Divorce Lawyer: Hartford, New Haven & Fairfield Counties
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Divorce Attorneys: Connecticut Family Law Firm
When looking for a divorce lawyer, it's important to retain a skilled attorney. Divorce is a challenging and emotional process for people. At the McConnell Family Law Firm, we guide you through the process and will protect your rights, every step of the way.
- A good divorce lawyer will help you understand decisions during the divorce process and how those decisions will affect your finances, taxes, and personal life. We take the time to explain everything and answer all of your questions and address any concerns.
- We guide you through each step and help you make difficult decisions on information rather than emotions.
- If you have a will or trust, we review your documents and suggest actions be taken to protect your assets.
- If you're a business owner, we explain how divorce impacts your business.
- For child support or spousal support, our divorce attorneys have the necessary experience to negotiate terms that will be agreeable to you.
- We are a full-service family law firm that is equipped to handle all of your family law needs inclusive of divorce.
Divorce: Initial Consultation
Sorry to give a lawyer answer, but: It depends. For divorce matters, we tell "most" of our clients to plan on nine months. A few cases are completed in as little as three months, while others sometimes last more than a year.
Making the decision to contemplate or begin divorce proceedings is a very difficult and emotional one. We always encourage the first step be having an initial consultation. Please see the video above as Attorney Paul McConnell discusses the initial consultation. We are also offering Zoom conferencing in light of current circumstances.
Divorce: Connecticut is a "No-Fault" State
Connecticut is a “no fault” divorce state. What that means, is a spouse does not need to prove "grounds" to obtain a divorce. The Court issues a judgment of divorce because the marriage has "irretrievably broken down.”
That said, the court can consider fault in determining the financial orders (alimony and assignment of property). Fault makes a difference in the court's award when it is substantial and contributes to the breakdown of the marriage or the loss of marital assets. It plays a much smaller role in today's divorces than people realize.
At least one party must have been domiciled (established residency) continuously in Connecticut for 12 months before the date that the Court issues the judgment. You may file for divorce without meeting the 12-month requirement as long as you meet it at the time of the divorce. There are other exceptions to this rule which you can discuss with our office if this is an issue for you.
In addition to the Residency Requirement listed above. The legal action is started with a formal complaint. This is a document drawn by your attorney, which gives some of the facts of your marriage and the claim for relief. The claim for relief asks for such things as alimony, child custody, child support, a division of property, or Counsel fees.
The complaint is served by a marshal and contains a summons, which directs your spouse or his or her attorney to file a response with the court on a certain day (called the “return day”). The defendant spouse or his or her lawyer should file a form called an “appearance” so that all further information about the case can be mailed to him or her.
There is a 90-day waiting period after the return day before either party can have the marriage dissolved. However, divorce usually takes longer than 90 days.
While waiting for the 90-day period to end, you may ask for temporary orders of custody, support, visitation, or alimony or ask the court to resolve any other disagreements between the parties. It is also possible for you to seek Orders requiring the other to participate in reconciliation conferences. A divorce attorney from The McConnell Family Law Group can assist you in all of these important matters.
At the end of the 90-day waiting period, depending on whether or not the action is contested, the case can either be assigned for trial as a contested matter or can be assigned for a hearing as an uncontested case.
If a case is uncontested, the court proceeding may literally last less than 15 minutes in order for the Judge to approve the parties’ agreement provided the court finds it to be fair and equitable.
If the parties cannot agree about money or the children, the case is contested and both parties will appear for trial before a judge or a referee. A referee is a retired state court judge to whom contested divorces are “referred” for trial.
Alimony and Property Distribution
In Connecticut, a court may order either of the parties to pay alimony to the other. In deciding the amount of alimony, the legislature has ruled that the court shall consider: the length of the marriage; the causes for the dissolution of marriage or legal separation; the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties, and any property award which may be made to either husband or wife.
In addition, where a parent has been awarded custody of minor children, the court will examine the desirability of the custodial parent securing employment.
Connecticut is an equitable distribution state, which means that Courts are more focused on handling the division of finances and other issues fairly and equitably at the time of dissolution. The goal is to minimize disruption to the family.
A common misconception in divorce is that the marital assets should be divided equally, as in 50% to each party. Another misconception is that only assets held in joint title by both spouses are subject to distribution. However, equitable distribution is much broader than strict percentages or title.
Connecticut courts may also give either the husband or wife any part of the estate of the other, including real property regardless of title. In making the assignment of property, the same standards applied in alimony awards will be used, as will the chance of the husband and wife acquiring future capital assets and income. The contribution of each of the parties to the purchase, preservation, or appreciation in the value of their estates will be considered an integral part of any assignment of property.
Because circumstances may change, support and custody decisions and alimony are always modifiable, unless otherwise specified. Property awards are not modifiable.
It is of paramount importance that binding legal documents are prepared with the assistance of experienced Counsel. We are ready and able to assist you.
The legal standard for custody issues in Connecticut is the “best interests of the child,” which means that the court will assess any parenting agreement, child support, and visitation based on what is in the best interests of the child. There are many factors a court will consider in determining what is in the child’s best interest.
The practical result of this standard is that the Courts favor joint legal custody with fairly equal visitation, as it is the general belief that children benefit from having both parents involved in their upbringing. However, every case is different and there are situations where joint legal and physical custody is not in the best interests of the child. At McConnell Family Law, we analyze every case on an individual basis and advise what parenting arrangement would be in the best interests of the child under Connecticut law.
If there are children under the age of 18 from the marriage, both parents must attend a parenting class within 60-days after the divorce is filed.
For some marriages, there is the newly adopted non-adversarial divorce process. If you qualify for the non-adversarial divorce, the benefits are obtaining the divorce in less time than the minimum 3-month period and a more peaceful resolution. You may be eligible for the non-adversarial divorce if:
- You have been married 8 years or less
- Neither spouse is pregnant
- No children were born or adopted by you before or during the marriage
- Neither of you has any interest or title in any real property
- The total value of all property owned by both is less than $35,000
- Neither of you has a defined benefit pension plan
- Neither of you has a pending bankruptcy
- Neither of you is applying for or receiving Medicaid benefits
- There is no other pending action for dissolution of your marriage
- There are no restraining or protective orders between you
If you do not qualify for the non-adversarial divorce process but do have a full agreement as to all issues in the divorce, you may still waive the 90-day waiting period to expedite the dissolution.
For many, full representation by a lawyer is unaffordable. Here at McConnell Family Law Group, we offer alternative representation solutions to provide greater access to legal assistance. Different types of limited scope representation include:
- legal advice concerning a legal problem or case
- drafting pleadings or briefs for the client known as “ghostwriting”
- legal coaching on how to present evidence in court, cross-examine a witness, etc.
Additionally, Connecticut has adopted limited appearances as of January 1, 2016, where an attorney may file a limited appearance in certain matters including family law matters. An example of a limited appearance would be for an attorney to agree to represent a client on one specific motion or hearing but not the entire family law action. Limited appearances are best used for post-judgment motions such as custody modification or contempt for violating a court order.
For more information about family law and divorce in Connecticut, see our Divorce FAQs.