Author: Broder & Orland LLC

Testifying in a Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Do I have to testify during my Connecticut Divorce?

A divorce action is a civil lawsuit, so any time evidence is required to resolve a disputed issued testimony of witness is likely required.  Typically, the witnesses in a divorce action are you and your spouse, however, it is common for other fact or expert witnesses to also testify.  An example of a disputed issue which could require your testimony is what school your child should attend.  You and your spouse will likely be required to provide testimony as to why you believe a certain school is a better fit for your child and why it is in your child’s best interest to attend that school.

What is the format of testifying during my Connecticut divorce?

The two main categories of testimony are direct examination and cross examination.

Direct examination is the questioning of a witness by the party that called the witness to testify.  An example of direct examination is when your attorney calls you as a witness to testify.  Proper direct examination questions are posed in an open-ended manner.  Typically, direct examination questions begin with: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Once your attorney concludes your direct examination, your spouse’s attorney has the option to cross-exam you.  Unlike direct examination, where the questions are open-ended, proper cross examination questions are leading.  A question is considered leading if the answer is suggested in the question.  If done properly, during cross examination the attorney is essentially testifying, and the witnesses is merely confirming or denying the question posed by the attorney.

An example of a direct examination question versus a cross examination questions is as follows:

Direct – Where did you and your spouse marry?

Cross – Isn’t it true that you and your spouse were married in Greenwich, Connecticut?

Once your spouse’s attorney concludes his or her cross examination of you, your attorney will have the option to redirect you.  Redirect is the opportunity to correct or expand on the topics covered during cross examination.  Since proper cross examination often requires are simple yes or no answer, you may want the opportunity to offer more expansive testimony on the topic.  For example, on cross examination you may be asked: Isn’t it true that you were late in paying alimony, yes or no?  If the answer is “Yes”, on redirect examination your attorney may ask you: Why were you late paying alimony? You will then explain the reason why you were late paying alimony.

Thereafter, the opposing attorney will have the option to recross examine you, but he or she can only ask questions within the scope of the redirect examination.  For example, if the redirect examination is limited to questions pertaining to alimony, you typically cannot be asked questions about custody on redirect examination.  This format of redirect and recross examination will continue back and forth until there are no further questions.

What are my basic responsibilities while testifying?

Your first and most important responsibility is to tell the truth.  You will be given an oath by the Clerk to tell the truth, and failure to tell the truth could result in perjury charges or the Judge not finding you to be credible.  In a divorce case, credibility is one of the most important aspects since often a dispute comes down to a “he said, she said” situation.

Second, you need to only answer the question that is asked.  Otherwise, you answer could be stricken as non-responsive, which will only prolong the process.  You may find yourself not wanting to answer the question posed to you by opposing counsel, but you have an obligation to answer the question, unless an objection to the question is sustained.  You also need to remember that your attorney will be able to ask you follow up questions on redirect examination to correct or expand on the question.

Third, if an objection is raised, do not answer the question until you receive instructions from the Judge.  If the Judge sustains the objection you do not have to answer the question.  If the Judge overrules the objection you must answer the question.

Finally, you do not want to fight with opposing counsel.  Opposing counsel may purposefully ask incendiary questions to get you to lose your composure in front of the Judge.  You must do you best to try and stay in control and have faith in your attorney to “fix” any issues on redirect examination.

Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event.

What Orders Are in Effect While a Connecticut Divorce Case is on Appeal?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

Do the Trial Court’s Orders Take Effect Immediately Following a Divorce Trial?

Once an appeal is filed, the order(s) associated with the final judgment may be automatically stayed.  This means that until the appeal is finally concluded, the trial court cannot enforce the order(s) that are the subject of the appeal.  Generally speaking, orders regarding the division of assets and liabilities are stayed while a family law appeal is pending.  A common example of the automatic stay in practice in family cases occurs where the trial court orders that the marital home be sold.  Pursuant to the automatic stay rule, that order would not be enforced during the pendency of the appeal without the trial court terminating the stay of execution of that order, as discussed herein.

There are certain exceptions to the automatic stay rule that are permitted by the Practice Book in family cases.  For example, final orders concerning periodic alimony, child support, custody, and visitation are not automatically stayed pending an appeal.  If you are unhappy with the trial court’s alimony orders, those orders will go into effect during the pendency of your appeal unless you ask the court to impose a stay where there is not one automatically imposed by the court rules.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Have Divorce Orders that are Stayed Pending Appeal Take Immediate Effect?

