Tag: Alimony

You Lost Your Job Because of COVID-19—What Happens to Your Alimony and/or Child Support Obligation?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray and Nicole M. DiGiose

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting measures to stem its spread have caused record unemployment numbers in the United States. While the full economic impact is not yet known, people who live and work in New York City and Fairfield County, two of the harder hit places in the tri-state area, have already begun to feel the effects with respect to job loss and loss of income. For those who have an alimony and/or child support obligation pursuant to a Connecticut Divorce Judgment, the natural question after losing a job, whether due to COVID-19 or otherwise, is: what impact will the job loss or reduction of income have on my obligation to pay alimony and/or child support?

Can I Modify My Alimony and/or Child Support Obligation if I Become Unemployed Because of COVID-19?

Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(a) provides that alimony and/or child support obligations may be modified. Alimony may be modified “[u]nless and to the extent that the decree precludes modification.” So, unless your Divorce Agreement or Court Decision states that alimony is non-modifiable, you have the option of modifying your alimony obligation based on the loss of your employment.

In order to obtain a Court Order modifying alimony and/or child support, the party seeking the modification must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. In determining whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances, a Court will compare the circumstances at the time of the last Court Order with the circumstances at the time that a party seeks a modification of that Order. Typically, a job loss in and of itself is considered to be a substantial change in circumstances. In these unprecedented times, many people are losing their jobs as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic; so, you will not be the only person making claims in a Connecticut Court that you lost your job due to COVID-19.

I Lost My Job Due to COVID-19, but I Am Receiving a Severance: Can I Still Modify?

If you receive severance payments for a period of time that are the same or substantially the same as the income received when employed, the receipt of that severance income means, in the eyes of the Court, that there has not yet been a substantial change in circumstances.

When Can I File a Motion to Modify?

Every situation is unique, but generally the appropriate time to file such a Motion is toward the end of the severance payment term, assuming that you have not found a job before that time or, if you have found a job, your income at your new employment is now substantially less.

Is My Ability to File a Motion to Modify in Court Affected by COVID-19?

Under Connecticut law, a person requesting a modification may request that the Court Order relief retroactive to the date that the Motion to Modify was personally served on the other party. The party filing the Motion to Modify must file the Motion with the Court, have a Hearing date assigned by the Court Clerk’s office, and then serve the Motion to Modify on the opposing party. The earliest date that the moving party can request for retroactivity purposes is the date of personal service on the opposing party.

As of the time of writing this article, the Courts in Connecticut are open with limited hours and are only permitting individuals to enter the building under certain circumstances, none of which include filing a Motion to Modify in person. Notwithstanding that fact, Motions may still be filed by mail or by e-filing; so, you can still file the Motion to Modify with the Court. Once you receive the assigned Hearing date from the Clerk’s office, the Motion can be served on the other party.

Because of the pandemic and resulting effects on the Connecticut Court system, the timing for receiving assigned Hearing dates on Motions to Modify that have been filed has been delayed, meaning that the date of personal service on the other party will also likely be delayed. Family lawyers in Connecticut have been seeking clarification from the Judicial Branch regarding whether temporary changes to the rules will be permitted so that there is some other standard for retroactivity, other than personal service on the opposing party, in order to address this issue. As of the time of writing this article, there has not yet been a solution presented to this problem, but the fact that there are discussions about this issue signifies that there is no harm in filing a Motion to Modify now (if appropriate to do so) and, in fact, there may be a benefit to doing so in order to preserve retroactivity.

What Documentation Should I Gather Regarding My Modification Case?

You can expect that one of the inquiries at the hearing on your Motion will be what you have done and what you currently are doing to find employment. A Court will want to know that you have made and are making bona fide efforts to obtain employment at or near the level of your prior employment. Be sure to save all of your written communications regarding your employment search, as it could become evidence at a Hearing on a Motion to Modify. It is not difficult to imagine that those seeking jobs as a result of job loss due to COVID-19 will have difficulty finding new employment in the current economic climate and that they will encounter increased competition for positions, which will be useful information to present to a Court as part of a Hearing on a Motion to Modify.

