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Divorce is one of the hardest emotional journeys a family has to go through. Filled with tense emotions, unchartered waters, and a tremendous sense of loss it can be a challenge just to know where to begin in the process. Professionalism and compassion are required to directly address the sensitive issues involving child custody, marital property, alimony, parenting plans, and child support. The client’s choice of a divorce lawyer for legal representation is potentially the most important decision he or she will make during the divorce process. It is a choice to be taken seriously by both client and attorney. Attorney Mahoney works very hard to make the transition into a dissolution of marriage action as smooth and easy as possible. He will ensure that you have access to all information about your rights as you decide to move forward with a divorce. Only then will you be properly equipped to make informed decisions guiding you towards an equitable Separation Agreement or towards a Divorce Trial. In addition to the primary goal of educating his clients about their rights, Attorney Mahoney is committed to guiding his clients through the divorce process as quickly, efficiently, and with as little acrimony as possible given the particular circumstances of each family. At The Sol Mahoney Law Firm, LLC. all representation in each case is conducted with these goals in mind.
- High Asset Division
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Restraining Order
- Protective Order
- Post Judgment Modification
Attorney Mahoney has vast experience with high net worth divorces. His background in economics gained at Villanova combined with his experience at Ernst & Young provides a proven platform from which Attorney Mahoney has artfully represented his clients in complex financial matters including the tax ramifications of divorce. It is not uncommon for one spouse to be sheltered from the finances of the marriage. Attorney Mahoney has experience in discovering hidden and undisclosed assets. In one case Attorney Mahoney was able to discover millions of dollars that had not been disclosed by the opposing spouse by utilizing subpoenas and scrutinizing all of the financial documentation that was produced. Attorney Mahoney is also well versed in asset protection. When a divorce involves a business, options, stocks, bonds, limited partnerships, trusts, real estate, and other complicated financial holdings, there is no substitute for experience when representing high net worth clients.
The goal with respect to the parents and child custody is to help the parents reach an agreement regarding legal custody, physical custody including a parenting plan, and primary residence. If the parents cannot agree then the court decides. The award of legal custody in Connecticut determines which parent will make the decisions for the child regarding health, education, and religion. In addition, an award of physical custody will determine where and when the child shall spend their time memorialized with a parenting plan. Lastly, the award of “primary residence” determines where the children will attend school. In Connecticut, absent exigent circumstances, the courts prefer to award Joint Custody. In the circumstances when joint custody is not awarded, Connecticut courts use a standard that gives the “best interests of the child” the highest priority when deciding custody issues. In reaching a custody decision in Connecticut, the court will consider the following factors:
- The needs of the child
- Each parent’s ability to understand the needs of the child
- The child’s preference and information obtained from the child
- Each parent’s preference
- The child’s past and current relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
- The child’s cultural background
- A history of abuse
- A history of domestic violence
- Whether either parent participated in a parenting education program
- The mental and physical health of all involved parties
In disputed custody cases it is often necessary to involve family relations, a GAL, an ATM, and/or a Psychologist for a Psychological exam/study. Family relations are part of the court process and they may perform a study on the family to gather facts to report to the court. A GAL, or a guardian ad litem, is an attorney who also performs a study on the family and serves as the ears and eyes of the court. The GAL investigates the custody dispute by speaking and meeting with the parties, including the children, and renders the findings to the court. The GAL may also help to resolve disputes regarding parenting while the divorce is pending. The ATM is an Attorney For The Minor Child and represents the child directly. The ATM presents the child’s wishes to the court whereas the GAL represents to the court what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. The court may order a Psychological exam and/or study which is conducted by a psychologist. The psychologist may then be called to testify and the exam and/or study may be admitted as evidence at trial. Usually, if one party requests a psychological exam of the other, the court will order that both parents participate in the psychological exam and/or family study.
Attorney Mahoney has strongly represented many clients in custody disputes and has the experience and knowledge of the system to effectuate the desired outcomes.
Child support is an amount of money that is paid in order to support the children. Child support is governed by set guidelines produced by the state of Connecticut so as to provide uniform procedures for establishing an adequate level of support for children and for repayment of child support arrearages, subject to the ability of parents to pay. In some cases, a court can deviate from these guidelines if sufficient evidence is produced to do so.
