Tag: child support

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.

How is Life Insurance Treated in a Connecticut Divorce Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

Can I Obtain Information Regarding My Spouse’s Life Insurance Coverage during a Connecticut Divorce?

As part of the discovery (i.e., information gathering) phase of any Connecticut divorce case, it is critical that both sides disclose to one another information regarding any life insurance policies in place at the time, including life insurance policies provided through employment and life insurance policies held in a life insurance trust.  Each party has an obligation to disclose any life insurance policies on his or her life on a Financial Affidavit.  Even if a life insurance policy is held in a life insurance trust, it should still be disclosed on a Financial Affidavit, though not all parties do so.  It is common practice for Fairfield County divorce attorneys to request copies of life insurance policies and life insurance trusts as part of their formal discovery requests in order to obtain necessary information about insurance coverage.

Can I Change the Beneficiary of My Life Insurance Policies during a Connecticut Divorce?

In Connecticut, changing the beneficiary of life insurance policies while the divorce action is pending is a violation of the Automatic Orders.  If a divorce attorney discovers that the opposing party has changed the beneficiary of his or her life insurance policy during the pendency of the case from his or her spouse to someone else, or has let the policies lapse by failing to pay the premiums, he or she can file a motion in order to request remedies from the Court.

Is Life Insurance an Asset that a Court Can Divide? 

Generally speaking, life insurance policies are not assets divisible by a Connecticut Court.  The cash value of any whole life insurance policies, however, is an asset that can be divided in a divorce case.  Typically, the spouse who owns the whole life policy will keep the policy and the other spouse will receive an asset equivalent to his or her one-half share of the cash value.  

Will Life Insurance Be Included in the Final Orders in My Connecticut Divorce?

Under Connecticut law, particularly General Statutes Section 46b-82, Courts can order that life insurance be maintained as security for a party’s alimony, child support, and/or college obligations.

Can I Use My Life Insurance Trust to Satisfy My Life Insurance Obligation?

It is common in Fairfield County for divorce clients to have life insurance trusts that own their life insurance policies.  In cases where there is a life insurance trust, the divorce attorneys must obtain a copy of the trust in order to review the terms.  Some life insurance trusts exclude the other spouse as a beneficiary upon the filing of a divorce action and others exclude an ex-spouse.  Many times experienced divorce attorneys will work with the parties’ estate planning attorneys in order to determine the terms of the trust.

What if I Cannot Afford Life Insurance?   

General Statutes Section 46b-82 provides that a party may not be ordered to maintain life insurance after the divorce if he or she can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is uninsurable or cannot pay the cost of the life insurance premiums.  If a party has health issues or has other reasons, including age, for not being able to afford life insurance, he or she can request that life insurance not be ordered, or that it a reduced amount of coverage be ordered.

Is My Life Insurance Obligation Modifiable?

Unless there is an Order precluding a party from modifying his or her life insurance obligation, most life insurance Orders in Connecticut are modifiable by law if a party can prove a substantial change in circumstances.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have experience in dealing with life insurance coverage issues, and can work with clients to ensure they are best protected, whether during or after a divorce.

What is Legal Separation in Connecticut?

This Week’s blog by Lauren M. Healy

What is Legal Separation? 

Legal Separation is a lawsuit that is commenced by one spouse against the other, resulting in an enforceable court order that resolves issues such as custody, division of assets and liabilities and the payment of alimony and/or child support. Married couples who are separating and want to have a formal agreement on important issues have the option of filing for either Divorce or Legal Separation.

Is Legal Separation the same thing as Divorce?

No. Although Legal Separation and Divorce have many similarities, they are two different legal actions. The major difference between Divorce and Legal Separation is that when a Divorce is completed, the parties are free to remarry. When parties are legally separated, they are still legally married and unable to remarry.

Can you turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce? 

Yes. There are two ways to turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce. One option is to convert the action (from Legal Separation to Divorce) while the lawsuit is still pending. This requires filing a simple Motion with the Court, requesting that the action be converted before any orders are final.

It is also possible to wait until after the Legal Separation is finalized to convert the Legal Separation into a Divorce judgment. There is no time limit on requesting a divorce after Legal Separation. Sometimes parties live legally separated for years before getting divorced.

Why file for Legal Separation instead of Divorce?

The decision of whether to file for Legal Separation or Divorce is very personal. In some cases, for religious or other reasons, Divorce is not a suitable option. If a couple wants to live separate and apart physically or financially, without the finality of a Divorce, Legal Separation could be a better choice. Legal Separation can also be used as a stepping stone to Divorce. Since it is so easy to convert to a Divorce, sometimes the party commencing the action chooses to start with the softer concept of Legal Separation.

Also, a couple may choose to pursue Legal Separation if they prefer to be separated but can maintain or acquire benefits by remaining legally married, such as health insurance or social security benefits.

