Month: September 2020

My Spouse Wants A Divorce, But I Don’t – What Can I Do?

Do I Need To Consent To A Divorce?

No. In Connecticut, only one spouse needs to file for divorce. The other spouse does not need to consent to a Connecticut divorce action being filed.

What Are My Options If I Don’t Want A Divorce?

Once a divorce action has been filed by one spouse, there are limited options for the other spouse. Couples could attempt marriage counseling, or a party could request that the case be put on conciliation Status.

What Is Conciliation Status?

Conciliation status gives the parties an opportunity to work on their marriage with a conciliator while a divorce action is pending. Conciliation status is governed by Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-53.

When Can I File For Conciliation Status?

A party in a Connecticut divorce may file for conciliation status on or after the return date of a complaint and prior to the expiration date of the ninety-day waiting period after the return date of a complaint.

Does My Spouse Need To Consent To Conciliation Status?

After a request for conciliation status has been submitted to the clerk, the clerk shall forthwith enter an Order that the parties meet with a mutually acceptable conciliator, and if they cannot agree as to a conciliator, then with a conciliator named by the court.

Who Is An Acceptable Conciliator?

The conciliator must be a clergyman, a physician, a domestic relations officer, or a person experienced in marriage counseling.

Are The Meetings With The Conciliator Mandatory?

Yes. There shall be two mandatory consultations with the conciliator by each party to explore the possibility of reconciliation or of resolving the emotional problems which might lead to continuing conflicts following the dissolution of marriage.

What Happens If A Party Does Not Attend The Mandatory Meetings?

Failure of either party to attend the two mandatory meetings, except for good cause, shall preclude further action on the complaint until the expiration of six months from the date of the return date of the complaint; provided, the court may order the termination of such stay, upon a Motion of either party for good cause shown.

Can We Attend More Than The Two Mandatory Meetings?

Yes. Further consultations may be held if both parties consent, or if the conciliator recommends additional consultations and either one of the parties agrees, the court may order additional consultations.

Are Conciliation Sessions Privileged?

Yes. All communications during these sessions are absolutely privileged, except the conciliator shall report to the court whether or not the parties attended the consultations.

Can A Divorce Action Be Withdrawn?

Yes. A Connecticut divorce action may be unilaterally withdrawn by the plaintiff, however, if a cross-complaint has been filed by the defendant, the divorce can proceed on the defendant’s cross-complaint.

At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, we understand that going through a divorce can be a difficult process. We regularly work with and refer parties to therapists and mental health professionals in order to assist one or both parties with issues they may face during the proceedings. In the event, the divorce action does proceed, our skilled attorneys will be there to guide you through the process from start to finish.

How Are 401(k), IRA & Pension Assets Divided In A Connecticut Divorce?

Unless there is a prenuptial or postnuptial or divorce agreement that provides otherwise, retirement accounts will be allocated between the spouses in a divorce. Even if a retirement account is titled in the name of one spouse, or is an employer-sponsored plan, there are still ways to either divide the plan between the parties or to use other assets to offset it in equitable distribution.

Determine What Type Of Retirement Account Do You Have.

Retirement plans are either qualified or non-qualified. The most common types of qualified retirement accounts are 401(k)s, 403(b)s, SEP-IRAs, profit-sharing plans, and certain pension plans. A qualified retirement plan is one that meets guidelines issued by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regarding participation, vesting, benefit accrual, and fund information. When a retirement plan meets ERISA guidelines, it is considered a “qualified” plan and is eligible for certain tax benefits.

Non-qualified retirement plans include certain IRAs, deferred compensation plans, executive bonus plans, and annuities.

When you are getting divorced, it is important to know whether a retirement account is a qualified plan or a non-qualified plan in order to determine whether it is divisible via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. If your plan documents do not specifically state whether the account is qualified, you will have to check with the plan administrator.

What Is A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)?

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a Court Order that instructs a retirement plan administrator how to divide a retirement account between parties. If a retirement account is a qualified plan and can be divided by QDRO, the retirement account is capable of being separated between the parties without penalty. This is preferable because the non-employee spouse’s share can be deposited into a separate account, allowing for each party to manage his or her portion of the retirement funds individually.

Most divorce decrees will set forth the specific division of the retirement account that is agreed upon by the parties (or ordered by a Judge after a divorce trial), and provide for the parties to jointly hire an individual whose expertise is in the drafting of QDROs to prepare the QDRO and submit it to the Court for approval. Once approved by the Judge, the QDRO will be sent to the retirement plan administrator to effectuate the division of the account.

