Month: January 2019

How is Life Insurance Treated in a Connecticut Divorce Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

Can I Obtain Information Regarding My Spouse’s Life Insurance Coverage during a Connecticut Divorce?

As part of the discovery (i.e., information gathering) phase of any Connecticut divorce case, it is critical that both sides disclose to one another information regarding any life insurance policies in place at the time, including life insurance policies provided through employment and life insurance policies held in a life insurance trust.  Each party has an obligation to disclose any life insurance policies on his or her life on a Financial Affidavit.  Even if a life insurance policy is held in a life insurance trust, it should still be disclosed on a Financial Affidavit, though not all parties do so.  It is common practice for Fairfield County divorce attorneys to request copies of life insurance policies and life insurance trusts as part of their formal discovery requests in order to obtain necessary information about insurance coverage.

Can I Change the Beneficiary of My Life Insurance Policies during a Connecticut Divorce?

In Connecticut, changing the beneficiary of life insurance policies while the divorce action is pending is a violation of the Automatic Orders.  If a divorce attorney discovers that the opposing party has changed the beneficiary of his or her life insurance policy during the pendency of the case from his or her spouse to someone else, or has let the policies lapse by failing to pay the premiums, he or she can file a motion in order to request remedies from the Court.

Is Life Insurance an Asset that a Court Can Divide? 

Generally speaking, life insurance policies are not assets divisible by a Connecticut Court.  The cash value of any whole life insurance policies, however, is an asset that can be divided in a divorce case.  Typically, the spouse who owns the whole life policy will keep the policy and the other spouse will receive an asset equivalent to his or her one-half share of the cash value.  

Will Life Insurance Be Included in the Final Orders in My Connecticut Divorce?

Under Connecticut law, particularly General Statutes Section 46b-82, Courts can order that life insurance be maintained as security for a party’s alimony, child support, and/or college obligations.

Can I Use My Life Insurance Trust to Satisfy My Life Insurance Obligation?

It is common in Fairfield County for divorce clients to have life insurance trusts that own their life insurance policies.  In cases where there is a life insurance trust, the divorce attorneys must obtain a copy of the trust in order to review the terms.  Some life insurance trusts exclude the other spouse as a beneficiary upon the filing of a divorce action and others exclude an ex-spouse.  Many times experienced divorce attorneys will work with the parties’ estate planning attorneys in order to determine the terms of the trust.

What if I Cannot Afford Life Insurance?   

General Statutes Section 46b-82 provides that a party may not be ordered to maintain life insurance after the divorce if he or she can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is uninsurable or cannot pay the cost of the life insurance premiums.  If a party has health issues or has other reasons, including age, for not being able to afford life insurance, he or she can request that life insurance not be ordered, or that it a reduced amount of coverage be ordered.

Is My Life Insurance Obligation Modifiable?

Unless there is an Order precluding a party from modifying his or her life insurance obligation, most life insurance Orders in Connecticut are modifiable by law if a party can prove a substantial change in circumstances.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have experience in dealing with life insurance coverage issues, and can work with clients to ensure they are best protected, whether during or after a divorce.

Common Questions About Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

Let’s face it – everyone knows someone who is divorced or going through a divorce. You may start the divorce process already armed with questions and misconceptions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about family law in Connecticut.

Am I Allowed to Date During my Divorce?

Your divorce action has been filed in Connecticut. Are you and your spouse now “allowed” to start dating other people? The short answer is, yes. However, while you are not legally prevented from dating during the pendency of your divorce, use discretion. The divorce process is already emotional, even before you add third parties to the mix. The implications of dating during the divorce are different in every case, and can depend on many factors, such as whether children are impacted or if assets are being spent.

Does the Party Who Files for Divorce have an Advantage?

In Connecticut, it does not matter if you are the Plaintiff (the party who initially files the divorce action) or the Defendant (the responding party). There is no presumption of guilt or fault either way.  If your case goes to a Hearing or a Trial, the Plaintiff will present to the Judge first, and the Defendant will go second. Otherwise, Plaintiffs and Defendants are treated the same.

You may have personal reasons as to why you would prefer to be the person initiating the divorce action or the person responding to it. At Broder & Orland LLC, we try to take these preferences into consideration when deciding how to start the case.

Can I Change the Locks on my House During my Divorce?

In Connecticut, we have automatic orders (Connecticut Practice Book §25-5) that address this issue. If you are living together with your spouse on the date that the action is started, you may not deny him or her use of the current primary residence. If you believe that your circumstances warrant exclusive possession of the primary residence, you can file a Motion with the Court to request an order which prevents your spouse from living in the home during the divorce.

Do I Need to have a Reason for Filing for Divorce, Such as Adultery or Abandonment? 

Connecticut is a no-fault divorce state. This means that neither party has to prove, and a Judge does not need to make a finding, that one spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, in Connecticut, a party can file on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown,” which is a claim that the marriage has broken down permanently without hope of reconciliation. Most Connecticut divorces are filed this way.