What are the Grounds for Legal Separation in Connecticut? 

In Connecticut, you need a reason, or grounds, to be legally separated. The grounds for Legal Separation are the same as for Divorce. Since Connecticut is a “no fault” state, it is not necessary for either party has to prove that the other caused the marriage to end. Instead, the parties can simply represent that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, with no hope of reconciliation.

Do I need a Lawyer for a Legal Separation?

Just as in a Divorce, parties are not required to have legal representation to obtain a Legal Separation. However, since major parenting and financial issues are negotiated and decided, including custody, assets, liabilities and support, it is advisable to obtain legal counsel in order to fully understand your rights and obligations pursuant to Connecticut law.

At Broder & Orland LLC we apply our experience and knowledge of the law to the specific circumstances of each case, in order to help our clients decide the best course of action when considering a Divorce or Legal Separation.

What Do I Need to Know about Connecticut Prenuptial Agreements?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

How Do I know if a Prenuptial Agreement is Right for Me?

In general terms, a Prenuptial Agreement is a contract that two people sign prior to getting married.  Prenuptial Agreements can be appropriate in a variety of situations, including second marriages, marriages in which one or both parties wants to protect his or her premarital assets, marriages in which a party has an interest (or will acquire an interest during the marriage) in a closely held business, including a family business, and marriages in which one or both parties anticipates receiving a substantial inheritance during the marriage.

What Topics Are Addressed in a Connecticut Prenuptial Agreement?

A Prenuptial Agreement can be used to address each party’s rights and obligations with respect to property held by the other, whether acquired before or during the marriage, and each party’s rights to buy, sell, transfer, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise control and manage property during the marriage.  Prenuptial Agreements address the disposition of property upon separation, divorce, and/or death and can be used either to establish the terms for or to eliminate spousal support in the event of a divorce.

Are There Other Topics Included in Connecticut Prenuptial Agreements? 

Parties can use a Prenuptial Agreement to provide for the ownership of life insurance policies, how the proceeds from life insurance policies will be disposed of upon a party’s death, and the rights of each party to the other party’s retirement plan.  Prenuptial Agreements will also state what state law will apply in enforcing or interpreting the agreement.

Are There Topics that Cannot be Addressed in a Connecticut Prenuptial Agreement?

Under Connecticut law, the right of a child to support cannot be adversely affected by a Prenuptial Agreement.  Additionally, any custody or visitation arrangements contracted to in a Prenuptial Agreement are subject to review and change by a Court at the time of a divorce.  In other words, while a couple can set forth child support and child custody terms in a Prenuptial Agreement, there is no guarantee that those terms would be upheld by a Court in the event of a divorce.

When is a Connecticut Prenuptial Agreement Enforced?  

In some divorce cases, the parties agree at the time of the divorce to abide by the terms of the Prenuptial Agreement.  In those relatively simple cases, the divorce judgment will incorporate the provisions of the Prenuptial Agreement and the parties can agree upon or have the Court decide any issues not set forth in their Prenuptial Agreement.

If the parties are unable to agree as to whether the Prenuptial Agreement will govern the terms of their divorce, the question of whether a Prenuptial Agreement is enforceable is decided during the divorce case, either as a preliminary matter or at the end of the case.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we frequently consult with clients who have questions about whether a Prenuptial Agreement would be right for them and we have significant experience representing clients who want to best protect themselves in the drafting and negotiation of a Prenuptial Agreement.

Common Questions about Alimony in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

Is Alimony Mandatory in Connecticut?

There is no requirement that alimony must be awarded in Connecticut divorce cases. In determining whether or not to award alimony, the court will look at a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the parties’ ages, income, earning capacities, station in life, the length of the marriage, estate, and individual needs. The court does not need to weigh each of these factors equally.

How Long Will a Spouse Have to Pay Alimony?

In Connecticut, there is no “formula” for determining the length of alimony in a divorce case. The court will consider some of the factors enumerated above with, in my opinion, a focus on the length of the marriage, the ages of the parties, and their incomes and/or earning capacities. Generally speaking, the longer the marriage is, the longer the term of alimony will be.

Is Alimony Calculated From Gross Income?

Prior to January 1, 2019, divorce judges considered the parties’ gross incomes to determine the appropriate amount of alimony. Effective January 1, 2019, under the new tax laws, the court will now look at the parties’ net after tax incomes to determine the appropriate amount of alimony.

Is an Alimony Order Modifiable?

After a divorce, alimony in Connecticut is modifiable upon the showing of a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if one party’s income has decreased dramatically, he or she can seek to reduce their alimony obligation. There are a number of other circumstances which may warrant a modification as well.

Does Alimony End on Cohabitation in Connecticut?