How Do We Divide A 401(k)?

As a qualified plan, a 401(k) is capable of being divided between spouses by QDRO. Accordingly, you and your spouse can either agree to divide the account by percentage or by dollar amount.

How Do We Divide An IRA?

IRAs can typically be divided using a process known as a “transfer incident to divorce.” Also called an IRA “rollover,” this process does not require a separate court order and can be accomplished by the parties themselves without the need to hire a specialized lawyer. Like a QDRO, an IRA rollover transaction is not subject to taxes. Instead, each party is responsible for payment of taxes and any penalty on the distributions from the retirement account after the funds are divided between them. As with a 401(k), the account can be divided by percentage or amount.

How Do We Divide A Pension?

When you have a non-qualified pension or other deferred compensation that is not divisible by QDRO or rollover, you will need to be more creative in allocating the asset between the parties. Typically, this means negotiating a buy-out of one party’s equitable interest or a sharing of the distributions if, as, and when the employee spouse receives them.

The attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC are experienced with the intricacies of dividing all types of retirement accounts and can help you take the appropriate legal steps to protect your rights to retirement accounts in your divorce.

What Is An Emergency Ex Parte Application For Custody?

An Emergency ex parte application for custody means that it is filed “for one party.” An ex parte application is an exception to the general rule that both parties must be present at any argument before a judge. Instead, these applications are initially considered “on the papers” by a judge without argument. Ex parte applications seek immediate, temporary orders, pending a formal hearing with both parties present.

When Are Emergency Ex Parte Applications For Custody Filed?

Emergency ex parte applications for custody are filed in emergency situations where one party believes that these types of orders are in the best interests of the child(ren) because there is an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the child(ren).   Emergency ex parte applications for custody may be filed if one parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol during his or her parenting time, if one parent is psychologically or physically abusing the child(ren), or if one parent absconds with the child(ren).

Do I Need To Give The Other Parent Notice That I Will Be Filing An Emergency Ex Parte Application For Custody?

Yes. Prior to filing an emergency ex parte application for custody, the applicant must give the other side reasonable notice pursuant to Practice Book Section 4-5. Typically, notice is given the same day as the filing of the application, which includes copies of the documents to be submitted to the court. The notice requirement gives the other side reasonable notice to prepare and file an objection.

What Documents Need To Be Submitted With An Emergency Ex Parte Application For Custody?

When filing an emergency ex parte application for custody, certain documents must be filed: an application, a supporting affidavit, which must be signed by the applicant under oath, and an affidavit concerning children, which also must be signed by the applicant under oath. In the application, the applicant will delineate the relief sought. In the supporting affidavit, the applicable will explain the circumstances and explain why the relief sought is appropriate. The affidavit must include a statement that there is an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the child(ren).

What relief may be sought in an Emergency Ex Parte Application for Custody?

An applicant may seek temporary legal and physical custody with a specific parenting schedule under certain conditions or no parenting time at all. Certain conditions may include drug or alcohol testing or supervised parenting time. An applicant may also seek orders that the other parent may not remove the child(ren) from the State of Connecticut, may not interfere with the applicant’s custody of the child(ren), or may not interfere with the educational program of the child(ren).

When Will A Judge Rule On An Emergency Ex Parte Application For Custody?

Typically, judges rule on an emergency ex parte application for custody on the same day that it is filed. Written orders will be issued, which must be served on the other side within a proscribed period of time.

Will There Eventually Be A Hearing On An Emergency Ex Parte Application For Custody?

Yes. Absent an agreement, a hearing will occur within fourteen days.

Can I File An Emergency Ex Parte Application For Custody During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

Yes. despite the court’s being generally closed, due to the emergency nature of these applications, the court is currently accepting and ruling upon these Applications.

Are Emergency Ex Parte Applications Of Custody E-Filed With The Court?

No. These applications may not be e-filed and must be hand-delivered to the clerk’s office.

If you believe that an emergency exists which presents an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to your child(ren), you should immediately contact an attorney to explore filing an emergency ex parte application for custody. The attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC are experienced in both filing and defending against these applications.

