Category: Divorce

My Spouse Wants A Divorce, But I Don’t – What Can I Do?

Do I Need To Consent To A Divorce?

No. In Connecticut, only one spouse needs to file for divorce. The other spouse does not need to consent to a Connecticut divorce action being filed.

What Are My Options If I Don’t Want A Divorce?

Once a divorce action has been filed by one spouse, there are limited options for the other spouse. Couples could attempt marriage counseling, or a party could request that the case be put on conciliation Status.

What Is Conciliation Status?

Conciliation status gives the parties an opportunity to work on their marriage with a conciliator while a divorce action is pending. Conciliation status is governed by Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-53.

When Can I File For Conciliation Status?

A party in a Connecticut divorce may file for conciliation status on or after the return date of a complaint and prior to the expiration date of the ninety-day waiting period after the return date of a complaint.

Does My Spouse Need To Consent To Conciliation Status?

After a request for conciliation status has been submitted to the clerk, the clerk shall forthwith enter an Order that the parties meet with a mutually acceptable conciliator, and if they cannot agree as to a conciliator, then with a conciliator named by the court.

Who Is An Acceptable Conciliator?

The conciliator must be a clergyman, a physician, a domestic relations officer, or a person experienced in marriage counseling.

Are The Meetings With The Conciliator Mandatory?

Yes. There shall be two mandatory consultations with the conciliator by each party to explore the possibility of reconciliation or of resolving the emotional problems which might lead to continuing conflicts following the dissolution of marriage.

What Happens If A Party Does Not Attend The Mandatory Meetings?

Failure of either party to attend the two mandatory meetings, except for good cause, shall preclude further action on the complaint until the expiration of six months from the date of the return date of the complaint; provided, the court may order the termination of such stay, upon a Motion of either party for good cause shown.

Can We Attend More Than The Two Mandatory Meetings?

Yes. Further consultations may be held if both parties consent, or if the conciliator recommends additional consultations and either one of the parties agrees, the court may order additional consultations.

Are Conciliation Sessions Privileged?

Yes. All communications during these sessions are absolutely privileged, except the conciliator shall report to the court whether or not the parties attended the consultations.

Can A Divorce Action Be Withdrawn?

Yes. A Connecticut divorce action may be unilaterally withdrawn by the plaintiff, however, if a cross-complaint has been filed by the defendant, the divorce can proceed on the defendant’s cross-complaint.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, we understand that going through a divorce can be a difficult process. We regularly work with and refer parties to therapists and mental health professionals in order to assist one or both parties with issues they may face during the proceedings. In the event, the divorce action does proceed, our skilled attorneys will be there to guide you through the process from start to finish.

How Are 401(k), IRA & Pension Assets Divided In A Connecticut Divorce?

Unless there is a prenuptial or postnuptial or divorce agreement that provides otherwise, retirement accounts will be allocated between the spouses in a divorce. Even if a retirement account is titled in the name of one spouse, or is an employer-sponsored plan, there are still ways to either divide the plan between the parties or to use other assets to offset it in equitable distribution.

Determine What Type Of Retirement Account Do You Have.

Retirement plans are either qualified or non-qualified. The most common types of qualified retirement accounts are 401(k)s, 403(b)s, SEP-IRAs, profit-sharing plans, and certain pension plans. A qualified retirement plan is one that meets guidelines issued by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regarding participation, vesting, benefit accrual, and fund information. When a retirement plan meets ERISA guidelines, it is considered a “qualified” plan and is eligible for certain tax benefits.

Non-qualified retirement plans include certain IRAs, deferred compensation plans, executive bonus plans, and annuities.

When you are getting divorced, it is important to know whether a retirement account is a qualified plan or a non-qualified plan in order to determine whether it is divisible via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. If your plan documents do not specifically state whether the account is qualified, you will have to check with the plan administrator.

What Is A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a Court Order that instructs a retirement plan administrator how to divide a retirement account between parties. If a retirement account is a qualified plan and can be divided by QDRO, the retirement account is capable of being separated between the parties without penalty. This is preferable because the non-employee spouse’s share can be deposited into a separate account, allowing for each party to manage his or her portion of the retirement funds individually.