Leaving a relationship where finances were combined can make it difficult for both parents involved. Attorney Mahoney will work tirelessly to determine what dollar figure will constitute appropriate and just support of your child or children. Attorney Mahoney will represent you with comprehensive knowledge of the Connecticut child support guidelines. He has the experience and tenacity to ask the right questions, insist on receiving the appropriate financial documentation, and analyze everything with extreme diligence. It is essential to your future that child support be handled with the utmost care and accuracy.
Alimony is a financial benefit potentially available to either party in a divorce proceeding. Alimony is typically awarded for either support or rehabilitative reasons and is typically based on income. A typical supportive alimony award occurs when one spouse has worked at a job earning an income and one spouse has worked at home caring for the children. Arguably the parties agreed to the division of labor between raising the children and earning an income at work. The “stay at home” spouse may have foregone years of a career and years of earning potential. In this circumstance, the “stay at home” spouse may be entitled to alimony for future support.
An award of alimony for rehabilitative purposes may be awarded as temporary financial support awarded to one of the spouses during a period of education or training necessary to achieve self-sufficiency or to make up for time that the spouse has been out of the workplace.
Judges may award alimony based on the following considerations: the length of the marriage, the causes for the divorce, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties, and the nature of the property awarded to each party by the court. When children are involved, the court will also consider the desirability of the custodial parent’s securing employment.
The awards of alimony may be: (1) none, (2) $1.00 per year, (3) lump-sum alimony, or (4) periodic alimony. If the divorce judgment provides for $1.00 per year, it affords the party an option to file a motion for modification seeking a different amount in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances. Lifetime alimony is available in the state of Connecticut. Alimony is no longer tax-deductible to the party who pays it.
There are circumstances when a spouse, as a litigation tactic, may “sit on their hands” before or during the pendency of a divorce in order to show a temporary decrease in the amount of money they are earning. This can occur with spouses who own their own business and can decrease the amount of work they perform, or simply with a spouse who either quits their job or decides not to get a job. In these circumstances, the court can determine an earning capacity of the spouse, with the testimony of an expert, and use that when determining the amount of alimony. Other litigation strategies by high net worth earners may include deferring a bonus/distribution, being compensated in equity or some other means, or leaving the income in the business.
Understanding the marital financial history before and after the divorce is filed is incredibly important. It is necessary to receive and interpret financial records and accounts such that you the appropriate financial support is allocated. Attorney Mahoney’s financial background and analysis skills provide for a strong representation with respect to Alimony.
A family or household member or person in a dating relationship may file an application for relief from abuse ex parte which if granted by the court, becomes a restraining order. In order to have the restraining order granted, the judge will rely on the affidavit of the applicant who has been subjected to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury, stalking or a pattern of threatening, including, but not limited to, a pattern of threatening. Ex parte means that the filing party submits the application along with an affidavit to the court and the court makes a decision that day without hearing from the other side. The restraining order is valid for fourteen days and there will be a hearing scheduled within those fourteen days whereby both applicant and respondent can present their facts to the judge. At that time the judge can decide to extend the duration of the restraining order and/or change the scope of the order in any way.
Within the application for relief from abuse the applicant can request:
The Respondent not assault, threaten, abuse, harass, follow, interfere with, or stalk me.
The Respondent stay away from my home or wherever I shall reside.
The Respondent not contact me in any manner, including by written, electronic or telephone contact, and not contact my home, workplace or others with whom the contact would be likely to cause annoyance or alarm to me.
The Respondent may return to the home one time with police to retrieve belongings.
If I have moved out of the home of the Respondent, the Respondent shall permit me to return to the Respondent’s home on one occasion, with police, to retrieve my belongings.
The Respondent stay 100 yards away from me.
That the order protect my minor children.
That the order protect animals owned or kept by me.
I ask that the court make the following temporary child custody and visitation orders:
I ask that the court order the following: (further order)
As you can see from the requests, the application also provides for the applicant to request temporary custody of the children and to request the scope of the restraining order to extend to the children. There are many variables or degrees of a restraining order which the judge may order in line with the specific facts of each case including partial protective orders, no contact orders, and full protective orders.