Payment Of Expenses For “Adult” Children After Divorce – PART II

In a Connecticut divorce, are you legally obligated to provide financial support to adult children? In Part I, we discussed that if you have an adult child living with you, or you are providing financial assistance to your adult child and your monthly living expenses are increased as a result, those increased expenses are not automatically covered by an award of alimony. We also discussed how the payment of health insurance for children over the age of eighteen is typically handled.

In Part II, we will address the limited areas where the Court can order you to provide support for an adult child.

Can Child Support Extend Beyond The Age Of Eighteen?

In Connecticut, child support is paid until the child turns eighteen or nineteen if still in high school. However, there is an exception to this rule. If your child is mentally, physically, or intellectually disabled, and lives with you and is primarily dependent on you, child support can extend until age twenty-one.

If you have a child with special needs, it is important to discuss your child’s specific circumstances with your divorce counsel so that we can appropriately address the possibility of extended child support.

Do I Have An Obligation To Pay For College and Graduate School For My Children When Divorcing In Connecticut?

In Connecticut, the Court can enter orders requiring you and/or your spouse to provide support to your child to attend college (or similar vocational school) for a total of four full academic years, until your child turns twenty-three. Any order for your contribution to higher education is capped at the cost of in-state tuition at the University of Connecticut, and it may include any necessary expenses such as tuition, room, board, dues, fees, and registration and application costs.

If orders for educational support are requested prior to your child attaining the age of twenty-three, the Court will have jurisdiction to makes orders regarding the payment of undergraduate expenses based on the financial circumstances of you and your spouse. However, your child must also meet certain qualifications to continue to be eligible for the payments under an educational support order. For example, your child must be enrolled at an accredited institution and maintain good academic standing in accordance with the school rules.

In Connecticut, there is no legal obligation for you or your spouse to contribute to the cost of graduate school for your child. Even if your child is under the age of twenty-three, your obligation is limited to undergraduate education only.

If you and your spouse agree that you would like to contribute in excess of the University of Connecticut cap on undergraduate tuition, or you agree to pay for graduate school, that can be included in your Separation Agreement. This is often the case if parents have already saved for college or graduate school and have accounts specifically designated for those expenses. If so, it is important to address the accounts and your intentions for them in your divorce agreement, so that you can enforce your agreement if necessary at a later date.

The attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, we understand the unique challenges that families face after divorce. We use our vast experience to assist our clients in the negotiation and drafting of agreements to preemptively address many of those challenges.

man thinking about how to handle parents divorce

Payment Of Expenses For “Adult” Children After Divorce – PART I

It is common for divorcing parents to have children who over the age of eighteen and considered to be adults by the State of Connecticut, however, they are not yet self-supporting. These adult children are in an in-between stage, perhaps looking for a job or even have a job but are still receiving financial assistance from mom and dad. Sometimes divorcing parents are in agreement about providing some level of financial support to adult children. In a contentious divorce, they may not agree. In that case, how are the expenses shared for adult children who are still reliant on divorcing parents for some level of support?

Generally, divorcing parents are not legally obligated to provide financial support to adult children.

If our adult child is living with me—does it factor into my expenses for alimony?

There are several factors that are considered in determining the appropriate alimony to be paid from one spouse to the other, and one factor is the needs of the alimony payee. If you have an adult child living with you, or you are providing financial assistance to your adult child and your monthly living expenses are increased as a result, those increased expenses are not automatically covered by an award of alimony.

This may seem unfair, particularly if you have a child who recently graduated from college and is trying to find a job while living at home. It is important to have an experienced attorney who can help you negotiate a settlement that may include some of these expenses.

Who Will Pay For Health Insurance For Our “Adult” Children After Divorce?

In Connecticut, divorcing parents are only required to maintain health insurance coverage for minor children until the later of the child reaching the age of 18 or graduating high school (but no later than the age of 19). While there is no legal obligation to do so, it is typical for a Separation Agreement to provide for continued health insurance coverage for children beyond age eighteen. Most Agreements contain a provision that the coverage in effect at the time of divorce will continue for so long as it remains available through an employer at a reasonable cost. Many divorcing parents, agree for health insurance to extend to age 26, the maximum allowable age limit in Connecticut, or until the child is able to secure health insurance through his/her own employer, spouse, or domestic partner. If this language is included in your Separation Agreement, you and/or your spouse have a legal obligation to continue to provide coverage for your adult children.

The attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, we understand the unique challenges that families face after divorce. We use our vast experience to assist our clients in the negotiation and drafting of agreements to preemptively address many of those challenges.