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Connecticut Divorce Lawyer

Going through a divorce is an emotionally taxing issue that is both personal and legal. Unfortunately, divorce can also be costly, especially when alternative options, such as mediation, are not explored or rendered impossible. That being said, if you’re going through a divorce, no matter how contentious, retaining the services of a skilled Connecticut divorce lawyer is paramount. Contact The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC today so we can get started working on your case.

Divorce Lawyer | Representing Clients in Fairfield County and Throughout CT

When a couple gets divorced, they have a lot to consider. Divorce terms pertaining to alimony, property distribution, child custody, and more often must be reached. Though these issues are often hotly contested, mediation offers a more practical and cost-effective way to work through these issues and reach a viable agreement for all parties involved. Whether you’re looking to hire a competent Fairfield County, Connecticut divorce mediator or you’re facing the prospect of a litigated divorce, The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC stands ready to effectively represent your interests, every step of the way.

Our firm’s locations in both Greenwich and Ridgefield, Connecticut, demand an understanding of complex asset structures, tax implications, and common legal obstacles that often arise for high-net-worth individuals going through divorce. We are experienced in various types of asset divisions, including but not limited to equity holdings; business ownerships; trust interests; restricted stocks, stock options, and other forms of deferred compensation; as well as all types of retirement assets.

Clients can expect a divorce lawyer who is discreet, professional, and sensitive to their emotional needs. We always take a cost/benefit approach to decision-making.

By first working through and calming the emotional reactions to the behaviors of a soon-to-be ex-spouse, we insist that clients work toward reasoned, logical decisions each step of the way so that they will not regret their decisions when the emotions settle down.

We choose to employ a discerning approach to divorce, attempting to maximize the results for clients while decreasing the need for public battles in the courtroom. At The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC, we understand that most clients would prefer to resolve their disputes amicably and rely on litigation only as a last resort. Nonetheless, we have the courtroom experience and confidence necessary to advocate zealously on behalf of our clients if the need arises.

Table of Contents

No-Fault Vs. Fault-Based Divorce in Connecticut

In Connecticut, a no-fault divorce implies that the marriage has broken down irretrievably without the need to assign blame. This option allows for a more amicable dissolution, avoiding the often contentious process of proving fault. In contrast, fault-based divorces require one spouse to prove the other's misconduct, such as adultery, habitual intemperance, or intolerable cruelty. Understanding these paths is essential; each carries unique implications for things like alimony, child custody, and asset division.

Importantly, anyone considering citing fault grounds should understand that while proving fault can potentially influence the court’s decisions on child custody or alimony, it often leads to a longer and more contentious divorce process. This is why, if a divorce goes to litigation, it’s generally advisable to choose the no-fault route.

Even more importantly, all divorcing spouses should know that they can resolve their divorce via mediation, which tends to be less costly and less confrontational, among other potential benefits.

Common Divorce Issues

Divorce often involves several key issues. Alimony, or spousal support, is one such issue, with courts considering factors like each spouse's financial need, earning capacity, and the length of the marriage. Property distribution follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means the division is fair but not necessarily equal.

Child custody determinations center on the child's best interests, with courts considering factors like each parent's ability to care for the child, the child's relationship with each parent, and the child's needs. Child support is another critical issue, calculated based on state guidelines that consider both parents' incomes and the child's needs.

The Divorce Process in Connecticut

If mediated divorce isn’t an option, your divorce will likely be litigated in court. A brief overview of the divorce process in Connecticut is as follows:

  • Initial Attorney Meeting: No two divorces are alike. We will analyze your spouse’s and your background, finances, and if the divorce involves children, your children, and their needs. In most circumstances, we do not charge for the initial meeting. In lieu of a fee, as a “pay it forward” initiative, if you feel the consult was valuable, we ask only that you make a donation of any amount to a charitable organization called Give Kids the World.
  • Grounds For Divorce: You do not need to prove grounds for the divorce beyond that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably”. There are other grounds allowed for divorce in Connecticut, which should be discussed with your divorce lawyer.
  • Court Filing: In order to officially start the divorce process, the filing party must complete and serve on the other party the following three forms: Summons Family Actions, Divorce
  • Complaint (Dissolution of Marriage), and Notice of Automatic Court Orders. The timing and method of service of the process should be carefully considered because it will set the tone for the weeks and months to follow.
  • Next Steps: The next steps usually involve the negotiation of a parenting plan (if applicable), and the exchange of information, such as financial institution statements. The latter part is often called “the discovery process”. Additionally, each party is required to complete a document called a “financial affidavit”. The financial affidavit must be completed carefully because it is sworn under oath, and ultimately becomes the cornerstone of the final negotiation or trial. Once the discovery process is completed, a financial negotiation will occur. That negotiation can occur through each party’s counsel, or with the help of a neutral facilitator (such as an attorney-mediator or judge-mediator).
  • The Final Steps or Trial: Prior to the pandemic, upon settlement, at least one party had to go to court for a relatively quick final divorce hearing in front of a judge. Recently, the rules changed whereby all of the necessary settlement documents can be submitted electronically, and a court appearance is no longer required. Instead, the judge reviews the documents at his or her leisure, and then a notice is sent out to both parties indicating whether the settlement documents have been approved by the judge. If they are approved, then a final judgment of divorce is entered immediately. If the parties to the divorce cannot reach an agreement on all issues, then the court will schedule a trial to occur. Trial dates usually occur 12 to 24 months following the commencement of the divorce action.