Most divorce decrees will set forth the specific division of the retirement account that is agreed upon by the parties (or ordered by a Judge after a divorce trial), and provide for the parties to jointly hire an individual whose expertise is in the drafting of QDROs to prepare the QDRO and submit it to the Court for approval. Once approved by the Judge, the QDRO will be sent to the retirement plan administrator to effectuate the division of the account.

How Do We Divide A 401(k)?

As a qualified plan, a 401(k) is capable of being divided between spouses by QDRO. Accordingly, you and your spouse can either agree to divide the account by percentage or by dollar amount.

How Do We Divide An IRA?

IRAs can typically be divided using a process known as a “transfer incident to divorce.” Also called an IRA “rollover,” this process does not require a separate court order and can be accomplished by the parties themselves without the need to hire a specialized lawyer. Like a QDRO, an IRA rollover transaction is not subject to taxes. Instead, each party is responsible for payment of taxes and any penalty on the distributions from the retirement account after the funds are divided between them. As with a 401(k), the account can be divided by percentage or amount.

How Do We Divide A Pension?

When you have a non-qualified pension or other deferred compensation that is not divisible by QDRO or rollover, you will need to be more creative in allocating the asset between the parties. Typically, this means negotiating a buy-out of one party’s equitable interest or a sharing of the distributions if, as, and when the employee spouse receives them.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced with the intricacies of dividing all types of retirement accounts and can help you take the appropriate legal steps to protect your rights to retirement accounts in your divorce.

Payment Of Expenses For “Adult” Children After Divorce – PART II

In a Connecticut divorce, are you legally obligated to provide financial support to adult children? In Part I, we discussed that if you have an adult child living with you, or you are providing financial assistance to your adult child and your monthly living expenses are increased as a result, those increased expenses are not automatically covered by an award of alimony. We also discussed how the payment of health insurance for children over the age of eighteen is typically handled.

In Part II, we will address the limited areas where the Court can order you to provide support for an adult child.

Can Child Support Extend Beyond The Age Of Eighteen?

In Connecticut, child support is paid until the child turns eighteen or nineteen if still in high school. However, there is an exception to this rule. If your child is mentally, physically, or intellectually disabled, and lives with you and is primarily dependent on you, child support can extend until age twenty-one.

If you have a child with special needs, it is important to discuss your child’s specific circumstances with your divorce counsel so that we can appropriately address the possibility of extended child support.

Do I Have An Obligation To Pay For College and Graduate School For My Children When Divorcing In Connecticut?

In Connecticut, the Court can enter orders requiring you and/or your spouse to provide support to your child to attend college (or similar vocational school) for a total of four full academic years, until your child turns twenty-three. Any order for your contribution to higher education is capped at the cost of in-state tuition at the University of Connecticut, and it may include any necessary expenses such as tuition, room, board, dues, fees, and registration and application costs.

If orders for educational support are requested prior to your child attaining the age of twenty-three, the Court will have jurisdiction to makes orders regarding the payment of undergraduate expenses based on the financial circumstances of you and your spouse. However, your child must also meet certain qualifications to continue to be eligible for the payments under an educational support order. For example, your child must be enrolled at an accredited institution and maintain good academic standing in accordance with the school rules.

In Connecticut, there is no legal obligation for you or your spouse to contribute to the cost of graduate school for your child. Even if your child is under the age of twenty-three, your obligation is limited to undergraduate education only.