Under Connecticut rules, the trial court can terminate the automatic stay of its orders on its own volition or after a motion is filed by either party.  A Motion to Terminate Stay is filed in the Appellate Court, but is decided by the trial court judge who decided the divorce case following a hearing.  In deciding a Motion to Terminate Stay, a trial court must consider the following factors: 1) the needs and interests of the parties and their children (and any other third parties affected by the orders); 2) the potential prejudice to either party, the children, or a third party affected by the orders if a stay is or is not imposed or if a stay is terminated; 3) the need to preserve the mosaic of the trial court’s orders; 4) the rights of the party taking the appeal to obtain effective relief in the event that his or her appeal is successful; 5) the effect of the Automatic Orders on any of the other factors; and 6) any other factors affecting the equities of the parties.  At the hearing on a Motion to Terminate Stay, both parties can present legal argument, and sometimes testimony, regarding whether the automatic stay should be terminated.

Can I Request that Orders that Go into Immediate Effect be Stayed While the Appeal is Pending?

It is also possible to file a Motion to impose a discretionary stay on any orders that go into immediate effect while an appeal is pending.  Such a Motion is filed in the trial court, unlike a Motion to Terminate Stay.  The trial court judge must consider the same factors recited above in deciding whether to impose a stay of the court’s orders or not.

What is My Remedy if I Do Not Agree with the Trial Court’s Decision Regarding a Request for Stay or to Terminate Stay?

The trial court is not necessarily the final arbiter of determining whether there should or should not be a stay of execution of its order.  A party aggrieved by orders regarding the termination of a stay can seek review of those orders by filing a Motion for Review with the Appellate Court.  The Appellate Court has the same power to review the issuance of a stay as it does the termination of one.

Broder and Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating at the trial court level.  If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

CAROLE T. ORLAND QUOTED IN GREENWICH MAGAZINE, JULY 2019.

No.191 SEPARATE WAYS CAROLE ORLAND

When it comes to divorce, the dirty little secret is not that one of the partners had an affair; rather, it’s that this transgression will not significantly affect the court settlement. Here in Connecticut, assets in most  divorce cases nearly always get split down the middle. As for his affair with the dog groomer? That might nudge the needle a bit, to 50/50 or maybe 60/40 percent – but beyond that? Not likely.

Child Support is mandated by state guidelines, and alimony, too, falls within a range that any reputable divorce attorney can estimate. Even Parenting Plans are predictable, reflecting the availability of each party to parent the children. While the court considers all circumstances in a divorce case, says Carole Topol Orland, attorney and cofounding member and partner of Broder & Orland LLC in Westport and Greenwich, it doesn’t have to apply any of them to the settlement.

So why make divorce a war? Find an experienced attorney beforehand who can clue you in on the likely outcome, saving you lots of anguish, time and money.  Carole T. Orland

Read the full article, published in the July 2019 issue of the Greenwich Magazine as well as all their publications including Westport, New Canaan-Darien, Stamford and Fairfield.

 

 

THE SECRET TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEDIATED DIVORCE

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where you and your spouse jointly hire a neutral third person (a mediator) to help settle the terms of your divorce. Your agreement is then memorialized by the mediator. One of the major benefits of mediation is that you and your spouse have control over the process, such as the timing of the case, the tenor of the negotiations and the ultimate terms of an agreement.

What do I need to know before I agree to mediation?

In mediation, you and your spouse (not a Judge and not the mediator) determine how the case settles. While the mediator may provide neutral guidance, he (or she) will not take sides and does not advocate for either party. In fact, in Connecticut, mediators are not even necessarily attorneys.

How can I best represent myself in mediation?

Without your own independent counsel, you may find it difficult to navigate the complexities of a divorce, including making major financial and parenting decisions. The secret to getting the most from mediation is to hire your own attorney to coach you through mediation, or “review counsel” to assist you during the process. Instead of taking a neutral approach, as the mediator does, your divorce coach or review counsel will help you negotiate a resolution that is in your best interest.

What is the role of the lawyer who serves as coach or review counsel?

