A Breakdown of Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Connecticut

Connecticut is a “no fault” state, which means that either party of a marriage can unilaterally decide to dissolve the marriage for any reason. Compare this state of affairs with the previous situation. In a fault-based system, the party seeking to dissolve the marriage must bring forth a legitimate reason as to why the divorce should be granted. Common reasons cited in a fault-based system are infidelity, abandonment, poverty, and so forth. However, even though Connecticut may be a no fault system, marital dissolution in this state can still be a fairly complex process. Part of the complexity of divorce in Connecticut stems from the two types of divorce processes: contested and uncontested.

In this post, we will give a brief rundown on the difference between contested and uncontested divorces. As we will see, both contested and uncontested divorces present many complex issues. Readers who need assistance should contact the Apex Law Firm.

What is Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties reach an agreement on certain fundamental aspects of the separation. This doesn’t speak to anything regarding the underlying reasons or motivations of the divorce itself, only that both parties agree on certain points concerning their separation. Furthermore, in an uncontested divorce, the court accepts the agreement which has been reached by the parties.

The parties of a divorce must reach an agreement on the following issues: (1) division of property, (2) child support, (3) child custody and parenting, (4) plan for visitation, and (5) spousal support. Needless to say, developing an agreement on all these points is far from easy. This is why many divorces are not uncontested. What’s more, very few uncontested divorces are achieved without the assistance of expert support, including divorce attorneys. In some cases, parties may have a partial uncontested divorce, which means that they are able to develop an agreement on a certain number of these issues, but not all. In those cases, the court will step in and fill the gaps.

What is Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce, by contrast, is one in which the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement regarding this vital issues of the separation. Contested divorces happen a lot, because people often have difficulty reaching an agreement on sensitive issues, such as visitation and parenting. Often, one party wants to play a dominant role in a child’s development, but the same is true for the other parent; when this happens, it is necessary for the court to step in and provide an objective, fair assessment of the situation.

Courts in Connecticut will attempt to take a balanced view, weighing the competing interests of the parties, and also focusing their analysis on certain key factors. For instance, courts will look at the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the circumstances of the marriage, the individual incomes of the parties, causes of the breakdown, and other factors when ruling on property division. When the court rules on child custody, the court may look at other factors, including the lifestyles of the parties, the needs of the child, the incomes of the parties, and so forth.

Contact an Experienced Connecticut Divorce Attorney to Learn More

As you can see, whether a divorce be either contested or uncontested is a very important determination, because these different processes carry very different implications. In many ways, it’s in your interests to develop an uncontested divorce, but this is much easier said than done. If you’re contemplating a divorce, reach out to an expert to assistance; a qualified divorce attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome. Call the Apex Law Firm today at 860-900-0900 for more information.

What Happens During a Divorce Mediation in Connecticut?

Divorce is unquestionably among the most unpleasant experiences a person can go through. Part of the difficulty comes from the emotional toll that a divorce can impose upon people. Separating from someone to whom you were formerly committed can be devastating. Furthermore, divorce also typically imposes a stiff financial burden on the people involved. If the divorcing couple chooses to resolve the matter in court, the costs can quickly become astronomical.

Those contemplating divorce in Connecticut need to be aware of the potential benefits offered by mediation as opposed to litigation in court. In this post, we will go over some of the basics of mediation in Connecticut.

Mediation is an Alternative to Litigation

A mediation is a way to develop the agreements necessary to complete a formal divorce outside of the usual court system. In other words, it is distinct from the traditional court-based litigation which most people associate with divorce. In a mediation, both parties of the divorce will procure a mediator to act as a representative during the mediation process. Mediators are often attorneys, but non-attorney mediators are also common. The mediators will act as a conduit between the parties so that direct negotiation doesn’t have to take place. Given the emotions involved in divorce, this is often a necessity, and a major benefit of mediation.

Mediation will resolve all aspects of a divorce: property division, child support, alimony, division of retirement assets, and so forth. If the mediation is successful, you may not need to go to court at all.

