Month: September 2018

Emancipation Laws in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

What is Emancipation?

Connecticut law provides a process for a child who has reached the age of sixteen, and is residing in Connecticut, to be declared emancipated and thereafter treated as a legal adult, with the same rights as an individual who has attained the age of eighteen.

Can My Child Request Emancipation?

Yes. In Connecticut, it is possible for either the child (who has attained the age of sixteen) or the child’s parents/guardian to petition the probate court for the minor’s emancipation. If the child files the petition for emancipation, the parents/guardian will be notified by a Summons from the Court. If it is the parents/guardian who make the petition, the child will be notified the same way. The Court must assign a Hearing within thirty days of the Petition for Emancipation being filed.

What is the Process for Emancipation in Connecticut?

After a Petition for Emancipation is filed and before the Hearing date, there is a period of information gathering.  The Probate Judge must ask the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) to investigate the matter and gather data that may be helpful to the Judge in the proceeding. This includes interviewing the child, the parents/guardian and speaking with other third parties, such as family members. The Judge must also appoint an Attorney for the Minor Child (“AMC”), to represent the child during the proceeding. The AMC acts as an advocate for the child’s wishes.

If warranted by reasonable cause, the Judge can also appoint a doctor or mental health professional to examine the minor. The Judge can also order the examination of a parent or guardian when there is a dispute about his or her mental health competency or ability to care for the minor.

What Does the Judge Consider When Making an Order for Emancipation?

Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §46b-150b, after the Hearing, the Judge may order the emancipation of the minor, if:

  • The minor has entered into a valid marriage, whether or not the marriage has been terminated by dissolution; or
  • The minor is on active duty with any of the armed forces of the United States of America; or
  • The minor willingly lives separate and apart from his or her parents/guardian with or without consent of the parents/guardian, and the minor is managing his or her own financial affairs, regardless of the source of any lawful income; or
  • For good cause shown, it is in the best interest of the minor, any child of the minor or the parents/guardian of the minor.

There is no specific definition of “good cause shown” in the context of an emancipation proceeding. The Probate Court has discretion to consider the individual circumstances of the case, and find that there is a substantial reason or excuse to order emancipation.

What Happens After a Child is Emancipated in Connecticut?

Once emancipated, the child has all of the rights of an adult and his parents are no longer his guardians. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §46b-150d, the effect of emancipation includes (but is not limited to):

  • The right of the child to control his own personal life, including the establishment of his own residence;
  • The right of the child to consent to medical, dental or psychiatric care without parental consent, knowledge or liability;
  • The responsibility of the child to support himself financially;
  • The right of the child to sign contracts in his own name.

How does an Order of Emancipation Impact a Custody Agreement or Separation Agreement Regarding That Child?

If a child is emancipated, it has the same practical effect upon a Custody or Separation Agreement as if the child attained the age of eighteen. A parenting plan no longer applies to the child and the parents no longer have decision-making authority over the child. Also, the parents are relieved of any obligation to support the minor child, such as the payment of child support for the benefit of the child.

Whether or not the emancipation impacts the obligations of the parents to pay for college or health insurance would depend on the specific provisions of the Custody or Separation Agreement, and may continue beyond the child’s emancipation.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law, and divorce.  We have experience helping families navigate through all aspects of child custody issues and disputes, including emancipation-related cases.

Filing for Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

Who is the Plaintiff in a Divorce Action?

In a divorce, the Plaintiff is the person who initiates or files an action for divorce against his or her spouse. In order to commence an action for divorce in Connecticut, the party initiating the action must first have his or her spouse (the Defendant) served with a Summons and Complaint, and must then have those papers returned to the appropriate courthouse with Proof of Service.

What Does it Mean if I am the Defendant in a Divorce Case?