Important Initial Considerations Following the Filing of a Connecticut Divorce Action

There are a number of important items to consider immediately following the commencement of a Connecticut divorce action. This list is, by no means, comprehensive, and it is critically important to consult with a competent and experienced divorce lawyer to discuss these and other considerations. The intention of this list is to provide a brief overview of some initial items of concern:

Protecting Equity in Real Estate

In the context of a divorce, a “lis pendens” is a legal document that can be filed on the land records, which informs any future creditor of your spouse that your interest in real estate takes precedence over the creditor’s interest.

This is useful in situations where a divorcing spouse has a concern that their spouse may be sued for any reason while the divorce is pending, such as for: the collection of a debt; liability for personal injury to another (such as an automobile accident); professional liability; and so on. Also, if it is possible that there are legal judgments outstanding against a spouse, then the filing of a lis pendens may be a wise step to take.

In the view of the Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC, if there is real estate involved, in which there exists any substantial equity to be protected, then it is most likely recommended that a lis pendens be filed.

With this said, many people choose to opt out of the lis pendens procedure in order to save the cost (under $500 with filing and service fees, as well as drafting costs). Another reason to avoid the use of a lis pendens, for some divorce litigants, is a concern about appearing “too aggressive”.

Protecting Your Estate in the Event of Your Death

In many circumstances, your most current last will and testament (assuming you have one) will govern the distribution of your assets in the event you pass away before the entry of a Connecticut divorce decree. Unless you have already made some changes to your will, this probably means that, in the event of your death, while the divorce action is pending, your spouse will receive your share of the marital estate. This may or may not be your desire.

So, what do you do if it is not your desire? Pursuant to certain automatic court orders found in Connecticut Practice Book sec. 25-5, once a divorce action is pending, you cannot (absent agreement of your spouse) transfer assets to a third party, including a trust entity. You also cannot revoke or change life insurance beneficiaries. You can, however, elect to revoke your prior will and create a new one naming new beneficiaries. You can also create a testamentary trust (meaning that your individual assets would pass to the beneficiaries of the trust upon your death). A good trust and estate attorney can help you through this process.

Note that there are some statutory restrictions that prevent divesting your spouse of all assets upon your death, but again, a trust and estate attorney can advise you further in this regard.

Revocation of Important Legal Documents

Many people have executed powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, or other legal documents granting a spouse the power to make decisions in the event of absence or incapacity. If you have done so during your marriage, then be aware that even though your Connecticut divorce action is pending, your spouse might have considerable legal power over your property, or over your medical care in the event of illness. If this is not your desire, then you should issue a written document immediately revoking whatever powers you have granted. It is important to create a record of the revocation, and the delivery of the same to the person previously granted the power being revoked. Also, be certain to create replacement documents (naming someone else) for any legal power that you revoke.

Electronic and Technical Connections

In this digital age, it is common for spouses to be electronically intertwined in a variety of ways. It is also common for spouses to monitor one another’s whereabouts through location sharing applications, such as “Find My Friends”, “Life 360”, “Google Maps”, and so on. If you filed a Connecticut divorce action, you may want to immediately terminate those electronic connections, as well as consider some other technological ties.

Some examples of digital connections requiring disconnection for privacy purposes are:

  • Apple Family Sharing account
  • Location services on mobile devices
  • Location sharing applications
  • Cellular phone accounts (to avoid tracking of telephone usage)
  • Video monitoring services that are accessible in the cloud (Ring doorbell cameras, Arlo, etc.)
  • Alarm codes and alarm monitoring “safe words” (when living separately)
  • E-mail account passwords
  • Mobile device passwords
  • Online bank and credit card account passwords

Note that, even when taking care of all of the above technological connections, in extreme cases, some spouses download “keylogging” or other “spy” software into the other spouse’s electronic device and/or home WI-fi network. This type of software monitors each and every keystroke. So, when a password is changed, the snooping spouse is informed of the same (as well as everything else being done by the unsuspecting other). Oftentimes, this type of software cannot be detected, even with the help of a qualified expert. Therefore, if you are concerned that a device may have been compromised, the best thing to do is dispose of it, get a replacement that cannot be accessed by your spouse, and then change all account passwords using only the “clean” device.