Review counsel typically does not attend the mediation sessions with you. He or she also does not usually file an appearance with the Court, but instead provides you with background support, such as:

  1. Explaining the Divorce Process. You may have questions that you do not want to ask the mediator in front of your spouse. Review counsel can provide you with a more detailed explanation tailored to your concerns.
  1. Strategic Preparation for Mediation Sessions. One of the major benefits of retaining a divorce coach is the ability to plan and prepare for mediation sessions in advance. For example, if you know that your next mediation session will be focused on alimony, you can meet with your review counsel in advance to review your rights and settlement options.
  1. Review of the Parenting Plan/Separation Agreement. Your divorce coach or review counsel should review any agreement before you sign it, to make sure that it is drafted in a way that is fair, equitable and beneficial (or at least not detrimental!) to you.

Am I allowed to have a divorce coach or review counsel during Mediation?

It is perfectly acceptable for you to have an attorney “on your side” during mediation. In fact, Mediators often recommend it to both parties.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are committed to helping our clients navigate their divorce issues in the most effective way possible, whether it be assisting clients as a mediator or as mediation divorce coach or review counsel.

A Secret from a Seasoned Divorce Attorney…

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

What Might I Not Learn from my Friends About Divorce?

The dirty little secret in divorce cases is that the parameters of the likely outcome are relatively narrow. Connecticut is not a community property state where martial assets are automatically divided equally. However, the division of assets in most Connecticut settlements or Court awards will hover around 50%-50%, with some possible variation, such as 55%-45% or 60%-40%.

Likewise, child support is set by a formula contained in the Child Support Guidelines, which allow for some fairly standard deviations, and alimony typically is within a range that any reputable divorce attorney can estimate.

When it comes to children, most Parenting Plans are fairly routine and provide for a schedule that reflects the availability of each party to parent the children, unless a parent has some overriding behavioral issues including physical or emotional abuse, or substance or alcohol abuse.

 How Can I Learn More About the Parameters of a Likely Outcome in my Divorce?

When analyzing the asset division in your case, ask your attorney to provide you with a spreadsheet that will reflect the allocations of 50%-50%, 55%-45%, and 60%-40%. In many cases, the difference will not be substantial, relative to the size of the marital estate. In some cases, that difference will be neutralized by the fees and costs you will pay to pursue what you feel is a more favorable division. Have your attorney do a cost/benefit analysis.

With regard to child support, have your attorney run the Child Support Guidelines with probable scenarios. Again, you may see that the comparison is not all that significant.

Alimony can be a little trickier, especially since the enactment of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which essentially eliminates the federal deduction for divorces after December 31, 2018. The rule of thumb and conventions previously employed to arrive at a reasonable alimony award are different now, but with sufficient data your attorney should be able to easily guide you as to a probable range.

Ask your attorney for input on your Parenting Plan. He or she should be able to advise you on a reasonable schedule and provide you with context as to what a Court would likely order.

How Can I Turn this Advice into an Advantage in my Divorce?

The real question is: why make divorce a war? Understandably, most people who are getting divorced harbor ill feelings about their spouse for various reasons. But being vengeful or vindictive likely will not significantly affect the bottom line. It will only ramp up emotions and drive up costs.

It is most important that you find an experienced divorce attorney who can educate you about the likely outcome. It will save you anguish, time, and money. And then hope that your spouse does the same!

At Broder & Orland LLC, we make a point of educating our divorce clients early on about the parameters of the likely outcome of their case. We draw on years of experience to provide context for settlements and trials. We also share documentation with our clients which quantify possible scenarios and comparisons so they can make well-informed decisions about their case.

What is Short Calendar?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose.

What is the Short Calendar?

The Short Calendar is a mechanism for pending motions to be heard.  Once a motion has been filed in a case, it will appear on the Short Calendar.  Short Calendar occurs on a specific day each week, which will depend on the Judicial District in which your case has been filed, for example, Mondays in Stamford and Thursdays in Bridgeport.

 How Long does it Take for a Motion to Appear on the Short Calendar?

 Once a motion has been filed, it takes approximately two to three weeks to appear on the Short Calendar.

I Would like to Proceed with my Motion on Short Calendar – What Happens Next?

 The Short Calendar list becomes available approximately one to two weeks prior to the actual Short Calendar date.  Once the Short Calendar List becomes available, there is a period of time during which the available motions to be heard can be marked either “ready” or “off.”  In order to proceed with a motion at the Short Calendar, it must be marked “ready” during the marking period.  Once a motion has been marked “ready,” notice must then be sent to the other side.

