Tag: fairfield county lawyers

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.

Filing for Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

Who is the Plaintiff in a Divorce Action?

In a divorce, the Plaintiff is the person who initiates or files an action for divorce against his or her spouse. In order to commence an action for divorce in Connecticut, the party initiating the action must first have his or her spouse (the Defendant) served with a Summons and Complaint, and must then have those papers returned to the appropriate courthouse with Proof of Service.

What Does it Mean if I am the Defendant in a Divorce Case?

Being the Defendant in a divorce action does not mean that you are necessarily being accused of any wrongdoing, like the Defendant in a criminal case. It also does not mean that you are opposing or contesting the divorce. In fact, many Defendants in divorce cases file their own action for a divorce against their spouse, called a Cross Complaint. In essence, the Cross Complaint establishes the Defendant as a “back up” Plaintiff; if the Plaintiff withdraws his/her action, the Defendant can still proceed within the same divorce action without having to start the proceedings over or file their own action.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce?

If the divorce is resolved amicably, then it makes no difference which party is the Plaintiff and which party is the Defendant. There is no strategic advantage either way.  In some states, such as Connecticut, the only difference is that the Plaintiff will be asked more detailed questions about the Divorce Agreement at the Uncontested Hearing.

Does Being the Plaintiff Matter if My Divorce Goes to Trial?

Many divorce lawyers will argue that there is no advantage to being the Plaintiff. However, I believe it depends on the particular circumstances of your case. A Plaintiff gets to testify, or tell his/her story, to the Judge first. When representing a Plaintiff that may have committed improprieties during the marriage, it is sometimes more persuasive for that person to have an opportunity to acknowledge these issues upfront, rather than being put on the defensive about them. This could potentially have an impact on the Judge. However, most Judges will tell you that it is irrelevant as to who files first, as he or she will give equal weight to both the Plaintiff and the Defendant.

At Broder & Orland LLC, where our attorneys practice exclusively in the areas of Matrimonial and Family law, the question of “should I file first?” is often raised. In the event that the matter is going to be contested, based on the circumstances of the case and a thorough analysis of the facts, our advice will vary. Our attorneys will ensure that you are provided with a thorough cost/benefit analysis as to whether it might be advantageous to commence an action for divorce before your spouse does.

 

What Can I Do to Make My Connecticut Divorce Case Move More Quickly?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Provide requested information and documents promptly
  • To the extent possible, make or respond to a settlement offer as early in your case as you and your attorney think is appropriate
  • If both parties and their counsel are motivated to get a case done quickly, it can be accomplished

What is the Relationship between Discovery and How Quickly My Connecticut Divorce Case Moves?

Many Connecticut divorce clients from Greenwich to Fairfield want to know what they can do to ensure that their case moves in a timely fashion.  For many people, once they have made the difficult decision to get a divorce, they do not want the divorce case itself to move slowly.  The timing of Connecticut divorce cases is not always within the control of the client or his or her attorney, but there are certain things that clients can do to ensure that the case moves as quickly as possible.

At Broder & Orland LLC, one of the things that we encourage clients to do in order to help their case move in a timely fashion is to provide financial discovery to the other side as soon as possible.  Some clients even provide financial discovery to the opposing party before he or she requests it.  There are standard documents that, under Connecticut Practice Book Section 25-32, are to be exchanged in divorce cases: personal tax returns, tax returns for any business in which a party has an interest, W-2s, 1099s, K-1s, pay stubs and other evidence of income for the current year, bank and brokerage account statements for the past two years, the most recent retirement account statements, the most recent life insurance statement, current health insurance information, information regarding the cost of COBRA following the divorce, and any written appraisals of assets owned by the parties.  In cases where the finances are more complicated or where there are specific issues for which a party seeks discovery, the discovery requests are more comprehensive than the preceding list.  Top Fairfield County attorneys will provide their clients with comprehensive document requests early in the case, and sometimes at the initial consultation, so that clients know what to expect from opposing counsel and can begin gathering their responsive documents.

Clients who want to move their Fairfield County divorce cases quickly will begin gathering the requested documentation as early as possible so that there is no delay in getting that information to the other side.  Under Connecticut rules of practice, parties generally have 60 days to respond to discovery requests, but waiting that entire time to provide discovery will only prolong the case.  Failing to provide all of the requested information is another way to ensure that the case takes longer, as the opposing party will then have to request the missing information and will sometimes file a motion to obtain a Court order that it be provided.