I Was Furloughed as a Result of COVID-19: Can I Modify Alimony and/or Child Support?

Some people living in Fairfield County are not permanently losing their employment as a result of COVID-19, but may suffer a temporary loss of employment or a reduction in income. Even if this change of financial circumstances is temporary, it may be appropriate to file a Motion to Modify in order to seek retroactive modification of alimony and/or child support for the time period during which the payor (or recipient, as the case may be) was receiving less income.

Can I Stop Paying or Reduce My Alimony and/or Child Support Payments if I Lose My Job or am Furloughed?

A Court Order remains in place unless and until it is modified by a Court or by agreement between the parties. Ceasing or reducing alimony and/or child support payments without the Court’s prior permission may be viewed by the Court as “self-help.” Additionally, a payor who ceases or reduces alimony and/or child support payments may be subject to a Motion for Contempt. If you have lost your job or have been furloughed, it is a good idea to file a Motion to Modify now in order to preserve retroactivity. While the Motion is pending, it may be possible to work out an agreement as to how alimony and/or child support payments may be modified.

Could I be Held in Contempt if I Stop Making or Reduce my Alimony and/or Child Support Payments?

In order to prove contempt, the moving party must demonstrate to the Court, by clear and convincing evidence, that there has been a willful violation of a clear and unambiguous Court Order. Divorce Agreements and Court Decisions are Court Orders. The question of whether an Order is clear and unambiguous is for the Judge to decide. Assuming the Court Order is clear and unambiguous, the Judge will next decide if the cessation or reduction of alimony and/or child support was willful. In determining willfulness, a Court could look at why you lost your employment, what other sources of funds you had available to you to pay alimony, and what your job search efforts have been.

At Broder & Orland LLC, our attorneys have significant experience handling cases involving the modification of alimony and/or child support when a client has lost his or her employment. We can consult with clients to shed light on whether a potential alimony and/or child support modification case is viable. Losing your job can be one of the most stressful events in your life. Our attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are available to discuss your options with you and can provide you with a plan going forward with respect to your alimony and/or child support obligation, which may include filing a Motion to Modify and negotiating and drafting an agreement with the other side. It is our goal to give you peace of mind during these difficult times.

What are the Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in a Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

What are the Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in a Connecticut Divorce?

The divorce process is fraught with emotion which can lead to making mistakes with long-term effects.  Each divorce is different, however, here are some common mistakes we divorce attorneys see.

Is it a Disadvantage not to Understand Your Financial Situation?

Yes.  It is important at the outset of the divorce process to have an understanding of your personal and household expenses, liabilities, income and what assets there are to divide.  This will help in setting reasonable expectations as to the outcome and will help in planning for financial security moving forward, which is the ultimate goal.  Take the time to gather information, review your bank and credit card statements, and if you are not financially literate, take steps to educate yourself with the basics.

Is it Better to Settle Early in the Process?

Not necessarily.   Divorce is a highly emotional time, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by acrimony and the desire to give in just to end the emotional trauma.  This could be a costly mistake, however, because depending on the assets involved, it may be well worth taking the time to discover and fully vet out the values of business interests, trusts, stock options and pension benefits which you may be entitled to share.

Is it Worth Arguing the Details?

Often the expense of the argument can exceed the value of what it is you are trying to achieve in the first place.  Try not to get caught up in minor wins and losses of the negotiation process when it comes to the smaller details of, for instance, the method of payment of co-pays at the pediatrician’s office or the percentage point split of reimbursement for extracurricular activities.   It may feel like an emotional triumph in the short term, but may not be worth the expense in the overall cost of the divorce.

Should I Seek the Advice of Family and Friends?

It is not a good idea to rely on the advice of family and friends regarding your own divorce however well-meaning it is intended to be.  Just because your friend got the house and lump sum alimony in her divorce does not mean that you will or even should.  Every divorce is different, and one person’s experience does not readily translate into another’s.

Is it Better to Act First and Ask Later?

