Q. How do I know if I am entitled to alimony?
A. Divorce is a product of statute. Section 46b-82 sets forth the criteria for the determination of alimony: the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the dissolution of the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties and the award, if any, which the court may make pursuant to section 46b-81, (property distribution) and in the case of a parent to whom the custody of minor children has been awarded, the desirability of such parents securing employment.
Q. What is Family Law?
A. Family law focuses on the areas of dissolution of marriage, custody, alimony, division of assets and liabilities and the other issues that need to be addressed when couples divorce. Many people do not realize the many issues involved in a divorce, especially when children are involved, such as medical and life insurance, higher education, tax exemptions and visitation. Family law also includes probate court procedures for adoption, guardianship and termination of parental rights.
Q. How do you decide how the assets in a marriage are to be divided in a divorce?
A. Section 46b-81 of the General Statutes governs the division of assets. The statute provides that in fixing the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income. The court shall also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates.
Q. Am I entitled to a part of my spouse’s retirement?
A. Frequently, a retirement plan (which falls into two categories; a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan) is one the largest assets of a marriage, and often exceeds the equity in the marital residence. Pursuant to Section 46b-81 of the General Statutes, a retirement plan can be divided between spouses. A special order from the court is required to divide retirement plans called a qualified domestic relations order, often referred to as a QDRO.
Q. I have experienced significant financial changes since my divorce; can I return to court and change the orders?
A. Some court orders are modifiable, and some are not. A property distribution, such as the division of the house, investments and retirement benefits are not modifiable and therefore, cannot be changed. Alimony is modifiable upon a substantial change of circumstances, assuming that the alimony order was not made “nonmodifiable.” Custody is always modifiable, as is child support, provided that the new child support order would be more than a 15 percent change in the current order.
Q. Can my former spouse move to another state with our children?
A. The relocating parent shall bear the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that (1) the relocation is for a legitimate purpose, (2) the proposed location is reasonable in light of such purpose, and (3) the relocation is in the best interests of the child.
The court shall consider: (1) Each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation; (2) the quality of the relationships between the child and each parent; (3) the impact of the relocation on the quantity and the quality of the child’s future contact with the nonrelocating parent; (4) the degree to which the relocating parent’s and the child’s life may be enhanced economically, emotionally and educationally by the relocation; and (5) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating parent and the child through suitable visitation arrangements.
Q. My spouse has physically abused me in the past and is now threatening to do it again. What can I do?
A. No one has the right to abuse or threaten to abuse anyone. You can apply for a restraining order under 46b-15, which provides that any family or household member as defined in section 46b-38a who has been subjected to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury by another family or household member or person in, or has recently been in, a dating relationship who has been subjected to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury by the other person in such relationship may make an application to the Superior Court for relief under this section.
Q. My former spouse is supposed to pay me child support every week, but is often late, and now owes me about 10 weeks of back child support. What can I do?
A. There are several alternatives available. If a party fails to follow any court order, the other party can file a motion for contempt and request court intervention. You can also enroll with the Support Enforcement Office, which will monitor the payments to insure compliance. Parties are entitled to rely upon the timely adherence to court orders.
You can also obtain a wage withholding order so that your former spouse’s child support is automatically taken and paid by the employer.
Q. My soon to be ex-spouse wants to share custody of our children. What does that mean?
A. There are two ways to share custody of children. Parents can have joint legal custody of their children, or can share joint physical custody. Joint legal custody is when the children reside primarily with one of the parents, but both parents are to attempt to reach an agreement on three major categories involving their children; health, education and religion.
Joint physical custody, sometimes called shared custody, is when the parents physically share the time with their children. The shared time does not need to be equal between the parents, but should be substantially more than the usual visitation schedule of alternating weekends.