The Finances of Mediation in Connecticut

Mediation can be a very cost-effective means to complete your divorce. In some cases, the financial comparison with a traditional court-based divorce can be extremely favorable. If you decide to take your case to a traditional litigation divorce attorney, you can expect to pay a retainer of $5,000 to $10,000 for a contested divorce. If the case is highly complex – that is, if it involves complicated child custody issues, property division, etc. – then the retainer could be substantially more. If you consider the hourly rates of most Connecticut divorce attorneys, your total cost can quickly become very high if you have a complicated situation.

By comparison, in most mediations, the total cost for both parties is usually less than the cost for one retainer fee for one of the parties. The average cost for a mediation is between $2,000 and $5,000. Most mediations can be resolved in 3 to 5 sessions which occur over the course of a few months. More complicated mediations can last for as long as 6 months, which is much quicker than most litigation cases, and so the emotional toll of a mediation is considerably lighter.

Mediation is Both Enforceable & Confidential

Those who are unfamiliar with mediation may wonder: are the agreements reached in mediation enforceable by courts? And, are the negotiations, and any other materials, used during the mediation confidential? The answer to both of these questions is “yes.” Once you reach an agreement via mediation, and both parties sign a separation agreement, that agreement is legally binding because it becomes an order of the court. In essence, you are asking the court to adopt your separation agreement as its order. Hence, mediation has achieved the same result as litigation, although typically at a much lower cost because the goal of mediation is to come to an agreement as opposed to fighting over things that may or may not matter. What’s more, any material used during the mediation process remain confidential.  

Contact Apex Law Firm for More Information

Mediation can be a very effective method to effect a separation in the State of Connecticut. If you are thinking about a divorce – painful though it may be – you should consider using mediation as an alternative to traditional litigation. If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to Apex Law Firm today for additional information. Call us at 860-900-0900.

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Can Divorce Impact my Credit Score?

Getting a divorce is a major step that will impact your life in numerous ways. You will need to figure out living arrangements, your overall income and net worth will most likely drop, and if you have children together with your spouse, you will need to figure out how you will parent them while living separate lives.  

While a marriage dissolution will almost certainly affect your financial circumstances, it does not have a direct impact on your credit score. Just like when you get married, the act of filing for divorce does not cause the credit reporting agencies to lower your score. So, all things being equal, the divorce itself will not negatively affect your ability to obtain credit.

Unfortunately, things do not remain “equal” after a divorce. The effects of the process can and often do impact your credit score. There are things that can occur in conjunction with a divorce that can adversely affect your credit. Here are three of the most common examples:

Tighter Finances

The cost of a divorce and/or the decrease in income that results from it can make it more difficult for you to pay your bills. This is especially true if your spouse was the primary breadwinner.  One of the major factors in determining your credit score is on-time payments. Usually, a payment that is a day or two late is not going to get recorded on your credit report. However, if you are 30 days (or more) late with your payments, this can cause your credit score to drop significantly. If at all possible, try to pay at least the minimum amount due before the due date to avoid this happening.

Another factor that credit agencies looking at is your credit usage. If you are forced to use a higher percentage of your credit limits because of your divorce, this could also cause your score to drop. Watch your credit limits carefully and try to save as much of your credit as possible for emergencies.

A Deadbeat Spouse

Most couples have some joint credit accounts, and these accounts can become a major problem during a divorce. Examples of joint accounts may include your home mortgage, auto loans, joint credit cards, and joint personal loans. Although the court may have ruled that your ex-spouse is responsible for certain joint accounts, this is no guarantee that they’re going to get paid. And if these bills don’t get paid, your credit score is going to suffer.

Perhaps your ex-spouse is not as concerned about his/her credit as you are. This is often the case when one spouse was in charge of the finances in the household, and the other has always been weak in this area. If you have accounts that are in both of your names, keep a close eye on them, even if your ex-spouse is the one who is supposed to pay them. You may need to make at least minimum payments on these accounts to protect your credit for the time being. Later on, you can try to recover the funds directly from your ex or through the courts.