Additionally, it is extremely important to understand that an order of the court cannot be changed by the parties alone. The parties cannot agree that it is ok for them to get together again if the court has granted a Full “stay away” Restraining Order. Only the Court can change an order and/or an order can expire by time. The repercussions of violating a restraining order are stated under Sec. 53a-223b. Criminal violation of a restraining order: Class D felony. (a) A person is guilty of criminal violation of a restraining order when (1) (A) a restraining order has been issued against such person pursuant to section 46b-15, or (B) a foreign order of protection, as defined in section 46b-15a, has been issued against such person in a case involving the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against another, and (2) such person, having knowledge of the terms of the order, (A) does not stay away from a person or place in violation of the order, (B) contacts a person in violation of the order, (C) imposes any restraint upon the person or liberty of a person in violation of the order, or (D) threatens, harasses, assaults, molests, sexually assaults or attacks a person in violation of the order. (b) Criminal violation of a restraining order is a class D felony.
Criminal Courts can issue protective orders whenever a person is arrested for stalking (CGS § 54-1k). Stalking involves the willful and repeated following or lying in wait for another person. The perpetrator must either intend to cause his target to fear for his or her physical safety or recklessly cause this response (CGS §§ 53a-181c, -181d, and –181e). A court can also issue a protective order when someone is arrested for 1st or 2nd degree harassment if the crime victim reasonably feared for his or her safety (CGS § 54-1k).
The protective order may include provisions necessary to protect the victim from threats, harassment, injury, or intimidation by the perpetrator, including but not limited to prohibiting him or her from (1) imposing any restraint on the person or liberty of the victim; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, or sexually assaulting the victim; or (3) entering the victim’s dwelling. Violating such orders is a crime. It also violates a condition of the arrestee’s bail or release and may result in raising the amount of bail or revoking release.
In family violence cases, the judge can, among other things, issue a protective order to protect the parties. The protective order is made a condition of the defendant’s bail or release. Family violence is an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent harm between family or household members. Verbal abuse or argument is not family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur (CGS §§ 46b-38a, -38c).
Violators of the orders are guilty of a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both (CGS § 53a-223).
Connecticut law recognizes that motions for modification may be filed when there is a significant change in circumstances. The court may determine that settlement agreements or divorce decrees that were once satisfactory to all parties, need alteration to cater to unanticipated changes. The variables include job loss, changes in income, increase in expenses, illness and injury, and other extenuating circumstances that can make an original agreement or court order impossible to meet a families current needs. Connecticut law provides for post-decree modification and is typically seen for alterations of custody, alimony and child support. If the terms of your divorce decree have ceased to work because of a significant change of circumstances — you may be able to obtain a modification to your decree.
There are burdens the party bringing the motion for modification must meet. For example, in order to change custody, the parent must show that there has been a significant change of circumstances and that the current custody order is no longer in the child’s best interest. There are a host of examples the court deems pertinent to a change in custody including employment, substance abuse, physical abuse, schedule changes, relocation and individual children’s needs.
In order to change child support or alimony, one must show a substantial change of circumstances to modify the terms of the existing financial support, such as a loss of job or reduced income of the party paying support, new employment or increase in income by the party receiving support, substantial increase in income of the party paying alimony or child support or extraordinary medical expenses. There may be other valid reasons and each case must be reviewed and discussed prior to filing a motion for modification.
Because Attorney Mahoney has experience with motions to modify, he is intimately familiar with the laws regarding post-decree modifications and the specific situations which will support a successful motion for modification. Sol’s litigation experience assists in meeting the required thresholds for modification and provides for the likelihood of a successful outcome.
The discovery of hidden assets is one of Sol’s strongest litigation abilities. He is clever in the courtroom and during cross-examination of my then spouse, he was able to unveil the tangled trail of hidden money and bank accounts. Sol’s financial background combined with his relentless pursuit of fairness provided me with the equitable division of assets that I was looking for.
My modification was nerve-racking even though my ex-husband and I consider ourselves good friends. Financial matters are always a bit uncomfortable. Sol made it easy, pleasant, and professional. He was always very responsive whether via email or phone and I felt I was always a priority. I will use him again should the need arise. And I would happily recommend him.
The strange thing about my divorce was that sometimes it was very amicable and sometimes it was hideously tense and volatile. What was so perfect about my attorney was that he thrived on my behalf in either environment. I never felt compromised. He was tough and persistent when I needed to fight and conciliatory when it was appropriate and important. I couldn’t have asked for a more well-rounded attorney because in my case, I needed him to be able to be both.