If you and your spouse agree that you would like to contribute in excess of the University of Connecticut cap on undergraduate tuition, or you agree to pay for graduate school, that can be included in your Separation Agreement. This is often the case if parents have already saved for college or graduate school and have accounts specifically designated for those expenses. If so, it is important to address the accounts and your intentions for them in your divorce agreement, so that you can enforce your agreement if necessary at a later date.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, we understand the unique challenges that families face after divorce. We use our vast experience to assist our clients in the negotiation and drafting of agreements to preemptively address many of those challenges.

man thinking about how to handle parents divorce

Payment Of Expenses For “Adult” Children After Divorce – PART I

It is common for divorcing parents to have children who over the age of eighteen and considered to be adults by the State of Connecticut, however, they are not yet self-supporting. These adult children are in an in-between stage, perhaps looking for a job or even have a job but are still receiving financial assistance from mom and dad. Sometimes divorcing parents are in agreement about providing some level of financial support to adult children. In a contentious divorce, they may not agree. In that case, how are the expenses shared for adult children who are still reliant on divorcing parents for some level of support?

Generally, divorcing parents are not legally obligated to provide financial support to adult children.

If our adult child is living with me—does it factor into my expenses for alimony?

There are several factors that are considered in determining the appropriate alimony to be paid from one spouse to the other, and one factor is the needs of the alimony payee. If you have an adult child living with you, or you are providing financial assistance to your adult child and your monthly living expenses are increased as a result, those increased expenses are not automatically covered by an award of alimony.

This may seem unfair, particularly if you have a child who recently graduated from college and is trying to find a job while living at home. It is important to have an experienced attorney who can help you negotiate a settlement that may include some of these expenses.

Who Will Pay For Health Insurance For Our “Adult” Children After Divorce?

In Connecticut, divorcing parents are only required to maintain health insurance coverage for minor children until the later of the child reaching the age of 18 or graduating high school (but no later than the age of 19). While there is no legal obligation to do so, it is typical for a Separation Agreement to provide for continued health insurance coverage for children beyond age eighteen. Most Agreements contain a provision that the coverage in effect at the time of divorce will continue for so long as it remains available through an employer at a reasonable cost. Many divorcing parents, agree for health insurance to extend to age 26, the maximum allowable age limit in Connecticut, or until the child is able to secure health insurance through his/her own employer, spouse, or domestic partner. If this language is included in your Separation Agreement, you and/or your spouse have a legal obligation to continue to provide coverage for your adult children.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, we understand the unique challenges that families face after divorce. We use our vast experience to assist our clients in the negotiation and drafting of agreements to preemptively address many of those challenges.

Do you really want to act like Kellyanne and George?

Whatever the real deal is behind Kellyanne and George Conway’s marriage, one thing is for sure: publicly slinging arrows back and forth between them and with Donald Trump, is not in the best interests of their four children. It is remarkable how seemingly otherwise educated and high achieving people, have failed to recognize the damage they are doing to their family, or worse, do not care. 

Their 15-year old daughter, Claudia, is seeking to be emancipated. Whether that will happen or not, will be up to a judge but the fact that she is basically looking to free herself from the reins of her celebrity parents and doing so in a public forum is most concerning. We may never know the basis for Claudia pursuing emancipation, and it is none of our business, but it would not be hard to imagine what her claims may be. 

So Kellyanne is retreating to home to be “Mama” (after she speaks at the RNC much to the consternation of Claudia) and George is suspending his activities with The Lincoln Project although he has made it clear that he is PASSIONATE. ABOUT. IT. 

Because of the high profile of the parents, this situation is now getting a lot of press. But unfortunately, Kellyanne and George are not the only parents who carry out a public war to the detriment of their children. It happens on a regular basis, particularly between divorcing couples or those who have been divorced. The venom and animosity between the parents often blind them as to the damage they are doing to their children, damage that can last a lifetime and spill over into succeeding generations. 

It is understandable that certain parents, whether still in an “intact” family, or in the throes of divorce, or post-divorce, will have ill feelings toward each other. Each of them, however, would probably say they want their kids to be as unaffected as possible. Recognizing that it takes significant willpower and fortitude to refrain from bad behavior when one feels wronged, betrayed, hurt, and worse, it is critical that any negative interactions between parents occur privately and not in front of the kids. 

In Connecticut, everyone who has filed for divorce and who has minor children, are required to take a parent education course. Most of our clients have remarked that it has been very helpful. Sometimes its just not enough though. The situation requires more time or greater expertise. And of course, non- divorcing parents don’t have this course available to them, so they are on their own to find help. Co- parenting therapy is one vehicle that can be employed by parents in any relationship who cannot restrain themselves on their own. 