A Vindictive Spouse

This third issue is similar to the previous one but taken to a greater extreme. Rather than your ex-spouse just not paying their bills, you may end up with a situation where they purposely run up credit out of spite or grief over the divorce. This happens most commonly when a spouse is an authorized user on another spouse’s individual credit account. The spouse who is an authorized user can run up charges without any consequences, leaving you to pay the bill. To prevent this from happening, take steps immediately once you know you’re getting a divorce to remove your spouse from any accounts that are in your name. It would also be a good idea to close any joint credit accounts that have little to no balance on them. Do everything possible to separate yourself from your spouse financially. This is the best way to limit the chances of your credit being damaged during the divorce process.

Contact an Experienced Connecticut Family Law Attorney

If you are facing a divorce in Connecticut, it will affect your life in many ways, and you need skilled counsel in your corner to provide legal guidance and moral support. At The APEX Law Firm, LLC, we know that divorce is costly both emotionally and financially, and we give our clients the strong personalized representation they need during this difficult time. Call our office today at (860) 900-0900 to schedule a consultation. You may also send us a message through our web contact form or stop by our Hartford County office in person at your convenience.

Steps to Filing a Connecticut Divorce

In Connecticut, either spouse can file for a divorce, also known as a “dissolution of marriage”, and the process takes several months up to a year or longer to complete. The time frame to complete a divorce depends on numerous factors, such as the complexity of the issues that need to be resolved, the willingness of the spouses to cooperate during the process, and many others.  

For example, if you and your spouse both agree to proceed with the divorce, and you have very few assets and no children, you may be able to complete the process in as little as three months. On the other hand, if there are significant marital assets that need to be divided, issues involving children (e.g., child support, child custody and visitation), a request for alimony, and similarly complex issues in which the spouses are not in agreement, the process can drag on for quite a bit longer.

Connecticut has both fault-based and no-fault divorces. A spouse may choose to file for a fault-based divorce on one of the acceptable grounds, such as:

Parties may ask for a fault-based divorce in order to gain an advantage over the other spouse during the proceeding on issues such as division of assets, spousal support, and child custody. These types of cases require specific proof of spousal misconduct, however, and this can make them more complicated and costlier to pursue. For this reason, the most common type of divorce in Connecticut is a no-fault divorce.

With a no-fault divorce, the reason can be as vague as “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.” In other words, the couple has irreconcilable differences, and the marriage is broken beyond repair. You can also file a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have lived apart continuously for a period of at least 18 months.

Steps in a CT Divorce

Once you have decided to file for a divorce and decided whether to opt for a fault-based or no-fault divorce, there are several steps that must be completed in the process:

Meeting Residency Requirements

For a court in Connecticut to have jurisdiction over your case, you or your spouse needs to meet one of the following residency requirements:

Filing the Paperwork

There are three or four main forms that need to be filed to initiate the divorce process in CT:

  • The summons is filed by the plaintiff spouse notifying the defendant spouse of the dissolution of marriage filing.
  • The complaint lists the reason for divorce, and other personal information about you, your spouse, and any children that you may have.
  • This form is filed along with the complaint, and it lists the obligations the spouses have with regards to assets and children. Examples may include prohibitions on selling, gifting, or borrowing against any property, running up unreasonable credit card debt or other types of personal loans on a joint account, changing beneficiaries on insurance policies, and many others.
  • This form lists information about the children, such as who they are currently residing with and any prior custody and visitation issues.

Waiting Period and Negotiations

Once the paperwork has been filed and the defendant spouse has been served, a 90-day waiting period ensues. During the waiting period, (the period leading up to your case management date) the parties and their attorneys typically enter into negotiations in an attempt to reach a settlement. If a settlement agreement can be reached, a final hearing is held, the agreement becomes a court order, and the dissolution of marriage is finalized. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the case proceeds to trial.

Divorce Litigation

Negotiations may continue up until the date that the divorce trial begins, and if the parties are still not able to come to an agreement, then they proceed with litigation. During litigation, both sides present evidence and argue their cases, and the judge hears and evaluates the arguments and renders a final decision on the issues that are in dispute.

Facing a Divorce in CT? Speak with an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you are considering filing for a divorce in Connecticut, you need skilled legal counsel by your side advocating forcefully for your rights and interests. At The Apex Law Firm, LLC, we understand that divorce can be a difficult and confusing process, and we work closely with our clients to provide strong legal guidance and moral support during this turbulent time. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (860) 900-0900. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Hartford County office in person at your convenience.