If you file for divorce on the basis of irretrievable breakdown, you may still argue that your spouse’s actions caused the breakdown of your marriage. However, such facts will go to the Judge’s decision about the division of assets and alimony and not to the issue of whether or not a divorce should be granted.

How Are Assets Divided in a Connecticut Divorce? 

Whether your case is resolved by agreement or a trial court order, in Connecticut, a Judge must find that the arrangement is equitable. Equitable does not always mean even, and assets are not necessarily divided 50/50 between spouses. Your assets will be divided in a way that is fair based on the circumstances of your case. Considerations include the length of your marriage, the nature of your estate, the employability of you and your spouse and the contributions of each spouse, as well as several other factors.

Broder & Orland LLC encourages potential clients to arrange for an initial consultation in either our Westport or Greenwich office in order to ask questions, dispel misconceptions and gain knowledge about the divorce process in Connecticut.

Divorce in Connecticut: The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

What is a Guardian Ad Litem in a Connecticut Divorce Case?

In the event that the parties cannot reach a resolution on parenting or custodial matters, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is often appointed by the Court, either directly by the Judge or after agreement between the parties and counsel. The primary function of a GAL is to promote and protect the child(ren)’s best interests throughout the divorce case.

Who qualifies to be a Guardian Ad Litem?

To qualify, a GAL must be an attorney in good standing who is licensed to practice law in the state of Connecticut, or a mental health professional in good standing who is licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in the areas of clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, psychology, or psychiatry.

Further, pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book Section 25-62 there is a training program which must be completed in order for a person to qualify as a GAL.

What is the Role of the Guardian Ad Litem?

The primary role of a GAL is to determine what is in the best interests of the child(ren) with respect to custody and/or a parenting plan. The GAL will investigate all relative facts and claims, meet with the parties, the child(ren), and any relevant third parties such as teachers, childcare providers, coaches, and/or medical professionals/therapists treating the child(ren) and the parties.

The GAL will participate in court hearings and possibly testify. If the matter goes to trial, the GAL will make recommendations to the court as to how the outstanding child(ren) related issues should be decided. In my opinion, the primary function of a GAL, in addition to the above, is to strongly encourage the resolution of disputes between the parties. 

Who Pays for the Guardian Ad Litem?

The GAL is paid for by the parties. The court will review the financial affidavits to determine the percentage each party will contribute to the GAL’s fees. If the parties cannot afford a GAL’s rate there is a sliding scale that the court can apply thereby limiting the hourly rate of the GAL.

What is the Difference Between a Guardian Ad Litem and an Attorney For the Minor Child (AMC)?

The basic difference is that a GAL represents the child(ren)’s best interests and, while the AMC supports the best interest of the child(ren), he or she primarily represents the child(ren)’s legal interests.  Generally speaking, a GAL is appointed for younger children, while an AMC is appointed for older children.

Another notable difference between a GAL and an AMC is that a GAL may testify as a witness at a hearing or trial and an AMC may not.

Can a Guardian Ad Litem be Removed from a Case?

While it is an extremely rare occurrence, it is possible for a GAL to be removed from a case. In order to do so, a party must file a motion with the court to seek the GAL’s removal and prove that the GAL is not acting in the best interests of the child(ren) and has a prejudice and/or bias against one of the parties.

At Broder & Orland LLC we carefully analyze and make all efforts to choose the most appropriate GAL for our client as well as his/her child(ren). Our hope and expectation is that a GAL will be able to work with the parties and their counsel directly to achieve a settlement which first and foremost benefits the child(ren).

Second Opinions in Connecticut Divorce Cases

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

Is it Appropriate to Get a Second Opinion in my Divorce Case? 

Divorce litigation is difficult. It’s costly both emotionally and financially. It is not uncommon for clients to feel overwhelmed by the process and at times disenchanted with their attorneys. Given that your divorce is one of the most impactful events in your life, you want to get it right. And sometimes, that means getting a second opinion just as you would for example, when it comes to medical care.

What Can I Expect From a Second Opinion? 

Often the second opinion will be confirmatory. If you have wisely chosen your divorce attorney, likely he or she has done everything consistent with your best interests. Eliciting a second opinion from another well respected attorney will make you feel more comfortable that your divorce is on the right path. Sometimes a second opinion with a well qualified attorney will enlighten you as to alternative approaches creative solutions, or issues that require attention.

Should I Discuss Getting a Second Opinion with my Current Divorce Attorney? 

Ideally, if you think a second opinion is warranted, you should discuss it with your current attorney instead of circumventing him or her. Seasoned attorneys have confidence in their abilities but also recognize that there are times when another set of well-trained eyes on your case can be very constructive. There may even be situations where your current divorce attorney will suggest that you get another opinion. You should consider the recommendation that you do so in the best light, not as a signal that your attorney is giving up on you.

