Law Offices of Susan Busby LLC

Services

Divorce

Legal Separation

Mediation

Co-Mediation

Collaborative Divorce and Collaborative Practice

Separation for Unmarried Couples

Annulments

Review Counsel

Prenuptial Agreements

Marital Mediation

Parenting Plans (Custody or Visitation Plans)

Child Support

Alimony

Asset Division

Consultation

Private Special Mastering

Family Support Calculations (Child Support and Alimony)

Post-Judgment Issues

Divorce:

A divorce, officially called "Dissolution of Marriage", is the process by which couples untangle their familial and financial ties. A divorce in Connecticut can be processed using either mediation, collaboration, litigation or arbitration with different timing and costs for each method. One party must be a resident of Connecticut for a divorce to be filed in Connecticut.

A divorce can take as little as three months or more than a year to complete. Each case is individualized based on your situation.

Elements may include:

  • asset and debt division,
  • custody and parenting plans,
  • child support,
  • alimony,
  • college education,
  • insurance and
  • tax issues.

I can prepare you for the divorce process, including the initial legal paperwork, Financial Affidavits, a settlement agreement, and the final hearing documents.

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Legal Separation:

A legal separation is the process by which married couples untangle their financial and familial ties without getting a divorce. The paperwork and process to obtain a legal separation is almost identical to the divorce process in Connecticut and the cost is about the same. Obtaining a legal separation can take as little as three months to over a year to complete. One party must be a resident of Connecticut for a case to be filed in Connecticut.

A legal separation can be processed using any method available to process a divorce (mediation, collaboration, litigation or arbitration) with different timing and costs for each method. Living separately is not equivalent to legal separation. Each case is individualized based on your situation.

Elements may include:

  • asset and debt division,
  • custody and parenting plans,
  • child support,
  • alimony,
  • college education,
  • insurance and
  • tax issues.

I can prepare you for the divorce process including the initial legal paperwork, Financial Affidavits, a settlement agreement, and the final hearing documents.

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Mediation:

Mediation is a client-centered process to educate and empower you to make the decisions that will affect your lives, not involving the court in decision-making. In this process, I work with both spouses so costs are less than when two lawyers are involved. I do not represent either spouse but help both of you understand the legal process, your options and the terms of any agreement you make. Issues are resolved in the privacy of my offices, not in a public courtroom. You can determine how much or how little of my services you need. I will prepare or help you prepare the paperwork you need to initiate and finalize your case. Other professionals can be involved to help resolve issues, including financial and parenting experts.

The average timeline for a Mediated Legal Separation or Divorce is 4 to 6 months and entails:

  • A meeting to establish a working relationship
  • The paperwork is filed initiating the case (statutory 90-day waiting period commences a week later)
  • Negotiation sessions take place (amount of negotiation sessions determined by clients and number of issues needing to be resolved, ability of clients to speak to each other and complexity of issues)
  • The Financial Affidavits, Settlement Agreement and final hearing documents are prepared
  • Final hearing

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Co-Mediation:

All divorces have legal, financial and emotional components. In some cases the emotional components are so big that they can create an impediment to moving a case forward. A co-mediation approach utilizes a lawyer and mental health team to help couples move through the divorce process in an efficient and supportive manner. If you are interested in this approach, please contact me to learn more about it.

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Collaborative Divorce and Collaborative Practice:

Collaboration is a client-centered process to educate and empower you to make the decisions that will affect your life, not involving the court in decision-making. In the collaborative process each spouse has a lawyer with whom they can obtain legal advice and who will be with them at all collaborative negotiating sessions. Issues are resolved in the privacy of the lawyers' offices, not in a public courtroom. You can determine how much or how little of the attorney's services you need. The attorneys will prepare or help prepare the paperwork needed to initiate and finalize the case. Other professionals can be involved to help resolve issues including financial and parenting experts. The collaborative process can be used to resolve other issues like legal separations, prenuptial agreements, custody or support disputes, parenting issues and post-judgment issues.

