There are numerous grounds for terminating a marriage, the most common of which is because “the marriage has broken down irretrievably” or “no-fault divorce”. Unless “fault” has been substantial or gross, it usually plays an insignificant role or no role at all in the financial or parenting orders rendered by a judges.
There are numerous divorce methods to choose from. Mediation and collaborative practice are respectful, private and often family focused alternate dispute resolution processes. On the other hand, litigation and binding arbitration are adversarial methods of divorcing. Choosing the divorce method that is right for you and your family is a critical decision.
An uncontested divorce is a process when both parties involved in a marriage have worked out the important issues pertaining to their divorce without the court’s help. Uncontested divorce, often called simple divorce, is very common due to its simplicity and low cost. If a husband and wife can agree on the terms for division of property, child custody, and child support issues, then they can usually separate amicably.
Legal Fees are the number one concern for clients wishing to retain an attorney. Perhaps this may be the reason why some clients attempt to file for a divorce on their own, which is most detrimental to complex cases. Clients who choose mediation or collaborative divorce save thousands of dollars compared to spouses who use the traditional litigated divorce.
Litigation cases start with a minimum initial retainer of $2,500 – $10,000 per spouse, for each attorney. The retainer amounts vary for different attorneys based on their legal practice and experience. The overall total cost of a litigated divorce can reach in excess of $30,000 or more per spouse. Custody litigation usually result in much higher costs.
Hourly rates vary per attorney, but they usually range between $250 and $450 per hour. Attorneys sell their time, experience, reputation and knowledge. The field of law, is very much like the field of medicine. The more specialized a doctor becomes, the higher his or her fees. The same applies to attorneys. When we need help, we tend to hire the best our money can buy.
The collaborative divorce costs usually amount to between $5,000 and $20,000 per spouse. Hourly rates are the same as litigation attorney rates and they usually range between $250 and $450 per hour. Most collaborative divorce attorneys have litigation backgrounds. All collaborative divorce attorneys charge an initial retainer of approximately $2500 – $5,000. You may have to pay additional fees if financial professionals or communication professionals are needed during the process. Such fees are paid directly to the individual expert used during the process and they typically range between $175 and $275 per hour.
The total mediation cost of a mediated divorce in CT, depends on how many meetings are required. This is the least expensive form of divorce in CT. Total cost usually ranges between $1,500 and $6,000 and occasional more if cases are more complex. This total cost is split between the spouses. You may incur additional costs if you need other professionals to help you settle marital financial issues. Mediators charge on a hourly basis, which is dependent of the expertise of the attorney.
The reason couples should hire an attorney mediator is because the attorney mediator can address ALL issues stemming from the divorce, perform alimony calculations, child support guideline calculation and provide all the legal information needed for spouses to reach decisions. A non-attorney mediator is not qualified to practice law and can often give incorrect or erroneous information when couples negotiate what will eventually become a Court Order. Price without value is no bargain at all when ex-spouses have to retain attorneys thereafter to correct or address errors or omissions.
In order to file for dissolution of marriage in Connecticut, you must be a resident of Connecticut. The party filling the divorce must have been domiciled continuously in Connecticut for a period of 12 months prior to the date that the Court issues the judgment. You may file for divorce without meeting the 12-month residency requirement as long as you meet the requirement on the date of the divorce. There are other exceptions as well: if the reason for the divorce arose after you and your spouse moved to Connecticut, if you were Connecticut residents before going on military duty which took you out of state, or if you were previously a resident of Connecticut and moved back to Connecticut with the intent of making Connecticut your permanent state. The statue is more complex and you should consult with an attorney if CT has jurisdiction over your matter.
In the state of Connecticut the waiting period to obtain a divorce from the time the divorce documents are returned to the court is 90 days. If additional time is needed for the spouses to reach agreements the client the spouses can take additional time to conclude their negotiations. Minimum time is 90 days from the time the documents are return to court until the earliest date the spouses can get a divorce an actual time is about four months in the best of circumstances.