So, ask yourself, do you really want to act like Kellyanne and George? Do you really want your child to seek emancipation, like Claudia? Or can you get a handle on your behavior with your spouse or ex- spouse for the benefit of your children? Kellyanne and George have the luxury of leaving their jobs and returning home to their family. Most people are not in that position, but they do not need to be if they are continually sensitive to their children, despite their feelings about each other. Think about it. Your children deserve better. 

AT Broder & Orland LLC, a matrimonial and divorce practice in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut. we regularly counsel our clients about behaviors that impact their family. When appropriate, we consult with our client’s existing therapist, or refer our client to a therapist or other provider who can assist with ensuring that the children’s well-being is paramount.

Carole Topol Orland, Esq. 

Broder & Orland LLC 

8/24/20

Do I Have To Pay Alimony If My Ex-Spouse Is Cohabiting During COVID-19 Quarantine?

Regulations and orders from federal, state, and local governments are impacting the way we live during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout Connecticut, significant others, relatives, or even friends have temporarily moved in to together during the coronavirus stay-at-home orders. What, if anything, can be done regarding your alimony obligation if your ex-spouse is living together with someone during quarantine?

 

Can Connecticut Alimony Obligations Be Modified Based On Cohabitation?

In some situations, alimony can be modified based on your ex-spouse’s cohabitation. Connecticut General Statutes §46b-86b provides that alimony orders can be modified in order to suspend, reduce or terminate the payment of alimony if the court determines that the party receiving alimony is living with another person “under circumstances which the court finds should result in the modification, suspension, reduction or termination of alimony.” The court must make a finding that the living arrangements change the financial needs of the alimony payee.

 

Can I Just Stop Paying Alimony If I Think My Spouse Is Cohabiting?

Most of the time you should continue to pay your court-ordered alimony obligation until the Judge has made a finding of cohabitation and modified your alimony order. Otherwise, you run the risk of being held in contempt of your alimony obligation. The courts in Connecticut generally do not approve of self-help.

If you have already discussed the situation with your ex-spouse and agreed to a temporary or permanent modification, this may be different. However, it is always best to have an experienced family law attorney to review your specific obligations and advise you on the best course of action for your case.

What If My Ex-Spouse’s Cohabitation Is Temporary (such as during COVID-19)– Can I Still Modify My Alimony Obligation?

A termination, suspension, or reduction of alimony can occur due to cohabitation that transpires during a brief time period of time or over several years, depending on the circumstances. In Connecticut, there is no specific length of time required to prove cohabitation. Rather, the court has the discretion to determine whether (regardless of the timeframe) your spouse is living with someone in a manner that impacts his or her financial needs.

If at all possible, prior to filing a motion for modification based on cohabitation, it is helpful to first determine whether and how the third party is contributing to your ex-spouse’s living expenses. For example—are they contributing to rent or mortgage? Are they paying for groceries or utilities?

 

What If My Ex-Spouse Has A Non-Romantic Relationship With The Third Party He Or She Is Living With?

In Connecticut, a finding of cohabitation is not dependent upon a romantic relationship. Your ex-spouse could be living with a romantic partner, a roommate, or a family member in circumstances that result in an alteration of his or her financial needs and a subsequent modification of alimony.

Modification of alimony based on cohabitation is highly fact-specific. Whether a person is an alimony recipient or an alimony payor, consultation with an attorney is helpful in determining how the law applies to the facts of the case. At Broder & Orland, LLC, we are adept at setting and litigating cases involving modification of alimony based on cohabitation.

Broder & Orland LLC

Should I settle or go to trial?

This is a question that most divorce litigants face during their case. The majority of clients early on express a desire to settle. It’s a rare person who would rather go through the pain, anguish and financial cost of a divorce trial if there were an opportunity for an amicable resolution. Experienced divorce attorneys know that virtually all cases should be settled. But sometimes there are circumstances that make that impossible.

Do Custody cases have to go to trial?