When Can My Divorce Case be Settled?

Once discovery is complete (or nearly complete) in a case, many attorneys will discuss with their clients the possibility of settling the case.  Settling a divorce case has many advantages, and one of them is that settlements can occur at any time in a case, including in the beginning.  Some Fairfield County divorce clients even settle their cases before filing for divorce in order to ensure that the process goes quickly once the case is filed.

Trial dates in divorce cases normally are not scheduled until later in a case, and sometimes not until the case has been pending for almost one year.  If a case goes to trial, a judge has 120 days to issue a decision.  After the decision is issued, one or both parties can file motions to reargue certain issues or to clarify the decision.  Additionally, one or both parties can take an appeal from a trial court decision, which typically takes at least a year to resolve.

Therefore, settling a divorce case well before the trial dates is usually a way to ensure that the case ends in a timely fashion. Issuing a settlement proposal (or responding to one) early on in a case can be an effective way of moving the case toward a final judgment.  The case can be settled as soon as you and your attorney think it is appropriate to begin settlement discussions, usually after discovery is exchanged and the necessary information is gathered.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we understand that many of our clients want their divorce cases to move quickly.  The biggest predictor of how quickly a divorce case will move is the parties and their counsel.  We find that when both parties and their counsel are motivated to get through a case quickly, it usually will happen.  Problems can arise when either the opposing party does not want the divorce to occur quickly, and/or that party’s counsel is not cooperative in efforts to accelerate the case.  Both parties do not need to agree on everything in order for their case to move quickly, but both parties do need to be responsive and work with their attorneys to achieve a resolution of the issues.  When both parties are working toward the same goal, i.e., early resolution of their case, it can be accomplished.

Should I Attempt To Negotiate the Terms of My Divorce On My Own With My Spouse While I Am Represented by Counsel?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • During you divorce, conversations with your spouse may be contentious and uncomfortable.
  • If you are in inherently uneven bargaining positions, it will often not be productive to negotiate the case with your spouse on your own.
  • Any communications with your spouse during your divorce should be consistent with the message and strategy you have discussed with your attorney.
  • Four-way meetings may lead to positive results.

There are divorce lawyers who may instruct you not to have any conversations with your spouse on your own once you have legal representation. Our office does not subscribe to that approach in most instances. If you and your spouse, despite the fact that you are divorcing, are able to conduct civil and meaningful conversations, it may be productive to do so. We would qualify that by saying that any such communications should be consistent with the message and strategy you and your lawyer have agreed upon. It is not helpful to your case to have your lawyer proceeding down one path, only to have you travel down another.

One area that divorcing couples are often able to productively discuss on their own is a parenting arrangement for their children. It makes sense. Certainly parents understand their children’s needs and emotions far better than any lawyer in the case and almost always better than any judge who would preside at trial. So, working out arrangements for your children is an area of commonality between you and your spouse. It also can have a secondary benefit of getting the divorce on the right track. Trust in each other to come to an agreement about your children can spill over to the financial aspects of your divorce in a positive way.

Nevertheless, conversations with your spouse about a financial settlement can be tricky. If one spouse is more facile with finances, taxes, and math, it will likely result in an uneven bargaining position. In these situations, it is often better to have lawyers do the negotiating, sometimes with input from an accountant and forensic expert, as necessary. You may still talk to your spouse to arrive at general ideas about settlement, but getting into the granular issues if the bargaining positions are disparate, is likely not going to be productive.

If talking on your own to your spouse about settlement is not comfortable or inadvisable for the reasons stated above, another option might be a four-way meeting, where the parties and their lawyers meet outside of court and attempt to work through the issues. Often the case can be resolved at the conclusion of the meeting. But at the very least, it will be clear as to what the areas of agreement are and the issues about which the Parties agree to disagree. The result is an agreed upon agenda that the Parties with counsel can continue to work on, with the goal of ultimate settlement.

Our lawyers at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in guiding our clients through negotiations during their divorce. We have an excellent handle on when discussions between the Parties will be productive, when negotiations should be conducted lawyer-to-lawyer, and when four-way meetings may lead to positive results.

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.