What Information Should I Provide to the Second Opinion Attorney? 

When you meet with an attorney for a second opinion you should make sure to provide that attorney in advance with as much information as you can in order for that meeting to be meaningful. This might include, for example: pleadings, Financial Affidavits, Case Management Agreements, any Court rulings, Briefs and Memoranda of Law, Pre-Trial Conference memoranda, reports of experts, appraisals, discovery responses, custody and psychological evaluations, financial documents, settlement offers, and pertinent correspondence.

Schedule enough time with the second opinion attorney to be able to discuss all of the issues. It will also be helpful for you to bring your own written agenda items in order to address all your concerns. Make sure to take notes during the meeting. If you don’t understand something, ask again until you do. Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of all the items you wanted to discuss.

What Should I do After Receiving a Second Opinion?

Make an appointment with your current attorney to review what you have learned. Again, make sure there is enough time to discuss it all. Bring your notes with you. Remember, the point is not to challenge your attorney but to augment what both of you have previously addressed.

In most cases, if you carefully choose your initial attorney and then your second opinion attorney, you will find that you will want to stay with your original choice. While there is added cost to seeking another opinion, it is typically minimal compared to the overall cost of your case and really terrific value in that it will round out your knowledge, set you on a clearer path, and make you feel more comfortable.

If seeking a second opinion causes you to have concerns about continuing with your current attorney, you should discuss that with him or her in a very straightforward manner. Be up front about why you want to change attorneys and request that your attorney cooperate with successor counsel, whether it’s the second opinion attorney you met with or someone else. Do make sure to settle any outstanding bill with your current attorney before moving on. He or she may have a right to retain your file until you do so, but beyond that, it is the right thing to do and will start off your representation with your new attorney on the right foot.

At Broder & Orland LLC we recognize that certain divorce clients may want to seek a second opinion and on occasion we even initiate the suggestion that they do so. In certain cases we also provide second opinions with an appropriate protocol in place.

How Do I Commence an Action for Divorce in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

What Documents Must be Prepared and Served Upon my Spouse in order to Commence an Action for Divorce?

In order to commence an action for divorce in Connecticut, the following documents must be prepared and served upon your spouse: a Summons, a Complaint, a Notice of Automatic Orders, and a blank Appearance form.  

What is a Summons?

A Summons is a notice to a Defendant that he or she is being sued.  In a divorce case, a box will be checked indicating that the Plaintiff is seeking a dissolution of marriage from the Defendant.  The only information contained in a Summons is the location and address of the Court where the action will be heard, each party’s name and address, a Return Date, and a Case Management Date.  A Summons will be signed by your attorney.

What is a Complaint?

A Complaint sets forth the legal and factual basis for the divorce action.  The following information will be contained in a Complaint: each party’s name, including any maiden name(s), if applicable, a statement establishing the Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, the names and dates of birth of any child(ren) under the age of twenty-three, a statement indicating whether either party or any child(ren) have received state aid and/or public assistance, and a statement setting forth the grounds for the divorce, and a statement that the marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably.  A Complaint will also state, in very general terms, the relief sought from the other party.  A Complaint will be signed by your attorney.  

What are the Automatic Orders?

The Automatic Orders are “stand still” orders meant to maintain the status quo during the pendency of a divorce action with respect to financial matters, as well as child-related matters.  The Automatic Orders become binding on the Plaintiff when his or her attorney signs the initial documents, and they become binding upon the Defendant upon service.  

What is an Appearance Form?

An Appearance form will be completed by either by your spouse, if he or she chooses to represent him or herself, or by his or her attorney.  The Defendant’s Appearance indicates to the Plaintiff that the Defendant will be participating in the case.  It also ensures that the Defendant receives notice of all documents and pleadings filed in the action.  An Appearance will list the name and address of a self-represented party, or his or her attorney, as well as a statement as to whether that individual agrees to accept service of documents and pleadings electronically.

Who Serves the Initial Documents on my Spouse?

Initial papers for a divorce must be served by a State Marshal.

Must my Spouse be Served with the Initial Papers Personally?

Not necessarily.  If your spouse has already retained an attorney, it is possible that the initial papers may be served on his or her attorney, if that attorney is authorized to accept the initial papers on your spouse’s behalf.  If you spouse has not already retained an attorney, the initial papers must be served on your spouse.  This may be accomplished by having the initial papers personally served upon your spouse, or by having them left at your spouse’s usual place of abode.

What Happens After my Spouse is Served with the Initial Papers?

After your spouse has been served, the initial papers will be filed with the Court, together with proof that service has been made by a State Marshal.  The initial papers must be filed with the Court on or before the Return Date specified in the Summons and Complaint.    

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience in commencing divorce actions throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.  Our attorneys will ensure that you fully understand exactly what this process entails.