Because of the emotional aspect of contested custody cases, it is sometimes difficult to settle them short of trial. This is especially so when one spouse or the other has engaged in abuse, or when drugs or alcohol are involved. But even in cases with these issues, competent counsel will access support from appropriate professionals to assist with arriving at a workable plan that is in the best interests of the children. It’s not uncommon to find that once the layers are peeled back, a dispute isn’t so much about custody as it is about a realistic Parenting Plan. At the end of the day, most parents should want to control their destiny and that of their children, rather than having a judge dictate the terms to them.

Do cases involving complex financial matters require a trial?

When there are disputes about financial matters, such as valuations, alternative assets, compensation structures, and real estate appraisals, it is sometimes hard to resolve a case without trial. However, if both sides have engaged in reputable experts, often those experts can work to resolve the difference between them, clearing the way for a settlement. When at all possible, it is preferable to come to an agreement outside of court, rather than presenting complicated financial testimony to a judge who is hearing it for the first time and who is forced to weigh in on competing experts who have a high level acumen and familiarity with the issues. 

Is it important to choose a divorce attorney with trial experience even if you are hoping to settle your case?

There are unquestionably certain cases that will end up at trial. Sometimes it is a result of the personalities of the parties and the degree of vengeance between them. Other times, it is legitimate that a result that cannot be otherwise negotiated. Having a divorce attorney with considerable trial experience is important. This is so even if it is clear the case will likely not go to trial because an experienced trial attorney will be able to provide context for you about a likely result after trial compared to a reasonable settlement. Also, if opposing counsel and his/her client knows the other side is a successful trial attorney, it may provide motivation to forge an out-of -court settlement. 

How and when do you decide whether to settle or have your case tried by a judge?

This is a decision that is often fluid throughout the case as circumstances change. For example, you may initially be steadfast in your desire to settle the case, but your spouse fails to cooperate or becomes entrenched in a position that is untenable. On the other hand, you may initially think a trial is the only way to resolve your case, but as the case is litigated, you realize that there are ways to resolve it amicably. An experienced divorce attorney, who has both excellent negotiation and trial skills, will be able to counsel you on your decision. At the end of the day, it is up to the client to make the final decision.

How risky can a trial be?

 A recent decision after trial by our office resulted in a shock to our client’s ex-spouse. Unhappy with the existing joint custody, he initiated an action for sole custody and forced a trial that lasted for sixteen days. Not only was his Motion denied, but the Court ordered that our client have sole legal custody! That is a stark example of the risk of going to trial.

Contact Broder & Orland Today

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, our divorce lawyers are skilled negotiators who strive for settlement whenever possible, but are also experienced and successful trial attorneys who can excel at trial when the occasion arises. We regularly counsel our clients throughout their case on the choice of whether to settle or go to trial and our experience has most often led to very favorable results. Please contact us today to go over your case. 

CAN I GET DIVORCED ONLINE WITHOUT GOING TO COURT IN CONNECTICUT?

This Week’s Blog by Westport divorce lawyer Jaime S. Dursht

CAN I GET DIVORCED ONLINE WITHOUT GOING TO COURT IN CONNECTICUT?

Yes, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch has announced that uncontested divorces will be permitted remotely, without the requirement of physical presence in court. This is significant given the current status of court closures because it means that if you have reached agreement with your spouse on the terms of your divorce, you will be able to proceed to judgment on the papers.

Are Divorce Separation Agreements Negotiated Remotely in Connecticut?

The majority of divorce settlements are negotiated remotely with the exchange of settlement correspondence followed by drafts of the divorce agreements (called Separation Agreements). If negotiation reaches impasse, there are alternate dispute resolution options that are available on a virtual basis. Proceedings that were held in conference rooms two months ago are now taking place over conference calls and virtual meeting space. Professional mediators are conducting sessions using Zoom for example, and attorneys continue to move their cases forward utilizing remote applications and tools that are no less effective from home computers.

What are the Uncontested Divorce Requirements in Connecticut?