 

Connecticut Divorce Decisions: Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, & Abuse*

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

In a recent Connecticut divorce decision a judge wrote:

[The husband] sometimes gave numeric ratings to the wife on her performance in bed; one morning after the parties had engaged in sexual intercourse, the wife woke to find a note from the husband informing her that she had earned a “0”.

Many people would be quite surprised to read a quotation like the one above. However, as a Connecticut divorce lawyer, this excerpt did not surprise me.  Instead, it made me realize that people getting divorced should know what type of information may be contained in a Judicial Decision – as many people are under the incorrect impression that Connecticut divorce decisions are sealed.

Are Connecticut Divorce Decisions Sealed?

No.  They are available to the public. Prior to the internet, in order to obtain a decision, you would have to go to the courthouse, stop by the clerk’s office, request a copy, and pay a fee.  Today, Connecticut divorce decisions are often available for everyone to read online and can be found with a simple Google search on a smartphone.

What Can Judges Write About in Connecticut Divorce Decisions?

Judges have great latitude to write about almost anything in relation to a marriage or family in a Connecticut divorce decision.  A judge will issue orders concerning custody, a parenting plan, alimony, child support, and the equitable distribution of assets in a divorce decision. He or she may also discuss their thought processes which led to the decision. This can, and often does, include detailed facts related to the causes of the breakdown of the marriage.

Can a Judge in a Connecticut Divorce Decision Case Discuss Extramarital Affairs?

Yes. Below are some excerpts from Connecticut divorce decisions:

  • When the husband was 35 years old he began a romantic and sexual relationship with another woman, who was then approximately 21 years old. The husband also commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of his girlfriend which he subsequently hung in the playroom of the marital home – not telling his wife that it was based on his girlfriend.
  • During the late months of 2012, the husband began a series of sexual interludes with women he had met via internet dating sites. He also visited massage parlors that provided sexual services. During that same time period… he continued to have regular sexual intercourse with his wife.
  • Just prior to the separation of the parties and the filing of this action, the defendant admitted to the plaintiff that he had been having sexual affairs with numerous (approximately fifteen) other women since the first or second year of their marriage. One of these affairs was with an employee of the restaurant and took place in an office room of the restaurant. Another of the affairs took place while the parties were on vacation with each other and another couple. The defendant had sexual relations with the wife of the other couple in their hotel room while the plaintiff and the husband of the other couple were down at the beach. These affairs were the cause for the breakdown of the marriage.
  • At a wedding reception… in front of his Wife and others, Husband allowed another woman to simulate an act of oral sex on him. Although Wife now claims that she was hurt by this incident, Wife demonstrated her own willing participation and endorsement of this rude and crude behavior by taking a photograph to memorialize this incident.
  • As a result of the parties’ swinging lifestyle, on or about New Year’s Eve, the defendant and the wife of the other couple became pregnant.
  • Equally hard to believe is the plaintiff’s story about her relationship with [Mr. X], a friend she met at the end of August 2004. In November 2004, the plaintiff and a close friend took a vacation to Key West, and lo and behold, guess who was in Key West during that exact period of time? Mr. X! And then the plaintiff planned a trip to the Bahamas, and guess who was also in the Bahamas at the same period of time? Mr. X!

Can a Judge in a Connecticut Divorce Case Discuss Drug/Alcohol Abuse?

Yes. Oftentimes substance abuse is an issue in custody and parenting conflicts as well as being a reason for the cause of the breakdown of the marriage. Below are some excerpts from Connecticut divorce decisions in which the judges discussed these issues:

  • The husband frequently consumed alcohol to excess, and sometimes became violent with the wife; the wife often came home late at night or not at all; there was a lack of sexual intimacy between the parties; he called the wife violent names such as whore and slut; he accused her of getting on her knees to get her job.
  • During most of the marriage, both parties consumed alcohol to excess but the husband’s drinking evolved into him becoming an alcoholic. He has probably been a problem drinker all of his adult life. He had worked as a police officer and he had one DUI arrest and a second DUI stop which did not result in an arrest, presumably due to his status as a former police officer.
  • Unfortunately, the defendant is an alcoholic. When he is drinking, he shows a lack of judgment. The defendant has had periods of sobriety. However, he has spent time at Fairfield Hills Hospital and at Guenster House. As a result of his alcoholism, the parties lost their home.

Can a Judge in a Connecticut Divorce Case Discuss Abuse?