The average timeline for a Collaborative Legal Separation or Divorce is 4 to 6 months and entails:

  • Clients meet with attorneys to establish working individual and collaborative relationships
  • The paperwork is filed initiating case (statutory 90-day waiting period commences at least a week later)
  • Negotiation sessions take place (the amount of negotiation sessions are determined by the clients and number of issues needing to be resolved, the ability of clients to speak to each other and the complexity of issues)
  • The Financial Affidavits, Settlement Agreement and final hearing documents are prepared
  • Final hearing

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If you are married or had a civil union, you can obtain a divorce or legal separation in Connecticut. All of the resolution processes are available to you and your spouse to untangle your finances and familial ties (mediation, collaboration, litigation and arbitration). Custody, parenting, asset division and support issues can be resolved and made a court order. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal benefits available to heterosexual couples, including tax-free transfers between spouses, are not available. I can prepare you for your separation or divorce process, prepare the initial paperwork to start the process, negotiate and create a settlement agreement, prepare the final hearing documents and guide you through your final hearing.

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Separation for Unmarried Couples:

You can untangle your financial and familial ties and create a contract that can be legally enforced in court. You can file a custody petition to establish custody, support and a parenting plan for you children. You can use the mediation, collaboration or litigation methods to work with your partner to resolve your differences. I can negotiate and prepare your separation contract and custody petition.

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Annulments:

There are six grounds for filing an annulment:

  • marriage of certain kindred
  • marriage attempted to be celebrated or performed by someone unauthorized to do so
  • marriage performed in Connecticut without a valid marriage license
  • marriage of persons under conservatorship or guardianship
  • marriage of minors
  • conviction of an offense against chastity

The annulment process is much like that for divorce or legal separation except that there is no 90-day waiting period. Parenting and financial issues can be legally resolved. Children born are deemed legitimate even if their parents' marriage is annulled. A legal annulment is different from a spiritual annulment granted by a church. Legal annulments are not very common.

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Review Counsel :

If you are representing yourself or working with a mediator or attorney and want advice or a second opinion on a particular issue or a complete agreement, I can provide services on an hourly basis in the limited role of review counsel. This is a cost-effective way for you to obtain advice on a particular issue or confirm whether your agreement is fair and suitable to your needs.

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Prenuptial Agreements:

A prenuptial agreement needs to be prepared before you are married, and often takes several weeks to several months to negotiate and prepare. I can help you determine if this would be a benefit to you.

A prenuptial agreement, also called a premarital agreement, is a contract between you and your future spouse in contemplation of your marriage that sets forth the rules you would like to have govern in the event of the death of one or both of you or upon divorce, legal separation or annulment of your marriage.

There are many reasons that people want a prenuptial agreement including:

  • to provide for children from a prior marriage
  • retain control of a family business
  • keep inherited property separate
  • define what will happen to certain assets on the death of one or both persons
  • determine what asset division and support rules will apply instead of allowing a judge to apply Connecticut statutes, or
  • allocate family expenses and resources

Because each situation is different, every premarital agreement is tailored to each couple's particular situation. Nevertheless, to create an enforceable prenuptial agreement in Connecticut, our legislature has provided that a premarital agreement must have the following elements:

  • signed voluntarily
  • full and fair financial disclosure of assets, financial obligations and income
  • opportunity of each person to consult with independent legal counsel
  • created in contemplation of marriage (before the marriage), and
  • not be unconscionable when signed or when enforced

In Connecticut, prenuptial agreements signed after October 1, 1995 are governed by Connecticut General Statute sections 46b-36a et seq. Those signed before October 1, 1995 are governed by case law.

See Legal Terms for definitions.

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Marital Mediation:

Marital mediation is for couples who are committed to working on their marriage but want to make changes to and thereby strengthen their relationship. Through marital mediation we will identify the issues that are causing difficulty in your marriage and create a written agreement to address them. The agreement is tailored to you and the issues that you want to resolve. Having a written agreement can help people change behavior.

Marital mediation is not therapy; marital mediation is a short term engagement that looks forward to create solutions for your future. It requires both spouses to participate whole-heartedly.

Marital mediation can encompass issues relating to finances, parenting, household duties, rights and responsibilities. Finances can cover everything from paying bills, budgeting and estate planning to property ownership.

