Getting a divorce is not an easy decision to come to. This decision is stressful and is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Sometimes, your spouse may surprise you and inform you that he or she wants a divorce. Other times, you may be the one that is ready to file for divorce. In any situation you will have questions about the process and this section of our website is designed to provide you with basic information on the divorce process.
In our experience clients want to know about the different types of divorce, how to divide debt and assets, how child custody will be determined, and the child and spousal support options in the state of Connecticut. We know that his process is difficult and emotionally draining, but we also know that taking the first step in filing for divorce will eventually allow you to move on with your life and start a new beginning. If you are considering a divorce you owe it to yourself to take that first step and contact a divorce lawyer today. A divorce lawyer can protect your interests, answer your questions, and provide a shoulder to lean on from the beginning until the end of this process. Let Bansley Anthony Burdo provide that lawyer for you. Contact us today for more information.
Types of Connecticut Divorce
In the state of Connecticut, there are two types of divorce available to those who are interested in filing for divorce – at-fault divorce and no-fault divorce. An at-fault divorce is rarely used in Connecticut Courts today, but it remains a legal option for you to at least consider. If you decide to file an at-fault divorce, you are claiming that your spouse did something that broke your marital vows or violated your trust in the relationship, and as a result, you want a divorce. If you file an at-fault divorce, you have to give a specific reason as to why you are filing the at fault divorce. Factors in an at-fault divorce include:
Willful desertion for one year.
Seven years’ absence.
Sentence to imprisonment for life.
Legal confinement in a hospital because of mental illness.
Please keep in mind that if you file an at-fault divorce, the burden is on you to prove that the factor you list leading to the divorce in fact took place. You will have to provide significant evidence in court to prove that your spouse is at-fault for the divorce.
The vast majority of divorces filed in the State today are no fault divorces. This concept of no fault divorce became available to residents in the State in 1973 when our Legislature enacted laws that allowed for divorce on the basis of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This means you no longer needed a fault reason mentioned above to file for a divorce. You will have to show that nothing can be done to fix your marriage, but you don’t have to blame your spouse for the divorce.
Dividing Assets and Debt
If you are seriously considering filing for divorce you should begin taking stock of your assets and debt. Connecticut is an equitable division State which basically means that the Court has wide discretion in dividing assets between spouses. Some couples find that dividing assets and debt is the hardest part of the divorce, so you should be proactive about doing this. If you and your spouse can maintain a line of open communication, this process can be relatively painless. Understanding the division of your assets and debt is the first step in sorting this step of the divorce process out.
There are two types of property and debt that you and your spouse have– marital property and separate property. Generally, marital property is any asset or property that you acquired with your spouse over the course of your marriage. For example, a house purchased at the beginning of your marriage would be considered marital property. Similarly, joint bank accounts and debt acquired over the course of your marriage is marital property. You and your spouse will both have claims on this type of property/debt.
The other type of property – separate property – consists of the assets and the debt that you or your spouse had before you got married. For example, if you purchased a car two years before your marriage, this is car may be considered your separate property. Likewise, if you have student loans, a home, or other major assets/debts that you acquired before you were married, you may be responsible for the same. Factors such as whether your kept the property separate during the marriage and whether you co-mingled marital funds or assets with your separate property will impact how a Court will view separate property.
As mentioned above, the state of Connecticut uses an equitable distribution law when dividing property. This law allows for property to be divided between the parties in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. A court will use the statutory factors such as a spouses opportunity to acquire future assets and income, the length of the marriage, causes of the breakdown of the marriage, age, health, station and occupation of the parties. For example, if you and your spouse have marital debt in the form of a mortgage, a judge may order that one spouse stay in the home and be responsible for the mortgage, taxes, insurance and customary household expenses.
If you and your spouse cannot divide your property and debt on your own, the court will intervene. If possible, it is a good idea to divide your property without the assistance of the court. This is because court battles can become ugly, and you will lose control over the outcome of the situation when you give it to a judge. Of course, if you cannot communicate with your spouse, taking your case to court might be in your best interest.