Yes. Whether it is physical, emotional, or financial, a judge can and will discuss incidents and allegations of abuse as indicated below:

  • The Husband claimed the reason for the breakdown of the marriage was the Wife’s constant yelling, screaming, threatening and arguing. He believes she has serious emotional problems including excessive attention to cleanliness. The Wife claimed the Husband was physically abusive to her and the child, abused alcohol and drugs, may have been unfaithful, told her repeatedly that he did not want the baby, smoked or permitted secondhand smoke around the child who was prone to middle ear problems, had poor parenting skills, diet and cleanliness habits, did not have proper religious practices, was irresponsible, lazy, and a poor dresser.
  • That leaves a mother with so little fortitude and so few personal resources that she cannot protect her own child from a perceived danger. Hardly an endorsement for a custodial parent.
  • The level of [The Father’s] anger is apparent to all, and it calls his overall parental judgment into question…. [His] anger has already had negative consequences for his children just within the eighteen months since [the parties] have lived apart.

Are Financial Details of a Connecticut Divorce Case Sealed?

No. Actually, the court must unseal the financial affidavit, (a document which lists a party’s income, expenses, assets, and liabilities) during a trial. Moreover, a court’s decision will often discuss, analyze and/or list the parties’ assets, income history, and liabilities.

Who Can Read a Connecticut Divorce Opinion?

Anyone! For example:

  1. The parties’ children.  They may be young now, but some day they will be able to read all of the gory details of their parents’ relationship, allegations, and the judge’s findings.
  2. Any future dating prospect.
  3. A potential employer or client.
  4. Family and friends, which will add to the gossip mill.

Is it Really Necessary for Connecticut Divorce Judges to Discuss These Details?

I have discussed with a number of Judges why in judicial decisions they provide information regarding affairs and abuse issues. The most common answer is that they need to substantiate their decision and their impressions with facts.  Another common reply is that by including such information future litigants will realize that by going to trial the details of their personal lives will be out there for everyone to see. Hopefully, this will be a factor that will encourage people to settle their divorce.

*The names of the parties in all of the above-referenced cases have been intentionally left out this article to protect the anonymity of those involved. 

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, concentrates specifically on the areas of family law, matrimonial law, and divorce. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event.

 

Do I Have to Go to Court?

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

  • Public Act 17-47 excuses parties from having to go to Court to have a temporary agreement approved by the Judge
  • Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-66 requires the Judge to inquire into the financial resources and actual needs of the spouses and their respective fitness to have physical custody of or rights of visitation with any minor child, in order to determine whether the agreement of the spouses is fair and equitable under all the circumstances
  • An Affidavit in Lieu Appearing may be appropriate in some circumstances and if appropriate, obviates the need to go to Court
  • You run the risk of sanctions, incarceration, and/or an adverse ruling against you, if you fail to appear at Court for a contested matter

At Broder & Orland LLC, our clients often ask us if they have to go to Court.  The answer is usually, “It depends.”  If the matter is uncontested – i.e. a signed written agreement, then you may not have to appear at Court. If the matter is contested – i.e. a trial or a hearing, you must appear at Court, and failure to do so could result in sanctions, incarceration and/or an adverse ruling against you.

If you and your (ex) spouse reach a temporary agreement on a pending issue, you no longer have to appear at Court to have your agreement approved by the Judge.  On October 1, 2017, our Legislature enacted Public Act 17-47 and as a result, the Judicial Branch created Form JD-FM-263.  The form states:

If you have reached a temporary agreement on any pending motions and you would like to have your agreement approved without coming to court, submit this form along with a signed, written agreement, current appearances for each party if they are not already on file, and any required supporting documents to the clerk. If the agreement contains a child support order and either party or a child is receiving IV-D services, you must have the Assistant Attorney General sign off on your agreement. This process is not for continuances, temporary restraining orders or Family Support Magistrate matters. For an agreement on a continuance, use the Motion of for Continuance (form JD-CV-21). For an agreement on a temporary restraining order, you must come to court on the hearing date.

Thus, if you follow the provisions of the Form, you and your (ex) spouse no longer have to appear at Court to have your temporary agreement, whether it relates to custody, alimony, child support, or discovery approved by the Judge.

