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    Divorce ends almost half of all marriages.  About two million people divorce each year.  Some of these people can divorce on friendly terms.  Most cannot.  They feel hurt, betrayed, angry, abandoned.  They worry about money and an uncertain future after the separation.  Those with children are concerned about the effects of the divorce on their children.

    We at the Serrano Law Firm, understand how difficult the divorce process can be.  Our goal is to protect and guide you through the process so that you come to see the separation not as an ending, but as a beginning.

    As Connecticut family court and divorce lawyers, we handle divorce and other family law cases, such as custody disputes and alimony modifications, throughout most of Connecticut from our Hartford and Waterbury offices.

Connecticut Divorce Law

    A divorce is a lawsuit.  It starts by a marshal serving divorce papers by hand, by leaving them at a residence in Connecticut, or by sending them certified mail to an address outside the state.  The legal term for divorce in Connecticut is dissolution of marriage.  Divorce, custody, child support, visitation and restraining orders are all handled by the Connecticut family courts.

    A spouse cannot stop another spouse from getting a divorce.  If a spouse's whereabouts are unknown, the divorce court may allow the case to be started by publishing a notice in a newspaper about the divorce.

  The divorce papers include a summons, a complaint containing the reason for the divorce (usually irretrievable breakdown), and automatic orders.  The summons has a return date and tells the defendant (the person who was served the papers) that he or she must file a form called an Appearance with the divorce court before 2 days go by after the return date.  Divorce law requires this procedure even for an uncontested divorce.

    The automatic orders must be followed by both the plaintiff (the person who started the divorce) and the defendant.  These are orders from the divorce court prohibiting the parties (the husband and wife)  from doing things that would significantly change the situation as to their finances and their children.  

    Parties with minor children are required by the automatic orders to complete a parenting education program.

    The automatic orders contain a case management date that is 3 months after the return date.  If it is an uncontested divorce, or if the parties have an agreement on all the divorce issues, or if the defendant has not filed the appearance form, the case management date is the earliest date that a divorce can happen.  If there is no agreement, the parties must tell the divorce court what they are doing to attempt to reach an agreement and what they are doing to prepare for a trial of the divorce.

     Most of the Connecticut divorce courts will schedule one or two meetings at the court to help the parties reach an agreement in regard to child custody, alimony, child support,  property separation or the other issues in any particular divorce case.  The parties' attorneys, and sometimes the parties as well, meet with special masters (divorce attorneys who volunteer to act as impartial mediators) or with a divorce judge to try and work out the disagreements.  These hearings are informal.  The special masters and the divorce judge only make recommendations.  No orders are entered except by agreement.

   At any time that the parties reach an agreement, they may go to divorce court to have the judge approve the agreement and enter the divorce..

    If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the divorce case will be tried before a judge who will enter financial, child custody and visitation orders.

    Divorce cases where only financial issues are contested usually take between 6 to 12 months.  Cases with child custody disputes may take 1 to 2 years.  Because a divorce can take some time, the parties can get temporary orders in regard to child custody, visitation, payment of child support and alimony, payment of mortgages and other bills, and who stays in the home.  These divorce pendente lite (Latin for during the litigation) orders are replaced by final orders when the divorce enters.

    Divorce courts can punish persons who purposefully disobey orders.  The divorce court can find the person to be in contempt of court and send the person to prison, require the person to pay the other party's attorneys fees, and enter orders in favor of the other party.

    After the divorce, courts can always change orders regarding custody, visitation and child support.  This is because the divorce courts are required to look out for the best interests of the children.

    Financial orders can be changed after the divorce if the final orders allow for modification.  Non-modifiable orders can only be changed for exceptional circumstances such as fraud.

Connecticut Child Custody

    Divorce cases with child custody disputes are more complex.  The divorce court may have a custody study done, order the parties to attempt to mediate the child custody and visitation issues, appoint a lawyer to represent the children, and order psychological evaluations of the parents and/or the children.

    Connecticut divorce law requires that divorce courts enter custody and visitation orders "that serve the best interests of the child and provide the child with the active and consistent involvement of both parents commensurate with their abilities and interests."  The law requires divorce judges to focus on what is best for the children and, when appropriate, to try and keep both parents involved in their children's lives.

    We at the Serrano Law Firm agree that the focus on child custody and visitation cases should always be on what is best for the children.  However, we also recognize that most parents know their children much better than do divorce judges, mediators and evaluators.  We listen to our divorce clients with the goal of helping them fully present their views to the divorce court and obtaining what they feel best serves their children's interests.

    A divorce can be bifurcated (split) between custody and financial issues.  The divorce court may first enter the divorce and make appropriate financial orders and then enter orders as to child custody and visitation.

    Unmarried people who have children together and then separate can get court orders for child custody and visitation.

    The divorce court can enter orders for sole or joint custody.

Child Support

    Connecticut law requires that parents support their children according to the parents' earning abilities.  The divorce courts use a published schedule of Child Support Guidelines to determine how much child support should be paid to the spouse with whom the children live.