 I am Unavailable or Unable to Proceed with my Motion on Short Calendar – What Happens Next?

 If you are unavailable or unable to proceed with your motion when it appears on the Short Calendar list, do not worry—motions may be reclaimed.  Reclaiming a motion will bring it back up to the next available Short Calendar.  Typically, motions may be reclaimed for a period of ninety days from their original file date before they are considered stale.

 What Happens at Short Calendar?

 When you first arrive at Short Calendar, your attorney will fill out a Memo to the Clerk.  This Memo indicates the status of the matter, such as: (a) whether you are requesting a continuance, (b) whether you have an agreement, or (c) whether you will need to proceed with a hearing.  Short Calendar days are usually the busiest days in the Courthouse and there will likely be some downtime while you are waiting to attend Family Relations or to have a hearing.

What is Family Relations?

 Family Relations is a free service offered by the Judicial Branch to assist the Court and parties in resolving disputes.  Prior to a contested matter being heard, the Judge will order counsel and the parties to attend Family Relations in order to attempt to resolve the dispute.  Meeting with Family Relations is generally mandatory.

 What Happens if Family Relations is Unsuccessful?

 Absent an agreement at Family Relations or otherwise, a Judge will need to conduct a full evidentiary hearing, after which he or she will render a decision, which could take up to one hundred and twenty days.

Will my Motion be Reached at Short Calendar?  What Happens if it is not Reached?

Short Calendar is reserved for “short” matters, typically those that will take about an hour or less.  If your matter is expected to take more than one hour, a judge will likely request that a date certain is obtained.  A date certain is a non-Short Calendar day on which the motion will be heard.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we attend Short Calendar throughout Connecticut, including Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury, New Haven, and Hartford.  Our skilled attorneys will ensure that you are adequately prepared for when your motion appears on the Short Calendar.

What are the Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in a Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

What are the Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in a Connecticut Divorce?

The divorce process is fraught with emotion which can lead to making mistakes with long-term effects.  Each divorce is different, however, here are some common mistakes we divorce attorneys see.

Is it a Disadvantage not to Understand Your Financial Situation?

Yes.  It is important at the outset of the divorce process to have an understanding of your personal and household expenses, liabilities, income and what assets there are to divide.  This will help in setting reasonable expectations as to the outcome and will help in planning for financial security moving forward, which is the ultimate goal.  Take the time to gather information, review your bank and credit card statements, and if you are not financially literate, take steps to educate yourself with the basics.

Is it Better to Settle Early in the Process?

Not necessarily.   Divorce is a highly emotional time, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by acrimony and the desire to give in just to end the emotional trauma.  This could be a costly mistake, however, because depending on the assets involved, it may be well worth taking the time to discover and fully vet out the values of business interests, trusts, stock options and pension benefits which you may be entitled to share.

Is it Worth Arguing the Details?

Often the expense of the argument can exceed the value of what it is you are trying to achieve in the first place.  Try not to get caught up in minor wins and losses of the negotiation process when it comes to the smaller details of, for instance, the method of payment of co-pays at the pediatrician’s office or the percentage point split of reimbursement for extracurricular activities.   It may feel like an emotional triumph in the short term, but may not be worth the expense in the overall cost of the divorce.

Should I Seek the Advice of Family and Friends?

It is not a good idea to rely on the advice of family and friends regarding your own divorce however well-meaning it is intended to be.  Just because your friend got the house and lump sum alimony in her divorce does not mean that you will or even should.  Every divorce is different, and one person’s experience does not readily translate into another’s.

Is it Better to Act First and Ask Later?

No.  It is always better to check with your attorney before taking action, especially if you are in an angry or depressed frame of mind.  Acting on impulse, for example cutting your spouse off from credit card use or denying access to marital funds to limit spending, can have adverse legal consequences.  Not only do these particular actions risk a contempt finding by a court, but may end up costing you more just to rectify it in the end.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, practice solely in matrimonial and family law, and have significant experience in counseling and developing an appropriate strategy to optimize the desired financial result.