If you and your (ex) spouse settle your divorce, generally you must appear at Court, however there are ways to avoid going to Court.  Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-66 states in pertinent part:

…in any case under this chapter where the parties have submitted to the court a final agreement concerning the custody, care, education, visitation, maintenance or support of any of their children or concerning alimony or the disposition of property, the court shall inquire into the financial resources and actual needs of the spouses and their respective fitness to have physical custody of or rights of visitation with any minor child, in order to determine whether the agreement of the spouses is fair and equitable under all the circumstances.

Typically the Court’s inquiry is done by having the attorneys or the Judge canvass you and your (ex) spouse.  The canvass consists of you and your (ex) spouse being questioned about the agreement so that the Judge can determine that: (a) the agreement is fair and equitable, (b) that the agreement in the best interest of the child(ren), and (c) you and your (ex) spouse understand the terms of the agreement.

However, if you or your (ex) spouse are unavailable to appear at Court, an Affidavit in Lieu of Appearing could be submitted. The Affidavit typically consists of affirmative statements that you would swear to under oath. The statements would mirror the questions that you would be asked by your Attorney or the Judge in Court.  This way, the Judge would be able to satisfy the requirements of Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-66.

If your matter is contested, it means that you are scheduled for either a hearing or trial.  In contested matters, you must appear at Court, otherwise you could be sanctioned, incarcerated, or simply have the matter decided without your input.  It is never a good idea to fail to appear at Court if your matter is contested.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, concentrates specifically on the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event.

Should I Waive My Right to Alimony?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

When you are divorced in Connecticut, the Court may make an award of alimony–the payment of money from one spouse to the other (sometimes also referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance”). Alimony is based on the presumption that spouses have a continuing duty to support each other financially while a divorce is pending and/or after the divorce is granted.

If your spouse has historically been the primary wage earner or primary source of financial support for the family, it is typical for that arrangement to continue after the divorce with an award of alimony to you, as the non-working or lesser earning spouse.  However, what happens when you and your spouse have similar levels of income, or if neither of you work? In that case, there may be an alimony waiver, or an award of “one dollar a year” of alimony.

An alimony waiver means that you and/or your spouse agree that no award of support, maintenance or alimony will be made by the Court at the time of the divorce. If you waive alimony at the time of your divorce, you are also waiving any claim for past or future alimony. There are different reasons why you may consider waiving alimony:

  • You are the primary wage earner in your family
  • You have not historically relied on your spouse for financial support
  • You and your spouse were married for a very short period of time
  • You and your spouse have similar levels of income
  • You are confident in your ability to support yourself in the future

There is no requirement that an alimony waiver be mutual. Alimony can be waived by one party and not by the other.  If you decide to waive alimony, at your divorce the Judge will ask you questions specifically about that alimony waiver, in order to determine that you understand what it means to waive your right to support and to verify that you can care for yourself financially.

What happens if you are comfortable waiving alimony at the time of your divorce, but do not want to preclude your right to ask for an award of alimony in the future? The answer may be that your spouse pays you “one dollar a year” in alimony for a certain period of time (the alimony term). The $1 is symbolic. It really means that no alimony will be paid to you for the time being, but it leaves the door open for you to ask for a modification of the alimony amount in the future. Leaving alimony open with an award of “one dollar a year” may be appropriate if:

  • You are currently working but your future employment is uncertain
  • There is a possibility that your spouse will return to the workforce or make significantly more money in the future
  • There are health concerns that prevent you from knowing if you will be able to support yourself in the future
  • You have been married for many years and you and/or your spouse are of advanced age

Experienced divorce counsel in Westport and Greenwich can help you determine if the circumstances of your case make an alimony waiver realistic or preferable to “one dollar a year” in alimony. At Broder & Orland LLC we are adept at advising our clients on the strategies and the multitude of factors considered by a Court in establishing an alimony award.

Unallocated Alimony and Child Support

Any parent contemplating divorce understandably wishes to know whether and to what extent he or she will be entitled to receive, or obligated to pay, child support and/or alimony.  However, many potential clients we speak to are unfamiliar with a third type of support — commonly referred to as “unallocated alimony and child support” — which in certain circumstances can be a useful (and sometimes critical) tool for resolving support issues in a divorce through negotiated settlements.  In simple terms, an unallocated support payment from one ex-spouse to another is an obligation that contains both alimony and child support components lumped together into a single payment.

