How do Higher Education Costs for Children Factor into Divorce or Custody Cases in Connecticut?

In Connecticut, a family court judge can enter an order of educational support requiring a parent or guardian to provide support for a child to attend an institution of higher education, including college and vocational school. The educational support order can be for up to a total of four full academic years so a child can obtain an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree and/or vocational training. The order is also for a child who has not yet turned 23 years old. The order would also end when the child turns 23 years old.

The order of educational support can occur when a custody or divorce judgment is entered, or before a judgment is finalized in family court. If a divorce or custody case has gone to judgment, a court will not enter an educational support order for a child retroactively. It is important to have the court enter an order of educational support before or during a judgment, so that if and when your child wants to attend college or vocational school in the future, the court can determine college or vocational costs at that later date.

The court can enter an order for the necessary education expenses of the child, including tuition, room, board, books, medical insurance, fees, and dues. The expenses cannot surpass the amount Connecticut State Schools charge full-time and in-state students at the time the child enrolls in school, unless the parents or guardians agree to pay more than that amount. This is also known as the UConn cap.

Certain factors that the court will consider to determine who pays what for your child’s education are:

  1.  Any information about the school the child would attend, including proof of acceptance or enrollment,
  2.  The parents or guardians’ income, assets, and other obligations,
  3.  The availability of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and loans for the  child,
  4.  The child’s need for support to attend school, including the child’s assets and  earning capacity, and
  5.  The child’s academic record, preparation, and commitment to higher education.

Make sure you are fully aware of your options for your children’s higher education costs during a divorce or custody case.

– Makana A. Ellis

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Alimony Is Not Just for Housewives

In Connecticut, judges in divorce actions may award alimony to either party. Alimony is money that is paid for the support of one spouse by the other spouse, and can be awarded for either the period that the divorce action is pending or as part of the final judgment of divorce.

Although there is a common perception that alimony is only awarded to a married woman who left the workforce to stay home and raise the couples’ children, that idea is a misperception in this modern era.

In this age, where both parties to the marriage are likely to work outside the home, the alimony law is in effect via statute to make certain that there is financial “equity,” or fairness, in divorce. Even though awards of permanent alimony (for life) are becoming far less common, the court, under certain circumstances, could order the person with more income to pay the one earning less for a fixed period of time, referred to in family court as a “term.” Alimony is also available whether the party is man or a woman.

Alimony can be ordered as a lump-sum but is typically awarded periodically, meaning a certain sum is paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly for the term. Periodic alimony is viewed under special rules by the IRS. Typically, the payments made in a taxable year are income tax deductible by the person paying alimony. As a result, the person receiving the award must claim the payments as income and pay income tax on the award.

Regardless of how a settlement agreement or trial court’s decision describes a lump-sum payment as “alimony,” the IRS will generally treat that lump-sum payments as a property distribution resulting in no deduction for the paying spouse.

Understanding the tax implications of alimony is incredibly important when negotiating a settlement in divorce or, when necessary, preparing for a trial on the issue. As always, it is best to consult an experienced family law attorney to determine whether you have a claim or potential exposure for an alimony award and to avoid any potential negative implications of an alimony award during tax time.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.