Three Critical Issues to Address in a Prenuptial Agreement

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot

A prenuptial agreement is a written contract entered into by two people before they are married. Its purpose is to resolve, in advance, various financial matters that will necessarily arise from the marriage in the event of divorce or death of a spouse.  Notably, prenuptial agreements offer parties on opportunity to resolve financial issues in whatever manner they choose, rather than leaving such issues to be determined by the divorce laws of a particular state.  While the contents of prenuptial agreements can vary widely, there are certain issues that are commonly addressed in such agreements, three of which are discussed herein.

Property Distribution and Asset Classification: 

Prenuptial agreements typically define which types of assets will be subject to division in the event of divorce (i.e., which assets will constitute “Marital Property”), and which types of assets will necessarily be retained by one party to the exclusion of the other (i.e., which assets will constitute “Separate Property.”)  While there are many ways to classify assets, it is common for agreements to state that any assets brought into the marriage by a particular party shall constitute that person’s Separate Property, while any assets acquired during the marriage shall constitute Marital Property.  It also common for prenuptial agreements to provide that inheritances received by a party during the marriage shall constitute that person’s Separate Property.  In addition to classifying assets as Marital or Separate Property, many prenuptial agreements expressly set forth the manner in which Marital Property will be divided between the parties in the event of divorce.  For example, Marital Property might be divided equally, “equitably” (as determined at a later time under the laws of a particular state), or in some percentage allocation other than 50/50.

Many prenuptial agreements also address the disposition of assets that are acquired during the marriage with a combination of each party’s Separate Property and/or Marital Property, often referred to as “Mixed Property.”  Often prenuptial agreements will be drafted to ensure that both parties will recoup any Separate Property contributions he or she made to the acquisition of Mixed Property.

Alimony

Generally speaking, there are three options when it comes to addressing alimony in a prenuptial agreement.  One option is for the parties to agree to mutual “alimony waivers,” meaning that each party agrees that he or she will have no right to seek alimony from the other in the event of a divorce.  A second option is for each party to retain the right to seek alimony from the other, while leaving the issue open for determination at the time of divorce.  A third option is for parties to expressly agree upon specific alimony obligations that one party shall have to the other in the event of divorce, which may could include specific provisions regarding the duration and/or the amount of such alimony.

Estate Rights

In most jurisdictions, absent a written agreement to the contrary, each party to a marriage will be guaranteed by law to receive a certain minimum share of his or her spouse’s estate (the “elective share”) upon their spouse’s death.  For example, the “elective share” in Connecticut is comprised of the lifetime use of one-third of the value of all real and personal property owned by a party at the time of his or her death, after the payment of all debts and charges against that party’s estate.  However, a spouse’s right to an “elective share” can be waived in a prenuptial agreement, and it is not uncommon to see estate rights waivers in prenuptial agreements particularly where one or both parties have children from a prior relationship.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut negotiating and drafting prenuptial agreements that align with our clients’ circumstances.

 

What is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket?

This Week’s Blog by Chris DeMattie

The Connecticut Judicial Branch created a special docket in the Middlesex Judicial District to handle contested custody and visitation matters.  One judge presides over and manages the docket and per the Judicial Branch: “The goal is to handle contested cases involving children quickly and without interruption.” Cases are referred to the Regional Family Trial Docket by the presiding family judge in the local court if the referred case meets the program criteria: (a) child focused issue; (b) ready for trial; (c) family relations case study completed and not more than nine months old; and  (d) an attorney has been appointed for the children.

How does my Case end up in the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket?

Since our local family courts are overcrowded and its resources are limited, it is difficult for the Court to devote significant time to just one case.  Thus, if you and your spouse are unable to resolve the children and financial issues in your case, you meet the foregoing program criteria, and if your case will likely take more than four (4) days of trial, it will likely to be referred to the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket.  Recently, non-custody cases have also been referred to the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, if the presiding judge determines there is a compelling reason to do so, such complex financial issues which would require substantial court time.

How is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket similar to my local court?

The Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket applies the same law and procedures as your local court (e.g. Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven).

The standing Trial Management Orders still apply.

If your case is eligible for e-filing, all pleadings, motions, and notices are filed the same way.  If your case is not eligible for e-filing, all filings are sent to both your local court and the Middletown Clerk.

The Courthouse opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m.  There is typically a fifteen-minute mid morning and afternoon recess, as well as a lunch break from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

How is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket different from my local court?