No.  It is always better to check with your attorney before taking action, especially if you are in an angry or depressed frame of mind.  Acting on impulse, for example cutting your spouse off from credit card use or denying access to marital funds to limit spending, can have adverse legal consequences.  Not only do these particular actions risk a contempt finding by a court, but may end up costing you more just to rectify it in the end.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, practice solely in matrimonial and family law, and have significant experience in counseling and developing an appropriate strategy to optimize the desired financial result.

Can I Appeal My Connecticut Family Law Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

The Judge Issued a Decision in My Connecticut Family Law Case: Can I Appeal?

In Connecticut, you have the right to appeal a final judgment entered by a trial court.  Common final judgments subject to appeal in family law cases are final judgments from orders dissolving the marriage, including permanent orders regarding alimony, child support, and custody, and orders regarding the division of assets.  Post-judgment decisions, such as those regarding the modification of alimony, child support, and custody, are also appealable.

When Must I File My Appeal?

The deadline for filing an appeal is no later than twenty days after the court issues notice of its decision.  It is not advisable to wait until the last day to appeal, as missing the deadline, even inadvertently, can be fatal to your appeal.  Therefore, you should seek the advice of an appellate practitioner who does family law appellate work immediately after receiving a decision from the trial court.

My Ex-Spouse is Filing an Appeal: Do I Need to Do Anything?

If you are not the person appealing the decision, you need to ensure that your rights are protected during the pendency of the appeal.  You should consult with an appellate lawyer in order to understand the basis for your former spouse’s appeal, any potential weaknesses in the judge’s decision that make the decision vulnerable to being overturned on appeal, and what your best arguments in defense are.

In What Court is an Appeal Decided?

Most appeals are heard by the Connecticut Appellate Court.  Rarely, a case will be reviewed by the Connecticut Supreme Court without being heard first by the Appellate Court.  Direct review of a trial court decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court can sometimes occur when there is an issue that has never been decided by Connecticut Appellate Court or the Connecticut Supreme Court, when there is conflicting law on a particular subject matter, or when there is a matter of public importance worthy of decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Will the Appeal be Similar to the Trial?

The appellate process is very different from the trial process.  There is no new evidence or new testimony at the Appellate Court.  Each party submits thorough briefs outlining the facts of the case and the legal arguments in support of his or her positions.  The briefs are based on the record, consisting of the testimony from the trial court proceedings and any exhibits submitted to the trial court.  The appellant, i.e., the person taking the appeal, submits his or her brief first.  After the appellee submits his or her brief, the appellant has the opportunity to file a Reply Brief.  After all of the briefs are submitted, the Appellate Court will schedule a date for oral argument before a panel of Appellate judges.  At the Appellate Court, the panel typically consists of three judges.  At the Supreme Court, the panel consists of seven justices.   A party may attend oral argument, but is not required to do so.  After oral argument, the Appellate Court (or Supreme Court, as the case may be) will issue its Decision in writing.  The Decision is usually released several months after oral argument takes place.

How Long Will My Connecticut Appeal Take?

The appellate process in Connecticut can take several months, at least.  Some appeals can last over one year.

Can My Case Be Settled While an Appeal is Pending?

Your case can be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. Experienced litigators will explore potential avenues for settlement, if possible, in order to avoid the expense and time of an appeal.  In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due.  The Preargument Conference is a confidential settlement opportunity that takes place with an experienced judge who will meet with counsel for both parties and attempt to help the parties reach a settlement.  Whether you and your ex-spouse reach a settlement through the Preargument Conference or on your own, you can prepare a settlement agreement and the appeal can be withdrawn once the settlement is approved by the trial court.

Broder & Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating at the trial court level.  If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

Top 10 Songs About Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

In a recent “water-cooler” office conversation, my office was discussing a number of songs that have been written about divorce. After an entertaining discussion, and in no particular order, here are a few of the more well-known songs and key lyrics, which certainly warrant a listen if you are going through the process. Warning: if you watch some of these videos on YouTube, make sure you have tissues nearby.

