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Are Non-custodial Parents Responsible for College Expenses in Connecticut?

It can be challenging to contemplate future plans when a person is undergoing a divorce that involves children. It is remarkable how quickly kids seem to grow up, and in the blink of an eye, they will be considering various options for college or another post-secondary training course.

Your divorce process in these situations may or may not include planning for college tuition. Many states are finding that it is unconstitutional for the State to order divorced parents to pay post-majority educational support. The argument is that since the State cannot order parents who choose to remain married to pay post-majority education support for children, it cannot order divorced parents to do so because violates the Equal Protection laws of the constitution. Connecticut General Statute Sec 46b-84(b) states that support terminates at 18 unless the child is still in high school, unmarried, and still lives with one of the parents, then support continues until the child completes the 12th grade or turns 19, whichever comes first. If, however, there is a specific agreement between the parties, then the court may order support. The key here is that parents must agree to either waive their right to request a post-majority support order or they must agree to allow the court to do so. It is imperative for parents to understand what this means and why it is important.  

  1. Both of the parties may make a knowing and intelligent waiver of their right to request a post-majority educational support order.

Parents may choose not to have the court make a post-majority educational support order, and if they choose this option, the court has no jurisdiction to do so once the child turns 18 or meets the criteria listed above. This option does not restrict parents from paying for or helping their children pay for college or living expenses in the future. It just means the court has no right to interfere if parents cannot agree about how that is done.

  • The parties may ask the Court to find that it is more likely than not that they would have provided post-majority educational support if the family were intact, and to enter an order for such support.

Parents may choose, at the time of the divorce, to have the court make an order pertaining to post-majority educational expenses, which it will do based on the financial circumstances of the parties at that time. This is not always the best option because circumstances change and if the divorce happens when the children are very young, the probability that either or both parties’ financial circumstances will change is high.

  • The parties may ask the Court to find that it is more likely than not that they would have provided post-majority educational support if the family were intact, and for the court to reserve jurisdiction to determine at a later date whether to enter a post-majority educational support order and the terms of the order.

Contrary to the option above, this choice gives the court the right to reserve jurisdiction to decide whether to make an order for post-majority educational support at a later date, but it still requires the court to make a determination, at the time of the divorce, that the parties would have provided it had they remained married. In essence, this is an agreement between the parties to provide support where the court has the option based on the circumstances at the time.

  • The parties may ask the Court to reserve jurisdiction to determine at a later date whether a post-majority educational support should issue and the terms of that order.

This is the most popular option and it allows the court to make a determination later on if an order should be made and if so, the terms thereof. The difference with this option and the previous one is that the parties are not agreeing, at the time of the divorce, that it is more likely than not that they would have provided post-majority support if they remained married. Rather, they are only agreeing to the right of the Court to reserve its jurisdiction to make the determination.

So, assuming that the parties agree to allow the Court to make a determination for post-majority educational support, what does that mean?

Under Connecticut law, a judge can order both parents (the custodial as well as the noncustodial parent) to pay for the college education expenses of their children. This is why it is imperative for parents to understand these options and why they are important.

The legal responsibility of non-custodial parents in Connecticut to pay child support for their “children” includes college tuition and expenses (partial or in whole). In general, a loss or decrease in the income of the non-custodial parent does not absolve them from the legal duty to pay for their child’s college expenses.

Educational Support Orders

When a child reaches the age of 18 or is emancipated, child support orders typically end. Connecticut law allows courts to order divorcing parents (including fathers who are subject to paternity orders) to continue to pay child support until their offspring are 23 years old if their kids attend a college or are enrolled in a vocational training course.

Educational support orders may include expenses such as board, room, fees, books, tuition, medical and dental care, and application costs. This order may require one parent to pay the money to the other parent, or directly to the educational institution itself.

To determine educational support orders, a court will consider various aspects, such as:

  • The income, assets, and liabilities of each parent
  • The child’s needs for support to enroll in school, including the earning capability of the child
  • The possibility of acquiring financial aid from sources such as loans and grants
  • The feasibility of funding the child’s higher education, depending on the family’s financial condition and the child’s academic record
  • If the parents would have paid for the education of the child if they were still together as a family unit
  • The commitment of the child to higher education
  • Evidence about the educational institution that the child will attend

Financial Aid following Divorce

Financial aid becomes necessary for many students and parents to be able to bear education costs due to the high cost of college. The process of obtaining financial aid can be slightly more complicated when the parents of a child are divorced. To be able to be eligible for federal student financial aid, the parents will be required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This form should be filled out by the custodial parent.