    Divorce judges are required to follow the child support guidelines.  Certain situations in a divorce case may allow for deviation from the child support guidelines, such as when a parent lives far from the children and as a result has significant visitation expenses.

    The child support guidelines are based on net income, which is defined as gross income less taxes and less deductions for health insurance and mandatory retirement plans.  For persons who usually work overtime or have more than one job, the child support guidelines are based on 45 hours of work per week.  Any wages earned beyond 45 hours are not counted in calculating child support.

    Special rules apply for persons who are paying court-ordered child support to more than one person, for persons with low income who are required to pay child support, and for persons who receive Social Security disability.

    The calculations are based on earning capacity.  If the divorce court believes that a person has reduced his or her earnings on purpose, the child support will be based on what the divorce court believes the person reasonably can earn.

    Child support is paid until a child turns 18.  However, if the child is still in high school when he or she turns 18, child support is paid until the child graduates or turns 19, whichever occurs first.

    An unmarried parent can get child support from the child's other parent.  This is often done in magistrate court through the bureau of child support.

    Persons who fail to pay child support without good reason risk being held in contempt of court and imprisoned, risk losing their driver's license and occupational licenses, and can have tax returns, personal injury settlements, and workers compensation payments attached to pay the overdue support.

    The following table provides some examples of approximate child support in Connecticut divorce cases based on the number of children and the parents' weekly Net Income (total pay minus taxes, insurance and mandatory retirement deductions).  The Custodial Parent is the parent with whom the children live and receiving the child support.  The Non-Custodial Parent is the one paying the child support.

    Note that the amount of the custodial parent's income does not affect the amount of support very much.  The amount of support primarily depends on the non-custodial parent's income.


Examples of Child Support Amounts

Custodial Parent's Net Income Non-Custodial Parent's Net Income Support for 1 Child Support for 2 Children Support for 3 Children
$200  $400 $99 $137 $159
$400  $400 $96 $133 $153
$200  $600 $144 $200 $229
$400  $600 $137 $188 $214
$200  $800 $183 $250 $285
$400  $800 $167 $226 $255
$200 $1000 $209 $283 $318
$400 $1000 $191 $256 $286
$600 $1000 $177 $236 $263

















































When You Need a Connecticut Divorce Lawyer,

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Recent Connecticut Divorce Court Cases

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Tuckman v. Tuckman  The divorce court erred by awarding an amount of child support without determining the parties’ net income, mentioning or applying the child support guidelines, or making specific findings as to why the guidelines should not apply.

Sagalyn v. Sagalyn  A requirement in a divorce judgment to provide life insurance is not property division and thus may be modifiable under appropriate circumstances such as inability to pay for insurance.

Keller v. Keller  The divorce court erred in setting alimony and child support based on gross rather than net income as the court did not calculate or ask the parties’ divorce attorneys to calculate net income.

Bauer v. Bauer  Even though a divorce judgment did not mention the parties’ pension accounts, the judge did not improperly modify the judgment in ordering the accounts to be equally divided because the judge was simply clarifying that the parties had agreed to equally split the accounts.

Malpeso v. Malpeso  In light of the presumption favoring the modifiability of child support, a divorce agreement that provides for unallocated alimony and child support and that makes alimony non-modifiable but is silent as to the modifiability of child support must be construed to permit child support to be modified.

Cunningham v. Cunningham  The possible gap identified by the plaintiff ex-wife between the time alimony stops and the time she begins to receive pension benefits from her ex-husband did not create a logical inconsistency in the divorce judgment, as there was nothing in the record to show that she would be unable to support herself during any such gap, especially as she was awarded income producing property.

Synkowicz v. Synkowicz  Although child support must be based on net income, not gross income, the divorce court is not required to make explicit findings as to net income as long as the court has evidence about net income.  Connecticut divorce law has been changed to allow a court to require a party to carry life insurance for the benefit of the other party unless the party required to carry the insurance proves by a preponderance of the evidence that insurance would be unavailable or unaffordable.

Bonito v. Bonito  Connecticut law requires that judges, including divorce court judges, issue their decisions within 120 days.  As the 120 day period begins to run from the time that the parties file post-trial briefs or other material that the judge finds necessary to make a well reasoned decision, the judge’s decision in this divorce case was timely because the judge heard additional evidence, after the trial, based on an incident that occurred before the decision was issued.

Styrcula v. Styrcula  It was error for a divorce court, during a hearing on a motion for contempt regarding alimony and child support, to rule on a motion for modification of alimony and support that had been filed, even though the judge stated that the evidence for both motions would essentially be the same, as the judge had told the attorneys that he would only hear the motion for contempt.

Kasowitz v. Kasowitz  A divorced mother of six children could pursue a motion for contempt for back child support and alimony, even though she waited four years after the child support order ended and two years after the alimony order entered.  The divorce court properly held that her delay was not unreasonable as she testified that she was busy raising the children and putting them through high school and college, with no or little help from the father, to have accurately calculated how much child support and alimony had been paid to her.