Avoiding the Divorce Timeline from Being Restarted

If your spouse has commenced a divorce action, then you may want to consider whether to file a “cross-complaint”. In a Connecticut divorce action, the “cross-complaint” is a legal document indicating that you also want to proceed with the divorce process. Filing this document ensures that your spouse cannot unilaterally terminate the divorce action, thereby re-starting the timeline of the process. Protecting against this possibility is more important than ever because the Connecticut family court system is extremely backlogged.

Connecticut Divorcing Parents Parenting Education Program

If a Connecticut divorce action has been filed, and the parties have minor children who are issue of their relationship, then both parents are required to complete a Parent Education Program (PEP) within sixty days of the return day of the complaint.

Financial Concerns in Connecticut Divorce

There are two financial-related sub-topics that should be considered in the typical divorce: (1) the division of assets and liabilities, and (2) future financial support (spousal support (“alimony”), child support and/or educational support).

Division of Assets and Liabilities

Connecticut is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that the court can redistribute all assets and liabilities that exist at time of divorce, regardless of when or how the same were acquired.

While often an equal division of the marital estate is appropriate, there is no law or statute that requires a court to equally divide the same. There are certain circumstances that may tip the scales off of an equal division. For example, if a party brought significant assets to the marriage or received an inheritance and/or large gifts from his or her respective family during the marriage, an argument may be made that the party should retain a greater portion or potentially all of those particular assets. Normally, the closer to the end of the marriage the gifts and inheritance are received, the bigger the disproportionality of the division.

Absent agreement of the parties, the law leaves the division of this “marital pot” in the discretion of the judge based on the equitable arguments raised by parties and counsel.

An “equitable” division is one that’s appropriate in the eyes of the parties (in the event of an agreement) or judge (in the event of a trial). “Fair” is not the same as “equal”. Note also that “fair” can mean very different things to different parties and judges.

If the parties do not reach an agreement on their own, the court determines how the property is to be divided after considering evidence from each party, including but not limited to:

  • Length of the marriage;
  • Causes for the dissolution of the marriage;
  • Age;
  • Health;
  • Occupation;
  • Amount and sources of income;
  • Employability and earning capacity;
  • Vocational skills and education;
  • Liabilities and needs of each party;
  • Each party’s future opportunities to acquire additional assets and income; and
  • Each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation or appreciation of the marital estate.

In many ways, this simply boils down to: The judge can, within reason, do whatever he or she feels is appropriate! That’s a lot of power to hand over to a stranger, which is why we advocate strongly for alternative dispute resolution approaches, such as using mediation or collaborative law.

What are the elements of support that may be addressed as part of a Connecticut divorce?

There are three main categories of support that a court may order in a dissolution of marriage proceeding: (1) alimony (spousal support); (2) child support; and (3) educational (college) support.

Alimony (Spousal Support)

Alimony is the money one spouse pays to support the other spouse. Connecticut courts grant alimony on a case-by-case basis. The court must weigh several factors to determine whether spousal support is appropriate. Those factors include the following:

  • Length of the marriage;
  • Causes for the dissolution of the marriage;
  • Age;
  • Health;
  • Occupation;
  • Amount and sources of income;
  • Employability and earning capacity;
  • Vocational skills and education;
  • Estate and needs of each party;
  • The division of assets and liabilities; and
  • In the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability and feasibility of such parent’s securing employment.

Child Support

Both parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their children. (See Connecticut General Statutes sec. 46b-84.) The “calculation of child support is based on the income shares model and the parties’ combined net income rather than on the actual costs associated with raising a child.” Dowling v. Szymczak, 309 Conn. 390, 408 (2013). In order to determine the minimum presumptive amount of child support, Connecticut law requires the use of certain Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines are sometimes only the start of the analysis to be applied to any given child support situation. There are a number of deviation criteria that a judge can consider, and for a parent unemployed or underemployed, the court can consider that parent’s earning capacity. Attorney Posmantier and Attorney Stokes can advise on how best to use these Guidelines to support your position.

Where the parties’ combined net weekly income exceeds $4,000, the calculation of child support can become a bit more complicated. In these cases, the court calculates both the presumptive minimum amount and maximum percentage allowed by the Guidelines. The judge then has the discretion to award a child support amount between those figures.

Notably, the Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC recently successfully argued a case in front of the Appellate Court of Connecticut, wherein the Father appealed a decision awarding the Mother the maximum percentage under the Guidelines. That appellate decision can be viewed here.