The State of Connecticut is referred to as an “all property equitable distribution state.” In Connecticut, the Court has the power to “assign to either the husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other” (Conn. Gen. Stats. § 46b-81). Any property, therefore, regardless of when or how acquired, can be re-distributed by the Court. All property, including pre-marital or inherited property, is subject to division by the court. The statute “does not limit, either by timing or method of acquisition or by source of funds, the property subject to a trial court’s broad power to divide such property. Read Lopiano v. Lopiano, 247 Conn. 356, 364 (1998).
Did you know that “homemaking” is considered a valuable contribution to the acquisition and appreciation of assets? In a divorce, the Connecticut Court will consider the length of the marriage, the causes of the dissolution or separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each party, and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-81, rev. 2013). The court also considers the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation of the assets (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-81).
Courts and divorce lawyers talk about “marital property” and “separate” property. Property acquired as a result of the marital joint venture is considered marital, regardless of which spouse earns the income to acquire it and regardless of whose name is on the title to the property. Property acquired prior to the marriage is often, but not always, considered the separate and exclusive property of the person who acquired it. Gifts and inheritances can also be considered separate, as can personal injury settlements. HOWEVER, how a court treats separate property is dependent on all the facts and circumstances. In Connecticut, a judge has the authority and discretion to draw on separate property when allocating assets. Any allocation is based upon all the facts and circumstances existing in each individual case.
The home that the parties live in prior to divorce is often referred to as the Marital Residence. Like all property acquired during the marriage, both parties have an interest in it, regardless of how the property was acquired or is titled. Important Point: Leaving the marital residence prior to or during the divorce does not constitute a legal abandonment of your property interest in the home.
There is no rule or law and there should be no expectation that a court will allocate assets and debts equally between the spouses.
A court may “assign to either the husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other,” (C.G.S. Section 46b-81). This means that a court can allocate between the spouses all assets and debts in the name of the spouses jointly or either of them individually.
A court may order one spouse to transfer title of the family home to the other spouse or order one or both spouses to sell the home.
A court may order one spouse to transfer to the other all or a portion of his or her pension, IRA or 401(k) account. For pensions or 401(k) accounts, a special type of court order called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is necessary. QDROs can be complex and time consuming documents to draft and implement. Frequently, lawyers specializing in pension work are retained to draft and implement the QDROs, even in litigated cases. In collaborative and mediation cases, the pension lawyer is jointly retained by the spouses.
Unlike alimony, a court may not make property division orders until the time of judgment. For example, if one spouse wants to sell the family home while the case is pending but the other does not, during the pendente lite (aka pending litigation) period, the court cannot order the home sold or even listed for sale. This limitation on the court’s authority is a source of frustration for many couples litigating their divorce. On the other hand, if the spouses agree to sell the home or other real estate while the case is pending, as is sometimes the situation in a mediated or collaborative case, the law permits this to occur.
Before entering property division and alimony orders after a trial, a judge is required to consider the following factors (C.G.S. Section 46b-81 and 46b-82):
Length of the marriage
Causes for the dissolution of the marriage
Age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, and needs of each of the spouses
Liabilities of each spouse (for property division only)
Opportunity for each spouse for future acquisition of capital assets and income (for property division only)
Contribution of each spouse in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates (for property division only)
Property division orders (for alimony only)
Desirability of the custodial parent’s securing employment (for alimony only)
The trial judge has tremendous discretion in how he or she weighs each factor and fashions the financial orders. Two judges hearing the same evidence in a trial might enter vastly different orders. Therefore, it is impossible to reliably predict the outcome of trial.
In the state of Connecticut, the Courts can award maintenance to one spouse. Maintenance, also referred to as “alimony” or “spousal support” is presented in the form of a monetary payment from one spouse to another. Either spouse, male or female, can be ordered to pay maintenance to their spouse by the Court. The monetary payment can be awarded over time or in one large sum. The Court has broad discretion to award any amount of money that is necessary for the support of the recipient spouse as long as the court’s decision is based on the facts and the circumstances existing at the time the award is granted. The facts are integral and carefully reviewed. An attorney or attorney mediator, plays a big part in showing the necessary information and facts to help you reach the goals you are hoping for in regards to maintenance, or alimony payments. Attorneys have the training, professional experience and financial training needed to help souses calculate alimony correctly.