The Judicial Branch filing system has been paperless since 2015 when it required the electronic filing of nearly all legal documents and pleadings that would otherwise have been filed in person at the courthouse clerks’ offices. To proceed with an uncontested divorce, a fully executed Separation Agreement and sworn Financial Affidavits must be e-filed with the court, and if applicable, Child Support Guidelines, an Affidavit Concerning Children, and Advisement of Rights. Until recently, the parties and counsel were required to personally appear before a judge for an uncontested hearing for approval and entry of the Separation Agreement as final orders of the court.

What is the Procedure for a Final Online Divorce in Connecticut?

The Judicial Branch has now made it possible to meet the legal requirements of an uncontested divorce online by requiring Affidavits to be filed (Affidavit in Support of Entry of Divorce Judgment, Plaintiff or Defendant) in lieu of in-person testimony, and a Request for Approval of Final Agreement Without Court Appearance.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce. Our attorneys are extremely knowledgeable and prepared to conduct remote and/or virtual negotiation and settlements as well as final online uncontested divorce.

HOW DOES THE CARES ACT IMPACT MY CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

On March 27, 2020 the Congress passed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security “CARES” Act. This Act is intended to provide emergency economic relief to individuals, families and businesses who are impacted by the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. How does the CARES Act impact your Connecticut Divorce?

How are Economic Impact Payments Treated in my Connecticut Divorce?

The CARES Act provides for Economic Impact Payments to be made to many American households based on Adjusted Gross Income (“AGI”) as reported on 2018 and 2019 Federal income tax returns. Eligibility is based on thresholds, for example, if you filed individually and had AGI less than $99,000, filed individually as head of household with AGI of less than $136,500, or filed jointly with AGI less than $198,000, you may be entitled to payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
If you are going through a divorce in Connecticut and you, your spouse and/or your children are entitled to economic impact payments, the payments constitute a marital asset for purposes of dividing property, the same way that a tax refund would be.

If I am already divorced, who will receive the Economic Impact Payments on behalf of my children?

Whether or not your child is entitled to an impact payment depends on the financial information of the parent who claimed the child on a 2019 tax return. If neither parent filed a 2019 tax return, the payment will be based upon the parent who claimed the child in 2018. Payments are automatically made into the account or mailed to the address designated by the tax filer on his or her return.

How do I know if my Spouse Received Funds from the Paycheck Protection Program?

The paycheck protection program was established under the CARES Act and is intended to provide small businesses with up to eight weeks of payroll and other costs (such as rent, mortgage interest and utilities). If you are going through a divorce in Connecticut and your spouse owns a business, it probably worthwhile to formally request any and all documents and applications submitted to or received from the paycheck protection program (or any other Federal, State or Municipal relief, for that matter). This will not only inform you as to whether or not your spouse has received funds, but it will also provide you with documentation of the payroll and other financial information of the business in the months and years leading up to the divorce.

Will my alimony reconciliation be postponed due to the tax deadline extensions?

The IRS, in conjunction with the CARES Act, has extended the deadline to file and pay federal income taxes from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. If your Separation Agreement provides for a reconciliation of alimony upon the filing of your ex-spouse’s tax return, and he or she is taking advantage of the extension, it will likely impact your ability to conduct a reconciliation. While you are waiting for the 2019 tax return to be filed, there may be other documents that you can request from your ex to at least start the reconciliation process, such as W-2s, year-end paystubs, 1099s and other supporting documents.

Broder & Orland LLC recommends that you seek advice from an experienced divorce attorney, as well as your tax professional and financial advisor as to how the CARES Act might affect you if you are divorced, divorcing or separated in Connecticut.

When Cheating Counts in a Connecticut Divorce

This week’s blog by Westport divorce lawyer Jaime S. Dursht

WHEN CHEATING COUNTS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE

There is a widely held perception that because Connecticut is a no-fault divorce State, that cheating or adultery or whatever term is used to describe marital infidelity, does not affect the outcome.  That is only partially true.  No-fault divorce means that a party is not required to allege and prove wrongful conduct, e.g., adultery, in order to obtain a divorce.  It does not mean, however, that it will not be considered by a court in its determination of how the marital estate is to be divided or the extent of an alimony obligation because it is a relevant factor to both of these if it caused the breakdown of the marriage, and depending on the degree of infidelity, could very well impact the final outcome.