First, you are assigned one Judge, and this Judge follows your case the entire time.  At your local court, generally you can be assigned a new Judge each court date, and you often do not know which Judge is assigned to your case until you appear at Court.

Second, except for rare circumstances, pendente lite motions are not heard until the time of trial.  At your local court, pendente lite motions are often heard while the case is pending and prior to trial.

Third, the timing of proceeding is much different.  At the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, since you case is assigned to one Judge, you are often the only matter scheduled on your court date.  This means that your case will often be called right at 9:30 a.m. and you will generally continue uninterrupted until approximately 4:45 p.m.  At your local court, it is rare for your case to be the only matter scheduled on your court date.  Unfortunately, too often there are multiple matters scheduled for the same date with the same Judge, and your case may not be heard.  Further, since your local court is not a special docket, there are usually multiple other matters scheduled such as status conferences, report backs, or stipulations.  Even though those matters are generally short, they still disrupt your proceeding because the Judge will delay and/or stop your hearing to address those matters.

In other words, it is rare to be interrupted at the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, while it is expected at your local court.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce.  As experienced divorce trial lawyers we have successfully tired many cases at the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket.

Can I Appeal My Connecticut Family Law Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

The Judge Issued a Decision in My Connecticut Family Law Case: Can I Appeal?

In Connecticut, you have the right to appeal a final judgment entered by a trial court.  Common final judgments subject to appeal in family law cases are final judgments from orders dissolving the marriage, including permanent orders regarding alimony, child support, and custody, and orders regarding the division of assets.  Post-judgment decisions, such as those regarding the modification of alimony, child support, and custody, are also appealable.

When Must I File My Appeal?

The deadline for filing an appeal is no later than twenty days after the court issues notice of its decision.  It is not advisable to wait until the last day to appeal, as missing the deadline, even inadvertently, can be fatal to your appeal.  Therefore, you should seek the advice of an appellate practitioner who does family law appellate work immediately after receiving a decision from the trial court.

My Ex-Spouse is Filing an Appeal: Do I Need to Do Anything?

If you are not the person appealing the decision, you need to ensure that your rights are protected during the pendency of the appeal.  You should consult with an appellate lawyer in order to understand the basis for your former spouse’s appeal, any potential weaknesses in the judge’s decision that make the decision vulnerable to being overturned on appeal, and what your best arguments in defense are.

In What Court is an Appeal Decided?

Most appeals are heard by the Connecticut Appellate Court.  Rarely, a case will be reviewed by the Connecticut Supreme Court without being heard first by the Appellate Court.  Direct review of a trial court decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court can sometimes occur when there is an issue that has never been decided by Connecticut Appellate Court or the Connecticut Supreme Court, when there is conflicting law on a particular subject matter, or when there is a matter of public importance worthy of decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Will the Appeal be Similar to the Trial?

The appellate process is very different from the trial process.  There is no new evidence or new testimony at the Appellate Court.  Each party submits thorough briefs outlining the facts of the case and the legal arguments in support of his or her positions.  The briefs are based on the record, consisting of the testimony from the trial court proceedings and any exhibits submitted to the trial court.  The appellant, i.e., the person taking the appeal, submits his or her brief first.  After the appellee submits his or her brief, the appellant has the opportunity to file a Reply Brief.  After all of the briefs are submitted, the Appellate Court will schedule a date for oral argument before a panel of Appellate judges.  At the Appellate Court, the panel typically consists of three judges.  At the Supreme Court, the panel consists of seven justices.   A party may attend oral argument, but is not required to do so.  After oral argument, the Appellate Court (or Supreme Court, as the case may be) will issue its Decision in writing.  The Decision is usually released several months after oral argument takes place.

How Long Will My Connecticut Appeal Take?

The appellate process in Connecticut can take several months, at least.  Some appeals can last over one year.

Can My Case Be Settled While an Appeal is Pending?

Your case can be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. Experienced litigators will explore potential avenues for settlement, if possible, in order to avoid the expense and time of an appeal.  In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due.  The Preargument Conference is a confidential settlement opportunity that takes place with an experienced judge who will meet with counsel for both parties and attempt to help the parties reach a settlement.  Whether you and your ex-spouse reach a settlement through the Preargument Conference or on your own, you can prepare a settlement agreement and the appeal can be withdrawn once the settlement is approved by the trial court.

Broder & Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating at the trial court level.  If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.