Being the Defendant in a divorce action does not mean that you are necessarily being accused of any wrongdoing, like the Defendant in a criminal case. It also does not mean that you are opposing or contesting the divorce. In fact, many Defendants in divorce cases file their own action for a divorce against their spouse, called a Cross Complaint. In essence, the Cross Complaint establishes the Defendant as a “back up” Plaintiff; if the Plaintiff withdraws his/her action, the Defendant can still proceed within the same divorce action without having to start the proceedings over or file their own action.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce?

If the divorce is resolved amicably, then it makes no difference which party is the Plaintiff and which party is the Defendant. There is no strategic advantage either way.  In some states, such as Connecticut, the only difference is that the Plaintiff will be asked more detailed questions about the Divorce Agreement at the Uncontested Hearing.

Does Being the Plaintiff Matter if My Divorce Goes to Trial?

Many divorce lawyers will argue that there is no advantage to being the Plaintiff. However, I believe it depends on the particular circumstances of your case. A Plaintiff gets to testify, or tell his/her story, to the Judge first. When representing a Plaintiff that may have committed improprieties during the marriage, it is sometimes more persuasive for that person to have an opportunity to acknowledge these issues upfront, rather than being put on the defensive about them. This could potentially have an impact on the Judge. However, most Judges will tell you that it is irrelevant as to who files first, as he or she will give equal weight to both the Plaintiff and the Defendant.

At Broder & Orland LLC, where our attorneys practice exclusively in the areas of Matrimonial and Family law, the question of “should I file first?” is often raised. In the event that the matter is going to be contested, based on the circumstances of the case and a thorough analysis of the facts, our advice will vary. Our attorneys will ensure that you are provided with a thorough cost/benefit analysis as to whether it might be advantageous to commence an action for divorce before your spouse does.

 

Carole T. Orland Quoted in the Connecticut Law Tribune, September 2018

Have you ever wondered how attorneys deal with the trials and tribulations of the job? The Connecticut Law Tribune set to find out in a recent article titled “Stress Kills: Finding Balance in an Often Thankless Profession.” Several prominent attorneys across the state were contacted for comment, including one of Broder & Orland LLC’s founding partners, Carole Topol Orland:

Carole Topol Orland of Broder & Orland [LLC] in Westport reasoned that areas such as family law are often filled with highly charged emotions, and lawyers need to be prepared to face that environment. “Yes, stress is a normal part of our profession,” she said. “Having practiced for over 40 years, I have learned to cope by focusing on positive solutions rather than allowing myself to get mired down in stressful situations. I am also most fortunate to have an office of supportive attorneys and staff on whom I can draw when things get rough. We find humor to be a great antidote.

Read the full article, published on September 13, on the official website of the Connecticut Law Tribune.

 

How Do I Move My Divorce Case Along?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • Delays may be caused by the Court system.
  • Opposing counsel may not work at the same pace as our firm, for a variety of reasons.
  • Spouses may have strategic reasons to delay.
  • Broder & Orland LLC, with its large staff of highly competent attorneys, routinely handles significant caseloads with the utmost attention given to each client.

Many divorce clients want to move through the process as quickly as possible. That may be for several reasons, including curtailing lawyer’s fees, minimizing the emotional aspect, or syncing their divorce with other events happening in their lives. At Broder & Orland LLC, we work diligently and tirelessly to keep our cases going. One challenge is getting through the court system and the inherent delays due to heavy caseloads and frequent short staffing. Given our extensive experience with the system, we do our absolute best to work within it in a timely and efficient manner. A greater challenge, however, is getting opposing counsel to work at our demanding pace. Every law office has its own character and operational style, which can like our courts, can also be affected by caseload and staffing. As the largest family law firm in Connecticut, with eight attorneys and significant support staff, Broder & Orland LLC is designed to handle a high volume of cases while also providing the utmost attention to each one. Our clients from Greenwich to Westport and throughout cities and towns in Connecticut have derived a huge benefit from our unique law office. One need only look at the client testimonials on our Website and Google reviews to see confirmation of this.

That being said, there are cases where even our firm’s top lawyers must deal with colleagues who are not working at our pace. We recognize that our clients may become frustrated in this situation and we do our absolute best to find ways to move their cases along and to keep our clients regularly informed about what is going on.

