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Family Law

Family Law

Divorce

We've all dreamed of finding lifelong love, but not every romance was made to last. Getting a divorce can have serious, long-term effects, both emotionally and legally. There are also strict legal requirements that cover everything from choosing a method of legal separation, to selecting where and how to file, to deciding how the property should be divided. The divorce process can be confusing, especially without legal assistance. FindLaw's Divorce section has information and resources covering a wide variety of divorce issues.« Show Less

This section provides in-depth information including articles on deciding whether to divorce, how the divorce process works, property issues that may arise, spousal support, and post-divorce actions. It also includes links to state-specific divorce laws, divorce forms, and tips on hiring a divorce lawyer.

Reasons for Divorce

While some states still require spouses to provide a reason for the divorce, most states now offer what is known as a "no fault" divorce. A no fault divorce allows a court to enter a divorce decree without one party having to legally prove the other party did something wrong in the marriage. Instead, one spouse may simply allege that the marriage has broken down and there's no reasonable hope it can be preserved, and a divorce can be granted with or without the other spouse's consent.

Alternatives to Divorce

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may have other options for ending your marriage besides a divorce. Many states offer legal separations, which can allow spouses to make some of the same decisions as a divorce regarding their shared property, child custody, and child support. This option doesn't legally end the marriage and is generally used when couples want to retain their marriage status for religious or health care reasons.

An annulment, on the other hand, has the same legal effect as a divorce, but does so by declaring your marriage was never valid in the first place. Reasons for an annulment could be that one spouse was already married, was tricked into the marriage, or was too young at the time to legally marry.

Property Division

The division of marital property after a divorce will generally depend on whether or not you live in a "community property" state. Community property states consider nearly all property obtained after the marriage as equally owned by both spouses. As a result, the property will generally be equally split after the divorce. Absent community property statutes, it's typically up to the court to divide marital property between both parties. In either case, courts will normally accept a property division agreement if the spouses can create their own.

Alimony and Spousal Support

Alimony and spousal support are interchangeable terms that refer to monthly payments from one ex-spouse to another following a divorce. These payments can be court-ordered or arranged by the parties involved and are intended to account for the adverse economic effect a divorce can have on one party. All spousal support agreements and amounts are unique, depending on the spouses' individual incomes and property, their earning capacity, the duration of the marriage, and whether children and child support are involved, among other factors.

Child Custody

Working out a parenting agreement that covers child custody and visitation can be difficult, especially when there’s animosity between you and the other parent. Whether you’re recently separated and looking to learn the basics of types of custody or you’ve had an open case for years that needs modifications due to life changes, you can find resources here. FindLaw’s Child Custody and Visitation section has information and resources on a wide variety of topics to help you through your child custody case.« Show Less

This section contains answers to common child custody questions, describes different types of custody, explains what to do if problems arise, and details grandparent visitation rights. Additionally, state-specific child custody laws and forms are provided.

Types of Child Custody

There are several types of child custody. First, joint custody is where both parents share parental rights and the living arrangements of their child. Courts generally prefer joint custody, but sole custody, where only one parent or guardian has the physical and legal custody over a child, is a possible arrangement as well. Physical custody refers to sharing a home with a child and handling his or her day-to-day care. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions on your child’s behalf, including those related to health care, religion, and education.

How to Obtain Custody of Your Child

In most states, family courts determine child custody arrangements based on what is in the best interests of the child. So how is that decided? The courts look at a number of factors in making this determination, such as the parents’ desire and ability to care for the child, the emotional bond between the child and both parents, the adjustment needed if the child has to move to a new area, and, if old enough, the child’s wishes.


Frequently, parents or other adults who have raised a child will be required by the court to take part in mediation. In mediation, you can discuss what you want, any problems you’ve had exchanging the child from one home to the next, and anything else that’s relevant to the situation. Hopefully, you can come to a resolution everyone can live with. Otherwise, the judge may make a parenting plan that neither parent is happy with. However, it’s important to note that if there was domestic violence in your relationship with the other parent, you may be able to skip mediation.

Child Custody Problems

Sometimes issues arise where a parent keeps a child when it’s not his or her turn to care for the child. Occasionally, a parent claims a child on their taxes after it had already been established that the other parent would claim the child. When these problems arise, it’s never the solution to stop paying child support; that will only hurt you in the end. Instead, a child custody modification may be needed.