October 29, 2009
By: Barry Armata
The Duties And Responsibilities Of Parents In Connecticut
Under Connecticut law, both parents have the duty and obligation to support their children based on their earning ability. Connecticut has adopted a formula for figuring out child support that allows for certain deductions (for example taxes, social security, mandatory deductions such as union dues and retirement, and health insurance) from a parent's gross wages. The basic idea is that the child should be afforded the same level of economic support as if the parents were still together. So a mother's and father's net income – the number after the deductions are taken – are added together and, based on economic information prepared by the State of Connecticut, a support figure is produced based on the number of children in the family. That support number represents what dollar amount would have been spent by the parents on the children if the parents were still together. Each parent's share of the combined net income is then determined and applied to the support figure, and the parent's share of that support is determined. Support is then paid to the custodial parent.
For example, if the father has a net income of $750 and the mother has a net income of $250, and they have one child, the combined support would be $229, with father paying $172 (75% of $229) and mother's share being $57 (25% of $229).
Although this formula must be used by the court, in certain situations the court can deviate from the formula – but know that the court tries hard to follow it. Child support is meant to help with the child's housing, food, utilities, clothing, and day-to-day expenses. Child support does not cover "the extras" such as educational or sports lessons and extra-curricular activities and the like, the costs of which must be agreed upon by the parents.
However, Connecticut courts can order child support be paid to someone other than biological parent. Although the court will most often order that the child support be paid to the custodial parent, courts have been known to order it be paid to other family members who are the ones providing the shelter, food, and day-to-day living expenses for the child, such as grandparents. Often the custodial parent will voluntarily turn over support to their parents if the child is living there or other arrangements have been made, such as a college savings plan. These are private family decisions that rarely are reviewed by the courts.
Paying For College Costs in Connecticut
Since 2002, Connecticut courts have also had the authority to order parents to contribute to a child's college education. In making college support orders, the court must first find that it is "more likely than not", or highly probably, that the parents would have provided support to the child for higher education or private occupational school if the family were intact. If that finding is made, the court can then order the parents to pay for college costs up until the child reaches the age of 23. The amount of college support will be equal to what it would cost, including room, board, dues, tuition, fees, registration fees, and application costs, as currently charged by The University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student. An educational support order may also include the cost of books and medical insurance for the child. In deciding what a parent should pay, the court looks at many different factors including:
(1) the parents' income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents;
(2) the child's need for support to attend an institution of higher education or private occupational school considering the child's assets and the child's ability to earn income;
(3) the availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans;
(4) the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child's academic record and the financial resources available; and
(5) the child's preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education.
So what do you do if you find yourself and your family dealing with these issues? First, you should consult an experienced family lawyer to help you determine what is in the best interest of the child and what evidence you have to present to the court to support that claim. A family lawyer can also help explain the process and the various other people and agencies that may come into the case, such as a Guardian ad litem – a person charged with advocating for the best interest of the child – or an Attorney for the minor child – a person charged with advocating for the child's expressed wishes— and also family relations officers and Department of Child and Family Services caseworkers. These last two players will often be asked to conduct an investigation and make recommendations to the court as to what is in the child's best interest. A family lawyer can also help you build your case and refer you to appropriate mental health professionals to minimize the effect a protracted custody battle may have on a child or help you determine what is truly in the child's best interest. An experienced family lawyer can help explain the process, timetable, and costs involved as well as potential pitfalls to your case or how to strength factors that will help your case. Most family lawyers will also help you try to resolve the matter short of court through various alternative dispute resolution processes available to you which lessen the cost to both the child's wellbeing and your finances.
The Family Law Department at Brown Paindiris & Scott is made up of experienced and competent Connecticut family law attorneys. Brown Paindiris & Scott provides services in simple and complex divorce and family matters in Connecticut's family division and probate courts. We have experience with complex financial issues, division of assets including retirement assets, real estate, tax-related issues and with difficult custody and parenting issues. We also have experience with the special issues facing same-sex couples.
With over 60 years of combined experience, the firm's attorneys practicing divorce and family law have the ability to handle difficult issues and to craft creative solutions to meet the needs of our clients. Our attorneys and staff work as a team to devote the time and individual attention to each matter that it deserves because no two cases are exactly alike. Brown Paindiris & Scott maintains law offices in Hartford, Glastonbury, East Hampton, and Bristol, and our attorneys would be happy to meet with you at any of these convenient locations.