The FAFSA will ask for comprehensive financial information to establish the eligibility of your child for aid. If the custodial parent has remarried, the income of the new spouse will be considered in this determination. The income of the ex-spouse will not be a part of this calculation. Which parent completes the FAFSA will make a difference as it will affect the amount of financial aid that a student will qualify for.

In many private universities, students are required to complete the College Scholarship Service Profile to establish whether they are eligible for non-federal financial aid. But unlike FAFSA, the profile requires information from the custodial as well as the noncustodial parent.

In individual schools that use the Profile, the new spouses’ earnings are also taken into account along with other aspects such as the duration that the parents of the student have been divorced to determine their eligibility for financial aid.

Guidelines for Child Support under Connecticut Law

Connecticut courts use the updated version of the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines to determine child support payments.

As long as one parent has primary custody, and the other parent has a reasonably standard visitation schedule (such as some vacation time, alternating weekends and holiday, and perhaps some additional brief visits), the child support obligation of the noncustodial parent may be assessed by evaluating the guidelines and filling out the included Worksheet (Form CCSG-1).

Shared Physical Custody

If each parent spends significantly more time with a child than the standard visitation schedule discussed above, they share physical custody of the child. There is no requirement for a specific number of days or exactly equal time to be spent with the child, only something that approaches equal time.

The court will sometimes allow reduced payment of the noncustodial parent in a shared custody arrangement, however, this usually occurs only if the parenting arrangement alters how the parents divide childcare and other related expenses.

Summarily, if the parents share almost equal time with the child, but the custodial parent bears most of the child-related expenses, the court will likely not order a reduction absent a showing that the deviation meets an acceptable exception or is in the child’s best interest. The reduction also cannot be to the extent that the custodial parent does not have sufficient funds to meet the basic needs of the child.

Consult a Skilled Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

It is complicated to plan for college and apply for financial aid. Divorce can make this process even more challenging. For people considering divorce, it is vital to include college planning in the process of divorce to ensure that problems do not arise in the future.

The experienced divorce lawyers at APEX Law Firm, LLC, can help address your questions and concerns about divorce and college planning. Call (860) 900-0900 today for a free consultation with a qualified attorney.

Raising Children After a Divorce

Joint custody or shared custody in a Connecticut divorce occurs when a court awards the child’s care equally to both parents. Except when issues such as child abuse, drug abuse or domestic violence are involved in a divorce, courts usually prefer to have both parents take an active role in their child’s upbringing.

Research has shown that the nature of the relationship between divorced parents will have an impact on the child’s emotional and psychological well-being. However, it requires some commitment and creative effort from both parents to manage a healthy and positive child rearing after a divorce.

Making it Work

When you are going through the divorce process, it is important to recognize that your marriage might have ended, but your family has not. Your foremost priority should be to act in the best interests of your child. That means responsible and mature co-parenting and placing your child’s needs before your own at all times.

You can begin on this new but constructive path after your divorce by separating your personal relationship with your ex-spouse from your new relationship with him or her as a co-parent. It will help if you and the other parent can both understand that your new relationship as co-parents is not about either of you, but entirely about the happy and healthy rearing of your children.

Never Put Your Child in the Middle

While it is understandable that your bitterness or resentment about your marriage dissolution may never completely disappear, you need to compartmentalize your emotions. Keep reminding yourself that your issues with your former spouse are not your child’s issues. Therefore, your child need not carry the same bitterness or resentment against the other parent.

Do not use your children as messengers

If you try to convey any messages to the other parent through your kids, you are putting them at the center of your personal conflict. Call, text or email your former spouse directly when you have to and keep the children out of your relationship issues.

Never speak negatively to the child about the co-parent

If you have strong feelings against your ex-spouse, keep them to yourself. Do not make negative comments about him or her in front of your child, and never make them feel as if they have to choose their loyalties. Allow your child the right to maintain a positive relationship with their other parent without any pressure or influence.

Maintain Constructive Communication with the Co-Parent

Positive communication with your former spouse begins with listening. When you listen patiently, you are conveying to the other parent that you respect their point of view regarding child rearing, even if you may not agree with it.

Exercise restraint in your speech

Communicating as co-parents is most likely going to be unavoidable through the entire length of your child’s younger years (if not longer). Practice restraint and train your mind to not overreact to anything that the other party may say. Over time, you will learn to switch off the emotional buttons he or she may try to press.

Commit to frequent engagement

While it is going to be tough in the initial stages after your divorce, regular and consistent engagement with your former spouse will make life easier for everyone. When you communicate frequently with the co-parent, your children will feel more secure and start believing they have a united force to protect them.