“We Just Disagree” by Dave Mason

So let’s leave it alone, ‘cause we can’t see eye to eye

There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys

There’s only you and me and we just disagree

“Divorce Separation Blues” by The Avett Brothers

I’ve got the tough education

No celebration

Bad communication

Worse interpretation

Love deprivation

Pain allocation

Soul devastation

Cold desolation

Life complication

Resuscitation

Divorce separation blues

“D-I-V-O-R-C-E” by Tammy Wynette

And he thinks C-U-S-T-O-D-Y spells fun or play

“Broken Home” by Papa Roach

Can’t seem to fight these feelings

Caught in the middle of this

My wounds are not healing

Stuck in between my parents

Broken home! Broken home!

“Stay Together For The Kids” by Blink 182

Their anger hurts my ears

Been running strong for seven years

Rather than fix the problems

They never solve them

It makes no sense at all

I see them everyday

We get along, so why can’t they

“The Winner Takes it All” by Abba

The judges will decide

The likes of me abide

Spectators of the show

Always staying low

“Highway 20 Ride” by the Zac Brown Band

A day might come and you’ll realize that if you could see through my eyes

There was no other way to work it out

And a part of you might hate me

But son please don’t mistake me for a man that didn’t care at all

“Broken Home” by Five Seconds of Summer

I’m here alone inside of this broken home

Who’s right, who’s wrong

Who really cares?

The fault, the blame, the pain’s still there

I’m here alone inside of this broken home, this broken home.

“Every Other Weekend” Reba McEntire

Let’s go see dad

Same time in the same spot

Corner of the same old parking lot

Half the hugs and kisses there are always sad

We trade a couple words and looks

And kids again

Every other weekend

“Doesn’t Anybody Stay together Anymore” by Phil Collins

Well one says white and the other one black

It’s the same old story…Doesn’t anybody stay together anymore?

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in handling divorce issues with understanding and sensitivity. We strive to meet all of our client’s individual needs.

Broder & Orland LLC Assists its Divorce Clients in Navigating New Alimony Rules

The New York Times recently published an article on the new tax laws affecting those contemplating divorce:

Strip out the acrimony and emotion, and divorce can be boiled down to a business negotiation. Harsh as that may sound — there are often children stuck in the middle — when a couple gets down to completing their split, the numbers matter: assets, support, time allotted with children.

Divorce negotiations are never easy, and they became more complicated this year…

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC have years of experience in crafting separation agreements that take into account the tax advantages of alimony and unallocated support payments.

Read the full article here.

 

How are Social Security Benefits Treated in a Connecticut Divorce Case?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Social Security benefits are not considered a marital asset and are therefore not subject to division in a Connecticut marital dissolution action.

Are Social Security Benefits an Asset of the Marriage Subject to Division?

Future Social Security benefits are governed by federal law which specifically prohibits the transfer and/or assignability of the benefit. (Social Security Act, 42 U.S. Code § 407)  The United States Supreme Court has held that the right to receive Social Security benefits does not constitute property.  State courts hold that federal law preempts state property laws that would otherwise subject Social Security benefits to classification as marital property for division.  

Are Social Security Benefits Considered in Computing Alimony?

If Social Security benefits are in pay status and being received, then it is considered a current source of income and included in the determination of support payable under the alimony statute.

Can Social Security be Garnished to Pay Alimony and/or Child Support?

Yes.  In 1975, Congress carved out an exception for alimony and child support from the prohibition of subjecting Social Security benefit funds to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process.  In cases involving a judgment for unpaid alimony, the Social Security Act permits garnishment of benefits for the judgment as well as court costs and penalties. 

Does an Ex-Spouse Have a Right to Claim the Former Spouse’s Social Security Benefit?

Yes, if you meet the following criteria:

  • Age 62
  • Unmarried
  • Divorced from someone entitled to receive Social Security benefits
  • The marriage had been for at least 10 years

You are eligible to apply for benefits on your former spouse’s benefit even if he or she has not retired, and as long as you divorced at least two years before applying.  If you are entitled to your own Social Security benefits, your benefit amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s record, and you will be paid the higher of the two benefits, but not both.  Also, this would have no effect on the benefits your ex-spouse is eligible to receive.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce.  Our attorneys are very experienced with the financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce, and understand the importance of accurately identifying assets and available sources of income in advising our clients about establishing a financial plan.

What Should I Expect at my Initial Divorce Consultation in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

What is the Purpose of the Initial Divorce Consultation?