In order to understand the potential benefits to both parties of an unallocated support obligation, it is first necessary to understand the different tax treatments that apply to child support payments and alimony payments.  In a nutshell, child support payments are neither tax deductible to the person making the payments, nor taxable as income to the person receiving the payments.  Alimony payments, in contrast, are taxable, meaning that such payments are tax deductible to the payor and taxable as income to the person who is receiving the payments.

When parties agree upon an unallocated support obligation, they are agreeing, for purposes of settlement, to lump child support and alimony together into a single payment, the entirety of which will be treated like alimony for tax purposes (i.e., tax deductible to the payor and taxable as income to the payee).

The fact that the payor receives favorable tax treatment on unallocated support payments while the payee receives unfavorable tax treatment on such payments begs the following question: why would the payee spouse agree to this arrangement?  The answer is that, under certain circumstances, it can benefit both parties to combine child support and alimony into a single unallocated taxable support payment.  This is typically the case where the spouse paying alimony and child support has a substantial income and the spouse receiving alimony and child support has little or no income of their own. The reason that unallocated support may be beneficial to both parties is that it allows the parties to shift income from higher tax brackets to lower tax brackets. As a result, the payor will ultimately end up keeping more of his or her income because of the ability to use the entire unallocated support payment as a tax deduction and will thereby have more disposable income available with which to pay support. Stated differently, due to the tax savings, the individual paying support may end up with more money than he or she otherwise would have if alimony and child support payments were made separately and, as a result, the receiving spouse (and children) can benefit from an increased payment amount than if they had received alimony and child support separately.  In this scenario, the entire family wins and the IRS suffers the loss.

In considering the use of an unallocated support award, it is critical to ensure that the support payment is set in such a manner so as to be an incentive to both the payor and the recipient. Generally speaking, an unallocated support award will not be advantageous for former spouses who earn similar incomes.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we regularly represent clients in Greenwich, Darien and other towns throughout Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut for whom unallocated support payments are advantageous, and we are well-versed in the complexities of such awards and how to use them as a settlement tool to maximize your post-divorce financial well-being.

What happens at an Uncontested Divorce Hearing in Connecticut?

When the parties reach a settlement agreement in a Connecticut divorce case, they are required (except in a few rare limited circumstances) to appear in the appropriate courthouse for an Uncontested Divorce Hearing. The specific courthouse depends on where the case is filed. For example, if you live in Greenwich or Darien you will be in the Stamford Superior Courthouse. If you live in Fairfield or Trumbull your case will be in the Bridgeport Superior Courthouse.

On the day of an Uncontested Divorce, you are required to have a number of documents signed and filed with the clerk. Specifically, you will need the following: the signed divorce agreement, Financial Affidavits from both parties, and if you have children, an Affidavit Concerning Children and the Child Support Guidelines worksheet. There may be also other documents required, subject to the specific settlement terms of your case.

Upon entering the courthouse on the date of your divorce you will be assigned to appear before a specific judge. The judge, or your attorneys, will ask you a series of questions with regard to your divorce agreement to ensure that you understand the terms and consequences and that you have not been forced to enter into the agreement.

Below is a list of questions that you are generally required to answer while under oath:

  1. Have you had the opportunity to review the final Separation Agreement in this matter?
  2. Have you had the opportunity to ask any and all questions of your counsel regarding this case and the Agreement?
  3. Are you fully satisfied with all of the advice given to you by your counsel regarding this dissolution of marriage action and the Agreement?
  4. Do you understand all of the Agreement’s terms and conditions?
  5. Do you understand that you are waiving your right to alimony that means you cannot come back to any court at any other time to seek alimony from the other party? (In cases where a Party is waiving alimony.)
  6. Has anyone tried to persuade you or force you to enter into this Agreement?
  7. Do you understand that if you were to have a fully contested trial in this case it is possible that you would receive a more advantageous result or a more detrimental result?
  8. Under all the circumstances, do you feel this agreement is fair and equitable?
  9. Are you satisfied with your counsel’s representation in this matter?
  10. Did anyone force to you enter into the Agreement?
  11. How is your health?

In addition to the above, your lawyer, or the judge, may run through the salient points of the agreement with you so that the court is fully apprised of the specific terms and conditions. In the event there is something rather unique or complicated in your agreement, the court wants to be sure you understand the issue.

Generally speaking, the actual process takes fifteen (15) minutes or less. Of course, there are other cases on the court’s calendar that day so we often tell clients to be sure to block out the morning or afternoon, as the case may be, because you never know whether you will be called first or last.