Colbert v. Carr  Although the Connecticut statute that governs paternity cases requires that attorney fees be paid when the case is successful, no attorneys fees were required to be paid in a case in which the father had his name placed on the birth certificate and never denied paternity, although he never signed an acknowledgement of paternity form and chose not to be in the child’s life.  The family court properly ruled that the real issue in the case was the amount of child support and the case therefore should have been brought in magistrate court.

O’Brien v. O’Brien  When a divorce court enters an unallocated order of child support and alimony, the court must first calculate how much child support should be according to the guidelines, then find that an order pursuant to the guidelines would not be appropriate, and then state that the unallocated order is a justified deviation for one of the reasons specified in the child support guidelines.

Nassra v. Nassra  Where a divorce agreement required one party to provide proof that he had notified his lawyer to withdraw a lawsuit in another country, the divorce court could not require the party to take additional measures to have the lawsuit withdrawn.  The divorce court was limited to enforcing what the divorce agreement called for.

Hibbard v. Hibbard  A family court may modify child custody orders by transferring custody of the child when the custodial parent engages in conduct designed to alienate the child from the noncustodial parent.

Gibbons v. Gibbons  Child support or alimony may be modified by a divorce court if there has been a substantial change in the parties’ circumstances regardless of whether the change was contemplated at the time of the divorce or of the entry of the prior support or alimony orders.

Khan v. Hillyer  In a divorce case, a contempt order requiring a party to place a child in a supervised visitation program and to pay for the program was a final order that could be appealed to the Connecticut Appellate Court.

Buehler v. Buehler  The divorce court erred by awarding all of the rental income from real estate still jointly owned by the parties after the divorce to just one of the parties because such an award constituted an improper post judgment property assignment.

Langley v. Langley  In setting alimony and entering other financial orders, the divorce court properly took into account the wife’s difficulty in communicating in English as a factor directly affecting her employability, which is a mandatory statutory criterion that the court must consider when fashioning financial orders.

Dan v. Dan  In modifying alimony, a divorce court may consider all the factors in Connecticut divorce law for setting alimony.  The divorce court is not limited to considering only the factors that have changed since the prior alimony order.

Richter v. Richter  The divorce court properly awarded the defendant husband attorneys fees as the plaintiff filed numerous false claims which caused the defendant to incur substantial legal costs.

Brody v. Brody  The divorce court’s award of lump sum alimony to the wife did not violate the parties’ prenuptial agreement, which prohibited transfer of assets from one party to the other unless that party’s net worth at the time of divorce was greater than at the time of marriage, even though the husband claimed the amount of alimony would require him to use assets to pay it.

Peterson v. Sykes-Peterson  A “sunset” clause in the parties’ prenuptial agreement that the agreement automatically ended at a certain date was still enforceable, even though the divorce case was filed before that date, because the case was still pending in divorce court on that date.  A prenuptial agreement with a sunset clause is not against public policy on the theory that it encourages parties to file for divorce.




West Hartford Divorce Lawyers, Farmington Divorce Lawyers, Waterbury Divorce Lawyers



Custody & Visitation

Child Support

Child Support Examples














Divorce Court Locations

by Town

(click city for directions to court)

Hartford Divorce Court


  Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Enfield, East Hartford, Farmington, Glastonbury, Hartford, Manchester, Simsbury, South Windsor, Suffield, West Hartford.


Litchfield Divorce Court


  Bethlehem, Harwinton, Litchfield, New Milford, Thomaston, Torrington. 


Middletown Divorce Court


  Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, Essex, Haddam, Middletown, Portland, Old Saybrook.


New Britain Divorce Court


  Bristol, Burlington, New Britain, Newington, Plymouth, Rocky Hill, Southington, Wethersfield.


Tolland Divorce Court


  Andover, Bolton, Columbia, Coventry, Ellington, Hebron, Rockville, Tolland, Vernon.


Waterbury Divorce Court


  Middlebury, Naugatuck, Prospect, Southbury, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott, Woodbury.












Hartford Divorce Lawyer

Waterbury Divorce Lawyer

Farmington Divorce Lawyer

New Britain Divorce Lawyer

Portuguese Spoken

Divorce Advogados - West Hartford, Waterbury, Danbury, Newington

Falamos Portugues 

Brasil (Brazil) - Advogados Divorce West Hartford, Waterbury, Danbury

Spanish Spoken

 Abogados CT Divorce Papers - West Hartford, Waterbury, New Britain

Hablamos Espanol 

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Find Out About:


What is involved in a child custody dispute.


When is alimony paid during a divorce.


How to get a restraining order.


How is paying for college handled in a divorce.


Can a divorce judgment be changed.


How is a legal separation different from divorce.


What is no fault or uncontested divorce.


How Bankruptcy affects divorce.


How does a pre-nuptial agreement work.


How to help children through a divorce.

Attorney John Serrano - Personal Injury, Social Security Disability, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Immigration, Workers Compensation.  Hartford, Waterbury

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