Stevens, Harris, Guernsey, and Quilliam, P.C. - Attorneys-At-Law

Stevens, Harris, Guerney & Quilliam, P.C.


Law Office of Stevens, Harris, Guernsey & Quilliam - Niantic, CT

FAQs: Divorce in Connecticut

1.   What happens during the divorce process?

When you file for a divorce, you are filing a legal action against your spouse asking to dissolve the marriage and divide your assets and liabilities equitably. That legal action is served upon your spouse (usually by a State Marshall), but you can make special arrangements to avoid the stress and embarrassment that this type of service can cause. You should discuss this concern with your prospective divorce attorney.

2.   How do I protect my assets if my spouse and I separate?

Once the divorce is filed, there are certain automatic orders that go into effect to preserve and protect the financial situation of the parties. You should ensure that you receive and review a copy of those orders so that you know to follow them and understand what protections you have.

3.   How long does it take to get divorced?

After the documents are served to your spouse, they are returned to court, and the matter is now pending. In Connecticut we have a ninety day waiting period (pendent lite period – which is latin for "cooling off"). You can not get divorced until that ninety days has passed. Many times, if there are complex financial issues or disagreements regarding finances or issues pertaining to the children, the case can take much longer than that ninety days. Much depends upon how amicable the situation is – the more combative, the longer it usually takes.

4.   What am I entitled to?

Connecticut is an equitable division property state – unlike community property states, the court in Connecticut divides income and assets based upon criterion enumerated in our family law statutes. Essentially, the court looks at the length of the marriage, the causes of the breakdown of the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each party as well as the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

The court also considers the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates. Many times this practically results in an equal division of assets and liabilities and a re-shuffling of income to ensure that both parties are as well off as they can be under all of the circumstances of the case.

5.   What if my spouse and I can not agree on a division of our assets?

This is the scenario when a couple can not agree upon the division of their income and assets – and having a Judge make the decision for the financial resolution of the case is (and should be) the last straw in the divorce process.

6.   How will the divorce affect my kids?

For the first eight years that I practiced in family law, a good part of my practice revolved around representing children in custody battles. In doing so, I learned just how traumatic divorce can be on children. I had the unique opportunity of sitting down with hundreds of young children caught in their parents' battles – I spoke to therapists, school providers and sometimes even DCF workers about how to preserve the children's best interests given the difficulty of the situation and factoring in the relative ages of the children.

Parents can mitigate the effects of divorce by the way they handle their separation. The hope is that the parties will work together for the children (and if you have a good attorney who will sit down and go through a parenting plan with you – you can provide for your children's needs and ensure that both parents have a relationship with the children).

7.   What are the types of legal custody one can have – and what do they mean?

Legal Custody – Legal custody involved decision-making regarding the children. When parents share "joint legal custody" – generally presumed to be in children's best interests – both parents have a say in the major things that happen in the children's lives.

Sole custody (sometimes called full custody) essentially gives one party the decision-making ability. This can occur in situations that are extremely high conflict and the parents can not communicate for the kids, situations where there has been domestic violence, etc.

8.   How is physical custody different than legal custody?

Physical custody involves where the kids are at any time during the week as opposed to who makes the decision for the kids (legal custody).

9.   What are the different types of physical custody one can have – and what do they mean?

Shared custody – Parents can share physical custody – where the parents essentially share access to the children. This can sometimes be difficult for children (transitioning between two homes on a regular basis) and can implicate whether or not full child support should be awarded. The benefits are that it maximizes contact between the children and each parent.

Primary residence – this is where the children reside in one person's home primarily. The school district for the children is through the primary residential parent's residence. The children have access to the other parent – sometimes on alternating weekends and for dinner once or twice a week. A benefit of working out custody and access collaboratively is that no one knows the schedule of the family better than the parties themselves, and they can fashion one that works best for everyone.

10. What if my spouse and I do not agree about custody and access of our children?

If there is a disagreement between the parties with regards to custody and access, an attorney for the children (or a guardian ad litem as the case may be) can be appointed to represent the children's interests. Generally, the parties divide the costs of the attorney or GAL – and sometimes the court can order that one party pay more than the other – if circumstances warrant the same.

Stevens, Harris, Guernsey & Quilliam, P.C.

351 Main St., Niantic, CT 06357
Phone: (860) 739-6906 | Fax: (860) 739-2997

Representing clients in New London County, including Mystic, Norwich, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Lisbon, Waterford, and Salem