In some instances, delays are caused not only by the court or opposing counsel, but by the opposing spouse, who for various reasons does not want the case to proceed quickly. Perhaps that spouse doesn’t want to be divorced and has no incentive to get through the case. Or maybe that spouse is delaying for strategic reasons having to do with a job situation, finances or a personal circumstance. Some spouses may delay just to be spiteful, since divorcing couples are typically not on the best terms. When faced with these situations, attorneys in our firm do their best to figure out the opposing spouse’s motivations, which sometimes can be satisfied in ways to prevent a logjam.

If you feel your case is being unduly delayed to your detriment, speak with your lawyer before the matter gets out of hand. With his or her help, try to figure out what is causing the delay and see if with your lawyer’s experience and expertise, the case can be moved along at a more acceptable pace.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, we are committed to moving our cases along without unnecessary delay. We recognize that doing so prevents unnecessary expense for our clients and reduces the emotional toll inherent in the divorce process. When delays occur for any of the reasons referred to above, we do our best to explain to our client why that is so and to the extent possible, figure out a way to move things forward.

What is a Pretrial Conference and How Do I Prepare for One?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

  • In contested divorce proceedings, a Court will typically assign a case for a pretrial conference after all discovery has been completed and prior to assigning that case for trial.
  • A pretrial conference is a Court-mandated settlement meeting which occurs at the courthouse with a judge or special master.
  • Pretrial conferences are privileged settlement discussions. What occurs during a pretrial, including the content of any settlement offers, may not be introduced as evidence during a trial.

What is a Pretrial Conference?

A pretrial conference is a Court-mandated settlement meeting.  During a pretrial conference, your attorney will meet with your spouse’s attorney, as well as a judge or special master, who is an experienced matrimonial attorney who has volunteered his or her time. The meeting will take place in a conference room within the courthouse.  While you are required to be present for a pretrial conference, litigants typically do not actively participate in a pretrial conference.  During the pretrial conference, each attorney will present his or her view of the facts of the case, as well as each one’s proposal for settlement, to the judge or special master.  After hearing from both attorneys, the judge or special master will make a non-binding settlement recommendation.

When Will I Have a Pretrial Conference?

Pretrial conferences are regularly scheduled when parties enter into their Case Management Agreements.  A Case Management Agreement is entered into by both parties and their attorneys approximately ninety days after a divorce action has been commenced, and sets forth various dates by which certain tasks must be completed.  These tasks include discovery, depositions, and appraisals and valuations.  Pretrial conferences usually take place after all discovery has been completed, so as to allow each side to participate in an informed, meaningful settlement discussion. 

What Documents Must be Prepared for a Pretrial Conference?

According to the Superior Court for Family Matters Standing Orders, seven days before a pretrial conference, both sides must exchange a non-argumentative memorandum that sets forth the basic facts of the case, such as the ages of both parties and the minor children, if any, the length of the marriage, the causes for the breakdown of the marriage, and information related to each party’s education and income. Additionally, each side must exchange proposed orders, which outline the relief that party is seeking, including the amount and duration of alimony, the amount of child support, the division of property and the assignment of debts, and how parenting issues will be resolved.  Lastly, each side must submit current, sworn financial affidavits, and, in cases involving children, proposed Child Support Guidelines.

What Happens After a Pretrial Conference?

What occurs during a pretrial conference is privileged and therefore may not be introduced as evidence at a trial.  After the pretrial conference, your attorney will discuss the judge’s or special master’s recommendation with you.  Pretrial conferences often open the door for further settlement discussions to continue.  If a settlement is reached, your attorneys will prepare a Separation Agreement, which will outline the terms of the agreement.  You will then proceed to an Uncontested Divorce Hearing in order to conclude your divorce matter.  If a settlement is not reached, your case will be assigned for trial.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience in settling contested divorce matters, including at pretrial conferences throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.  Our skilled attorneys will ensure that you are adequately prepared for a pretrial conference.