon a finding that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  Commonly, this is known as the “no-fault” divorce statute.  In Joy v. Joy, 178 Conn. 254, 256, (1979) the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the statute was constitutional.

Can Infidelity Affect Alimony?

Yes, the cause of the breakdown of the marriage can affect alimony and property orders.  Thus, even though a Court is not required to determine if a party was a fault for the marriage ending, the Court may consider the causes of the breakdown of the marriage when making financial orders.  Courts have found substance abuse, physical abuse, dissipation of assets in contemplation of divorce, and/or infidelity to be the cause of the breakdown of the marriage and have financially compensated the spouse who did not cause the breakdown of the marriage.  Conversely, Courts have found a spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage but did not financially compensate the other spouse.  This discrepancy is due to the Court having wide discretion when applying the numerous statutory criteria to the unique facts and circumstances of each case.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law, and divorce. As experienced divorce trial lawyers we understand how to effectively present “cause of the breakdown” issues to the Court, as well as how to “value” your case for settlement purposes.