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Financial-Related Divorce Concerns


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.

(See Connecticut General Statutes sec. 46b-81.) 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.

(See Connecticut General Statutes sec. 46b-82.)

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 constitutes 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 more than twenty-four years of experience, Attorney Posmantier, along with his associate and staff, are available to assist with all of the above issues. Do not hesitate to reach out to inquire about an initial consultation.