Educational Support

Connecticut General Statute § 46b-56c governs the determination of educational support orders. Under the statute, a court may order a parent (or parents) to “provide support for a child or children to attend for up to a total of four full academic years 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.” The child in question must be under 23 years old and the educational support order must not extend past the child turning 23.

Educational support orders may address the following educational expenses:

  • Room and board;
  • Tuition, due and fees;
  • Registration and application costs;
  • Books; and
  • Medical insurance.

However, the court may only order the parties to cover educational expenses up to the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time in-state student at the time the child for whom educational support is being ordered matriculates. The parties may waive this limitation by agreement.

Alternatively, the parties may waive or reserve the court’s jurisdiction over educational support orders by agreement. Reserving jurisdiction means that either party could petition the court to make an educational support order at some later date after the divorce is finalized. (Parties with young children may consider reserving jurisdiction and asking the court to figure out educational support later when their children are older since their financial situations may change by then.) Waiving jurisdiction means that the parties agree that they do not want the court to enter an educational support order at the time of divorce or at any future time. Once the parties waive jurisdiction, no one can return to the court to ask for an educational support order. (Parties may want to consider this when they do not have the financial means to assist their children with college expenses, or if they have sufficient funds in a college savings account for the child to utilize.)

Absent an agreement of the parents, in order to enter an educational support order, the court must find “that it is more likely than not that the parents would have provided support to the child for higher education or private occupational school if the family were intact.”

In determining whether to enter such an order, the court shall consider the following factors:

  • the parents’ income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents;
  • 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;
  • the availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans;
  • the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child’s academic record and the financial resources available;
  • the child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education; and
  • evidence, if any, of the institution of higher education or private occupational school the child would attend.

The statute also sets out rules, which the child must follow in order to receive payments from an educational support order. They are as follows:

  • enroll in an accredited institution of higher education or private occupational school, as defined in section 10a-22a;
  • actively pursue a course of study commensurate with the child’s vocational goals that constitute at least one-half the course load determined by that institution or school to constitute full-time enrollment;
  • maintain good academic standing in accordance with the rules of the institution or school; and
  • make available all academic records to both parents during the term of the order. The order shall be suspended after any academic period during which the child fails to comply with these conditions.

With decades of experience, our legal team can assist with all of the above issues. Do not hesitate to reach out to inquire about an initial consultation.

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation offers a more amicable and often less costly alternative to traditional litigation. In mediation, a neutral third party assists the couple in reaching an agreement on divorce-related issues. This process tends to be less stressful, preserving a better post-divorce relationship, especially important when children are involved. The mediator helps facilitate discussions, ensuring each party's views and concerns are heard and considered.

Mediation sessions typically progress through several stages, starting with an initial meeting to identify the issues at hand. Parties then gather and share necessary financial and other relevant information. Negotiations follow, with the mediator helping guide discussions towards mutually acceptable solutions.

Once an agreement is reached on all issues, the mediator drafts a document outlining the terms. This agreement is then submitted to the court for approval. While mediation can't resolve every divorce, it offers a viable and often preferable option, especially for those seeking a more collaborative and less adversarial process.

Our firm provides services as mediators, facilitating the resolution of difficult parenting and financial disputes in a compassionate setting. When serving as a mediator, we do not represent the interests of one party or the other. Rather, we guide the parties together to arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution of their differences.

In order to maintain neutrality, if you are interested in hiring a divorce lawyer from our firm as a mediator, it is strongly suggested that the initial contact with our firm be made simultaneously by both parties to the mediation – or, at the very least, by one party with the prior knowledge of the other party.

Can a Lawyer Help Modify a Divorce Order in Connecticut?

Substantial changes in financial circumstances can make it difficult for some individuals to afford the child support or alimony payments that were initially agreed upon or ordered by the court. Conversely, a substantial change in financial circumstance, (such as an ex-spouse earning a greater income or the support recipient losing a job) can mean that an increase in a child support or alimony award is appropriate. In these cases, a post-divorce modification proceeding is necessary.

Custody arrangements and parenting plans that were made when a child was very young may need to be adjusted as that child matures. Also, parenting plans often need to be revisited when a parent wishes to relocate to another city, state, or country. In other words, as the needs of the family change, it is oftentimes appropriate to return to court to revisit the orders that were entered into some time ago. The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC can provide sound legal advice and representation associated with these common modification proceedings.

Contact a Fairfield County Divorce Lawyer Today

Don’t go through the divorce process alone. We proudly represent clients facing family law issues in Connecticut, including in Greenwich, Ridgefield, and throughout Fairfield County, Hartford County, Litchfield County, Middlesex County, and New Haven County. Contact a skilled Connecticut divorce lawyer from The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC today so we can get started working on your case.

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