For many couples, determining child custody is the most important factor in their divorce. To understand the best option in your situation, you should contact an experienced divorce lawyer. At Bansley Anthony we provide you with advice based on years of experience and will answer any question you may have regarding custody. As with other areas of your divorce it is generally best to work out child custody in an amicable manner with your spouse and his or her attorney. If you and your spouse can effectively communicate and do what is best for your child, there’s no need to start a custody battle. However, if you do not agree with what your spouse is proposing or not fit to care for your child your case will likely be considered contested which means there will be more court involvement as it relates to custody. This may mean that your case will need a referral to Family Relations which is a division within the Family Court that can evaluate your custody situation and make a recommendation to the Court as it relates to custody.
Generally there are two types of Custody models: sole and joint custody. Sole custody of your child means that you and you alone can make decisions concerning your child and that you have custody of your child. If you have sole legal custody, you can make legal decisions, and if you have sole physical custody, your child will be allowed to live with you and you alone. It is rare for the Court to award sole custody granted to one parent. In Connecticut there is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child. So, sole custody is generally only awarded when there is evidence that one parent abused or neglected the child. In this type of case, the Department of Children and Families will likely be involved which adds another layer to your case.
In Connecticut, most custody cases end up with an award of joint custody, which gives both parents legal and physical custody. In the joint model both parents have an equal say as to major decisions about your child such as education, health and religion. In the joint model one parent will be awarded primary or day to day custody of the child and one parent will generally have rights of reasonable visitation. If you are the party that is awarded visitation you can request that you have your visitation detailed in a parenting plan or just have your visitation documented as reasonable and flexible. Generally, most parties prefer to have a parenting plan which details the visitation schedule to ensure the child has a set schedule of visitation with the visiting parent.
If you are the parent that was awarded visitation in your divorce, meaning that your child primarily lives with his or her other parent, you will be required to pay child support pursuant to the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines. The purpose of child support is to help maintain your child’s standard of living now that he or she lives in a home with one instead of two incomes. The parent with primary custody of the child does not have to pay child support because he or she provides for the child regularly.
Child support is almost always a fixed amount of money paid to take care of and support your child. You must pay child support until your child graduates from high school, or until he or she turns 18, whichever is later. When child support is calculated, your income and other factors are taken into consideration to determine an amount that is fair to both you and your child. You should take child support very seriously. If you default on your child support payments, you can face jail time.
The other type of support that you might be asked to pay is spousal support, or alimony. Spousal support is not awarded in every situation, but oftentimes if there is a large disparity between incomes, levels of education, and finances between spouses, the spouse with the lower amount of income/education will receive spousal support. There are a few different types of spousal support that might be ordered in your divorce.
Temporary spousal support is a common form of alimony that is paid while the divorce is being processed. It purpose is to attempt to allow both spouses to maintain their individual standards of living by having the spouse that makes more money give money to the spouse that makes less money.
Periodic alimony is another type of spousal support. Periodic alimony is the most common form of alimony awarded. Generally, this type of support is awarded if there is an earning disparity between the parties, clear fault of one of the parties as to why the marriage broke down, a marriage of at least several years, or other statutory factors that are considered when awarding alimony. Typically, periodic alimony is used to pay for school, job training, or to pay for bills while this spouse tries to make a living for him or herself.
Permanent alimony is another form of alimony. This is a permanent form of spousal support paid until the recipient remarries, or until one of the parties involved in permanent alimony passes away. It is possible for permanent alimony to be increased or decreased based on the financial situation of the payer and/or the recipient. Permanent alimony is rarely awarded in divorces.
Finalizing a Divorce
The good news is that most divorces end in what is called an uncontested hearing. This can happen as soon as four months into your divorce. More common is that your case even if it is uncontested will take nine months to a year to finish. At an uncontested hearing you generally with have executed a marital settlement agreement which outlines everything from alimony to property distribution to custody. At your uncontested hearing you will ask the Judge to review your marital settlement agreement and if acceptable make it an order of the Court. In almost all cases, the court does accept your agreement and makes it an order of the court and you are then divorced and bound by the terms of the agreement.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on financial or custody issues or both your case will proceed to trial. Family cases are tried by a judge alone and can take anywhere from one day to weeks to finish. At the end of your trial the court will either issues your divorce orders that day or sometime after the hearing and you will be bound by those orders and be divorced.