Restrict conversations to children’s issues

During your exchanges with your ex, never allow the conversation to digress into conflicting areas related to your needs or the other party’s needs. All communication should always be only about your child’s needs.   

Make Key Decisions about Your Child Jointly

All major decisions about your child’s life should involve both you and the other parent. In the best interests of your child, it is vital for you to be forthcoming and transparent about important issues concerning your child.

Healthcare needs

Whether you both attend the child’s medical appointments together, or mutually decide to designate one of you to engage primarily with the medical professionals, keep one another updated and informed.

Education needs

Following a divorce, make sure that you inform your child’s school about the changed situation at your home. Talk ahead of time with the other parent about class and exam schedules, parent-teacher conferences, extra-curricular activities, and events where your child is participating.

Financial needs

Financial issues related to the child’s expenses often become a bone of contention between co-parents. Create a mutually agreeable budget and maintain updated records for all shared expenses. If the co-parent provides an opportunity for your child that you could not provide, accept it graciously.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with an Accomplished Divorce Attorney

If you are contemplating a divorce or going through divorce or child custody proceedings, you need strong legal counsel by your side. Speak to the experienced Connecticut divorce lawyers at APEX Law Firm, LLC today. Call us at 860-900-0900 or contact us online for a consultation.

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.

Unique Considerations for Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children

When a marriage dissolves, it is difficult for all parties involved. There is uncertainty about the future, and there are many important issues that must be resolved during the divorce process. When divorcing spouses have children, there are additional considerations, such as child custody, visitation schedules, child support, and many others. This is especially true when the couple has a child with special needs.

Families with special needs children have many unique concerns to deal with, and standard parenting plans may not be sufficient to effectively account for all the underlying issues that must be resolved. When the Connecticut courts consider child support and child custody arrangements, they are able to examine specific factors that must be addressed to ensure that the final divorce decree is in-keeping with child’s best interests.

Unique Considerations for Divorcing Couples with Special Needs Children

Raising a child with special needs can be a full-time job, and when parents get divorced, there are several additional complications that may need to be resolved. In the best-case scenario, parents should work together on these issues and begin addressing them at the beginning of the divorce process.

Some of the unique factors that divorcing parents with special needs children may need to look at include:

Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements

Standard custody and visitation arrangements typically call for the child to split time between each parent. This often means the child makes frequent transitions from one parent to the other. A child with special needs usually has more difficulty traveling back and forth between the parents. For this reason, it might work better to use a more structured visitation schedule in which the child has less frequent and more extended visitation periods with the non-custodial parent.

The Child’s Medical and Functional Needs

A special needs child typically requires ongoing medical care which often includes specialized medical equipment in the home and in-home visits from a health professional and/or caregiver. This may require the non-custodial parent to make special accommodations for the child when he/she comes to visit. In addition, child support payments may need to be increased to account for additional medical expenses that may not be covered by health insurance.

Special Educational Needs

Special needs children often have learning disabilities that require additional educational resources. This may include an individualized education plan, specialized schooling, in-home tutoring, and many others. The structure of the visitation plan needs to account for the child’s educational plan, and the cost of these additional resources should also be factored into the child’s support needs.

Eligibility for Government Benefits

Special needs children often qualify for government benefits to help cover the extra expenses parents incur to care for their child. During a divorce, eligibility for these benefits may be threatened by the child support payments and the income of the parents. This issue can often be resolved by setting up a special needs (OBRA) trust. These trusts have specific requirements and must be set up correctly in order to be used to house child support payments, so be sure to work with an attorney who has in-depth knowledge of this area of the law.

Adult Child Support

Usually, a parent’s obligation to provide child support ends when the child turns 18. This may not be the case with a special needs child. If an adult child is disabled and cannot live alone, parents must continue to support the child until either parent dies or until the child becomes able to live on their own. For support payments to continue, the child must have already been mentally or physically disabled before turning 18, and it must be shown that the child is still unable to function on their own after they reach adulthood.

Contact a Skilled and Compassionate Hartford, CT Divorce Attorney

Caring for a child with special needs involves unique challenges that require a full commitment on the part of both parents to provide for the child’s well-being. When parents get divorced, these issues can become more complicated, and it is important for divorcing couples to work together to continue to ensure that their child will be taken care of.

At The APEX Law Firm, LLC, we understand that divorce is a difficult and emotional time, and we work closely with our clients to listen and understand their specific needs, and to ensure that their interest, and the best interests of their children, are fully protected. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (860) 900-0900 or send us a message through our online contact form. You may also visit our Hartford County office in person at your convenience.