Alimony does not automatically terminate when the receiving spouse cohabitates with someone. A number of factors will be considered to determine if the alimony should be terminated or possibly reduced. These factors include, but are not limited to, the type of relationship and the financial assistance the ex-spouse is receiving from the person they are living with.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we concentrate our practice exclusively on family law. In doing so, we understand the financial constraints that a pending divorce can pose on both parties, and the importance of establishing both an equitable amount and duration of alimony. We are adept at advising our clients on the strategies and the multitude of factors considered by a Court in establishing an alimony award.

The Evolution of Cohabitation

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Although the term “cohabitation” is not statutorily defined or even mentioned in the statute itself, it is a well-known concept in Connecticut Family Law referring to grounds to have alimony payments reduced, suspended or terminated following divorce.

  • Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-86(b) authorizes the court to reduce, suspend or terminate alimony payments based on proof that 1) the alimony recipient is living with another person; and that 2) the living arrangement has caused an alteration of the alimony recipient’s financial needs.
  • “Living with another person” does not necessarily mean residing together under the same roof—it can still be found where the alimony recipient and significant other have separate residences.
  • The “alteration” of financial needs must be quantified, however, the amount does not have to be significant, and according to recent case law, can also be shown by cost savings that result from the living arrangement.
  • The evidentiary burden of proof for modification is lower for cohabitation claims requiring only a “change in circumstances” rather than the “substantial change in circumstances” that is required based on other grounds for modification under General Statutes § 46b-86(a).

The Rationale Behind the Statute

The statute was enacted “to correct the injustice of making a party pay alimony when his or her ex-spouse is living with a person of the opposite sex, without marrying, to prevent the loss of support.”  (H.B. No. 6174, 1977 Sess. Statement of Purpose).  The statute was clearly meant to address the situation of alimony recipients taking steps to avoid the loss of spousal support.  Consistent with this principle, in cases where the initial component of living together is disputed, Connecticut courts will look beyond whether the alimony recipient and significant other maintain separate residences and consider facts that support whether the relationship is marriage-like.

“Living With Another Person”

In many cohabitation cases, there is a concession of living together, and the focus shifts to whether the living arrangement so affects the financial circumstances of the alimony recipient as to justify a modification of alimony.  However, in cases where living together is challenged, the fact that separate residences are maintained will not necessarily stave off a finding of cohabitation.  For example, in Boreen v. Boreen, Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford, Docket No. FA084015215S (October 31, 2017; Shay, J.), cohabitation was found where a couple resided together under the same roof 50% of the time, ate many of their meals together and frequently traveled together even though both maintained separate housing. The court noted that “the statute does not specify that the parties must live together under the same roof twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the court to make a finding that they are living with another person.”  The court found cohabitation based on the couple’s long-time, committed and monogamous relationship that came with a financial benefit for the alimony recipient.

Financial Benefit

The statute requires not only a finding of living with another, but that the living arrangement alters the financial needs of the alimony recipient.  This must be shown in dollar amounts, but does not have to be significant in order to be sufficient.  For example, courts have deemed the evidence sufficient where a party was receiving $100 a week from a cohabitant, D’Ascanio v. D’Ascanio, 237 Conn. 481 (1996); where a party received $400 a month for rent from a cohabitant, Duhl v. Duhl, 7 Conn.App. 92 (1986); and where a party received $30 a week from a cohabitant who also performed handyman chores, Lupien v. Lupien, 192 Conn. 443 (1984).  Recently, the Connecticut Appellate Court reversed a trial court for not considering a party’s savings in rent that resulted from the alimony recipient moving in with her boyfriend.  Murphy v. Murphy, 181 Conn.App. 716 (2018).

Change in Circumstances

Once it is shown that an alimony recipient is living with another person within the meaning of the statute, and that there is a measurable financial benefit to the alimony recipient, the threshold change in circumstances is met and the court then engages in the analysis of consideration of the General Statutes § 46b-82 factors.  The required change in circumstances is lower pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86(b) than the “substantial” change in circumstances required pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86(a).

In 2013, General Statutes § 46b-86(b) was amended to include the language, “In the event that a final judgment incorporates a provision of an agreement in which the parties agree to circumstances, other than as provided in this subsection, under which alimony will be modified, including suspension, reduction, or termination of alimony, the court shall enforce the provision of such agreement and enter orders in accordance therewith.”  This means that parties may negotiate and agree to their own terms of what constitutes cohabitation and the court will enforce their agreement.  Therefore, carefully considered drafting of the Separation Agreement is critical, and knowledge of the foregoing essential if cohabitation is a future possibility for either party.

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable in the issues that arise following divorce such as alimony modification based on cohabitation, as well as how to avoid potential issues by careful and comprehensive drafting of Separation Agreements.

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.

 

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.