After having made the difficult decision to contact an attorney regarding divorce and after making an appointment to meet with him or her, it is natural to feel apprehensive or to be unsure of what to expect at that initial meeting.  Most Fairfield County divorce clients have many questions about the divorce process, possible outcomes, and how Connecticut law applies to his or her case.  Those are all appropriate issues to be discussed in an initial consultation.  One of the primary purposes of the initial divorce consultation, in addition to information gathering, is for the potential client and the potential lawyer to meet in order to determine whether both the client and the lawyer are comfortable working together.  As a client, it is important to feel that you can trust your divorce attorney and that there is good communication between you and your divorce attorney.  The initial consultation is a good opportunity for both the lawyer and client to assess whether they can have a good working relationship during a sometimes difficult process.  

What Do I Need to Bring with Me to My First Meeting with a Potential Divorce Lawyer?

Among other things, it is important for a divorce attorney to have as much information as possible so that he or she can accurately evaluate the case and give the appropriate advice.  Of course, if you were the person served with divorce papers, you should bring those papers to the initial consult so that the attorney can review them and explain them to you.  At the first meeting with a divorce lawyer, however, it is not required that you bring any other documents with you.  The divorce attorney will listen to you and ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of the basic facts of the case.  There will be plenty of time after the initial consultation for you to provide relevant documentation to your lawyer.  While you do not need to bring documents with you to the initial consult, there are some documents that you can bring to make the meeting more productive.  For example, if there is a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement in your case, you should bring a copy of that to the meeting.  Most top Fairfield County divorce attorneys will even ask to see the document in advance of the meeting so that he or she can review it beforehand.  Some people also like to bring relevant financial documentation to the meeting, such as tax returns and bank and brokerage accounts, so that specific financial questions they have can be addressed.

Is What I Discuss at My Initial Divorce Consultation Confidential?

The short answer to this question is: yes.  The information you provide to a potential divorce lawyer, even if you do not hire that person, is kept confidential.  Keep in mind, however, the caveat discussed below.

Should I Bring My Friend (or Family Member) to the Initial Consultation Meeting?

It is normal for people to want emotional support at an initial divorce consultation.  If a third party is present in a meeting between a potential client and a lawyer, that presence can jeopardize the confidentiality of the meeting, as confidentiality and attorney-client privilege typically only extend to the potential client.  If you deem it critical to bring a friend or family member with you to the initial consultation, you can discuss how to handle it with the potential divorce lawyer with whom you are meeting.  You and the divorce attorney may decide to have the friend or family member wait in the reception area during all or part of the meeting in order to protect the information discussed.

What are the General Topics Discussed during the Initial Consult?

In general terms, the best initial consultations cover the following topics, as applicable to the facts of your case: the divorce process in Connecticut, custody of minor children and parenting plans, discovery of relevant information during the divorce, division of assets and liabilities, and alimony and child support.  Top Fairfield County attorneys will also discuss with you strategy concerns and any other issues that may be particular to your case.  In order for the divorce lawyer to give you good advice, he or she will ask many questions, ranging from basic to very personal.  The more information you provide, the more you and a potential divorce attorney can begin crafting a timeline and strategy for your case.

What Questions Should I Ask at the Initial Divorce Consultation?

There is no question too insignificant for an initial divorce consult.  A good divorce attorney will want you to feel comfortable that your questions have been answered and will welcome any and all questions that you have.  There is very little that experienced divorce attorneys have not heard or been asked; so, do not be shy about sharing information or asking questions.  Beyond the typical questions about the divorce process, how long divorces in Connecticut typically last, and what to expect with respect to parenting and finances, you should also ask questions about the financial relationship between you and the potential lawyer.  You will want to know the attorney’s hourly rate, requested retainer or other fee arrangements, and how frequently you will receive invoices reflecting time spent on your case.    

At Broder & Orland LLC, we pride ourselves on our informative initial consultations, which typically initiate an effective attorney-client relationship that lasts throughout the case.  We strive to advise potential clients in a forthright manner so that they feel comfortable about what to expect from the divorce process in Connecticut and so that they understand their options moving forward.

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.