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Parenting Plans (Custody or Visitation Plans):

As part of the separation or divorce process couples with children will need to create a parenting plan which defines which parent will have parenting responsibilities over the course of a year. Parenting plans typically include details about a regular parenting plan (often during the school year for school-aged children), summers, vacations, holidays, snow and sick days, birthdays and any other days that are important to your family. Parenting plans can change as children age or as parents move or change jobs. There are as many parenting plans as there are families – each one is different. I can help you create a parenting plan that works for your family.

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Child Support:

Connecticut follows the "income shares" model for determining the amount of child support, which uses the income of both parties to determine the support amount. Child support is paid for each minor child until the age of 19 or the child graduates from high school. Child support is used to pay basic necessities of the child. The formula can be modified if certain factors are present. Day care costs to facilitate a parent's employment and unreimbursed medical expenses are paid in addition to child support. Child support can be modified. I can calculate and analyze the Child Support Guidelines as it applies to your family.

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Alimony:

Alimony was created by Connecticut General Statute section 46b-82. Alimony is not set by a formula but is determined by evaluating a dozen statutory factors including: the cause for the marriage, legal separation or annulment, your age, health, length of marriage, station (standard of living), occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate and needs of each party, and if there are young children at home, the desirability of finding employment.

Alimony can be tax-deductible to the payor and includable in the taxable income of the recipient.

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Asset Division:

Assets and debts of a couple are divided pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Section 46b-81 in a divorce, legal separation or annulment.

Connecticut's model for asset division is "equitable distribution". Thus we are not an equal division state or a community propery state; all of the assets of each party is reviewed and the asset division is based on "equitable" or fair factors.

There are twelve statutory factors that are considered when dividing assets including: the cause of the breakdown of the marriage, your age, health, occupation, vocational skills, employability, length of marriage, amount and sources of income, station (standard of living), estate, liabilities, needs, opportunity to acquire future assets and income, and what each person contributed to the acquisition, preservation or maintenance of the value of their estates.

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Consultation:

If you are representing yourself or working with a mediator or attorney and want advice or a second opinion on a particular issue or a complete agreement, I can provide services on an hourly basis in the limited role of review counsel. This is a cost-effective way for you to obtain advice on a particular issue or confirm whether your agreement is fair and suitable to your needs.

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Private Special Mastering:

Adding a new element to a situation will always change it. In a private special mastering session, I can be that new element that helps move a case forward when it is stalled. Sometimes during a mediation, collaboration or litigation case, the parties and the attorney reach an impass in their negotiations. By utilizing my services, I can be of assistance in helping move the case forward again.

In a private special mastering session I review the facts of the case and provide guidance or an opinion to help resolve outstanding differences. I can also draft a Settlement Agreement based on my recommendations.

This process can involve just me negotiating with the parties, just the lawyers or both the parties and their lawyers – whatever is most helpful.

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Family Support Calculations (Child Support and Alimony):

I can prepare and analyze Connecticut Child Support Guidelines and alimony scenarios for you. I can help you understand the structure of our child support system in Connecticut and variable within that system. Some parents come up with their own system for paying for children's expenses.

I can also prepare multiple alimony scenarios for your consideration. There are also very tricky IRS rules regarding the reduction or cessation of alimony that need to be taken into account to avoid tax consequences.

The major tax difference between child support and alimony is that whereas alimony is tax-deductible to the payor of the alimony, child support is not. The flip side of this means that the recipient of alimony must include alimony received in his or her taxable income; child support does not have to be included.

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Post-Judgment Issues:

Whether you mediated, collaborated or litigated your divorce or separation, you can always use any of those methods to resolve support and parenting issues after your divorce or separation is final. Asset division issues cannot be litigated after your divorce except in special circumstances.

I offer mediation and collaborative services to help individuals resolve issues that come up after their divorce or separation. This included recalculations of child support, alimony and reimbursement issues relating to unreimbursed medical expenses, child care or extracurricular expenses.

Children also change as they grow and parents continue to change. We move, change jobs, change schools, or change our family structure. Sometimes this means that a parenting plan need to be adjusted to adapt to these changes.

I can help you renegotiate these important issues and create a new agreement that can be either adopted informally or entered as a court order.

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Law Offices of Susan Busby 10 North Main Street, Suite 313, West Hartford, CT 06107, Tel: 860-521-0237