Will My Spouse Allege Infidelity as Grounds for a Connecticut Divorce?

Connecticut Family Law statutes provide:  “A decree of dissolution of a marriage or a decree of legal separation shall be granted upon a finding that one of the following causes has occurred: … (3) adultery; … ” and further provides: “For the purposes of this section, “adultery” means voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than such person’s spouse.” C.G.S. 46b-40.  While adultery remains on the books as a cause of action for divorce, the more commonly claimed ground is that of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage which serves to establish the jurisdiction of the court without unnecessary scandal or embarrassment that might otherwise result at the commencement of the action.  However, alleging irretrievable breakdown as grounds for divorce does not prevent or preclude the subsequent consideration of infidelity by the court for other purposes such as asset division and alimony.

Will Infidelity Affect How Marital Assets are Divided in a Connecticut Divorce?

Possibly, yes.  It depends on how egregious, how flagrant, how inappropriate or how persistent the conduct was and the degree to which it caused the breakdown of the marriage.  Here are just a few examples in a nutshell:

Where a husband’s repeated infidelity, alcohol use, lack of communication and dictatorial personality caused the breakdown of the marriage, it was not an abuse of the court’s discretion to award the wife 67% of the marital assets.  Greco v. Greco, 70 Conn.App. 735 (2002).

Where a husband’s extramarital conduct was so flagrant, so inappropriate and so frequent that it resulted in the breakdown of the marriage, the court awarded 70% of most of the assets to the wife.  The husband had fathered a child out of wedlock and spent considerable family resources on the paramour and child.  Thomson v. Thomson, Superior Court of Connecticut, judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, docket no. FA1304024747S, August 4, 2015 (Shay, J.).

Where a husband was found to be a playboy who fathered another woman’s child during the marriage, the court awarded 70% of the marital estate to the wife.  Blint v. Blint, Superior Court of Connecticut, judicial district of Hartford, docket no. FA000723514S, March 8, 2002 (Brennan, J.).

The cause of the breakdown of the marriage is just one of many statutory factors the court considers when dividing the marital estate and its conclusion is based on the comparative fault of the parties.  The examples above are extreme but nevertheless illustrate how courts have handled egregious infidelity during a marriage.

Will Infidelity Affect the Award of Alimony in a Connecticut Divorce?

The statutory factors that a court will consider in the division of marital assets are very similar  to those considered in making an award of alimony, and include  the cause of the breakdown of the marriage  as a relevant factor to the determination of alimony.  The difference, however, is that the purpose of alimony is for a spouse to meet an ongoing duty to support the other spouse as a result of the marriage.  While a court is not obligated to articulate the weight it gives each statutory factor, other factors tend to be more relevant to the determination such as one’s age, health, employability, occupation, station and sources of income.

Will Infidelity be Publicized during a Connecticut Divorce?

Generally, no.  Although trials are public in the sense that the courthouse doors are open to the general public, it is rare that divorce trials are attended by anyone other than the parties involved and possibly other litigants attending court for their own matters.  After the conclusion of trial there will be a Memorandum of Decision issued which is a public document in that it is published and made available through online legal research providers, but unless there are celebrities involved the decisions are not otherwise publicized.

Most divorces are privately negotiated and resolved without a trial, however, it is important to keep in mind that the successful negotiation, mediation or other type of dispute resolution will rely on data derived from trial outcomes.  Infidelity as well as other types of misconduct during a marriage are not only relevant but often influence the dynamic of a negotiation and may affect bargaining positions. Therefore, it is critical to have legal counsel with substantive knowledge of the relevant issues but just as critical to have counsel experienced in litigation should it become necessary.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce.  Our attorneys are extremely knowledgeable with the issues of how and to what degree various factors of fault may impact marital asset division and alimony, and are experienced courtroom advocates in advancing and defending claims of fault.