Category: Divorce

Are Communications With My Therapist or Marriage Counselor Admissible in Court?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • There are statutes in Connecticut that protect communications between individuals and certain treatment providers
  • The communications between a psychiatrist and patient as well as a psychologist and patient may be privileged if the communications occurred during diagnosis or treatment
  • Communications with a marriage or family therapist are privileged as long as the counselor has met certain certification qualifications

Divorce litigants in Fairfield County, Connecticut often ask whether or not statements made during therapy are subject to disclosure during divorce proceedings. Sometimes, people are afraid of saying something in marriage counseling or therapy that may “hurt” their divorce case. Most of the time, this concern is unnecessary. The laws of the state of Connecticut recognize that there are certain communications between individuals which should remain private and confidential. In fact, there are statutes in Connecticut which specifically provide criteria for determining whether communications with psychologists, psychiatrists, and marriage or family therapists are privileged. Whether or not communications are privileged really depends on the circumstances of the therapy as well as the qualifications of the therapist. For this reason, it can be helpful for potential clients to understand the nuances of the privilege in advance of engaging a marriage counselor or therapist.

Psychologist/Patient Privilege

Connecticut General Statutes §52-146(c) details exactly what is considered a privileged communication between psychologist and patient. Generally speaking, for a communication between psychologist and patient to be considered as privileged, it must have occurred during consultation for purposes of diagnosis and treatment. This means that if you have a casual conversation with friend who is a psychologist, for example, you should not expect that communication to be privileged. The statute further requires that the psychologist be licensed to practice pursuant to state law.

Psychiatrist/Patient Privilege

Similar to the psychologist-patient privilege, the privilege between a psychiatrist and patient extends to any written or oral communications, or records, related to the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. The relevant statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-142(c)(a), defines a psychiatrist as someone who licensed to practice medicine and spends a substantial portion of his or her time devoted to the practice of psychiatry.

Marriage and Family Therapist

It would be very difficult to make any progress in marriage therapy if each party was afraid that his or her words could ultimately be used against that party. Accordingly, there is a statute in Connecticut that specifically addresses those communications that are made in marriage counseling or in family therapy. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. S52-146p, communications (written or oral) with a marriage or family therapist are considered privileged as long as the therapist is certified by the Connecticut Department of Health Services as a Marital and Family Therapist.

Waiving the Statutory Privilege

Generally, in order for privileged communications to be admissible in Court, there must be consent of the patient. In family or marriage therapy, which includes more than one person in treatment, communications remain confidential unless all of the parties to the therapy consent to the therapist disclosing communications. However, the statutes provide some exceptions to the requirement for consent, in limited circumstances. One example is if a party has introduced his or her psychological condition as an element of his or her claim, such as in a custody dispute, the communications may be disclosed without consent.

At Broder & Orland LLC we are experienced in divorce cases that involve psychologists, psychiatrists and marriage counselors and have litigated issues regarding privileged communications in courts throughout the state, including Stamford, Bridgeport, and Danbury.

The Connecticut Divorce and Children With Special Needs

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

  • In Connecticut, the divorce rate is higher for marriages involving children with special needs
  • Custody and Parenting Plans in a case where families have children with special needs often differ from more “typical” divorce cases
  • Alimony, Child Support, and Equitable Distribution of Assets need to be analyzed differently when you have children with special needs

There is a wide body of research confirming that parents of children with special needs have a higher divorce rate than those without special needs children.  As Connecticut divorce lawyers with offices in Greenwich and Westport, our firm has represented many parents of children with special needs.

As I have learned through my discussions with many parents of special needs children and with child therapists, one reason for the increased divorce rate among this group is that raising a special needs child often places many difficult and unforeseen challenges and stresses upon a family. Often there is very little, if any, “down time” for parents of special needs children, and little time to devote to each other, such as having a simple date night.

When a family with a special needs child goes through a divorce, the issues of child custody, visitation/parenting plans, alimony, child support, and the equitable distribution of assets can become more difficult to negotiate, and often require a greater deal of attention and analysis in order to ensure that the child’s needs are adequately addressed.

Custody in Cases Involving Children with Special Needs

In the case of a child with special needs, the hope is that the parents can share joint legal custody of the child, meaning that the parents consult with each other with respect to all major issues concerning the child (such as medical, educational, and religious issues), so that all major decisions are made jointly.  When parents share joint legal custody of a child, each parent has an equal voice and neither parent has greater decision-making authority than the other parent.  In the event the parties cannot agree upon joint custody and one or both parties is seeking “sole custody” of a child (wherein one parent has the right to make final decisions regarding a child in the event the parties cannot agree upon an issue), the process becomes much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive.  In such scenarios, a Guardian Ad Litem will often be appointed, the costs of which will paid for by the parties.  That individual will spend a great deal of time talking not only to the parents and the child, but also to any mental health professionals, teachers, caregivers, friends, and family that know the child and/or the parents well, or provide professional services to the child. Simply, your child’s entire community can become involved in the case.

Parenting Plans for Children with Special Needs

Connecticut divorce parenting plans for children with special needs often require approaches that differ from traditional parenting plans and in such scenarios there is not really a “typical” plan.  In order to devise a plan that adequately addresses a child’s special needs, it is strongly recommended that parents work together with the child’s medical provider and/or mental health professional.  For example, transitions between houses are often an issue that must be appropriately addressed.

Is Alimony different in Cases Involving Children with Special Needs?

The amount and term of alimony can differ in cases involving a child with special needs if the child’s needs require one of the parents to stay home to provide extra care. Accordingly, this parent will not be able to work or develop a career as easily as others. In these circumstances, a solution may be a longer alimony term for the recipient.

Is Child Support different in Cases Involving Children with Special Needs?

The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines do not specifically address or have any separate designation for children with special needs. However, there can be a deviation from the standard child support amount based upon consideration of a child’s special needs. Typically, child support ends at the later of a child reaching the age of 18 or graduating from high school but not later than the age of 19. In the case of a child with special needs, however, child support may be extended until age 21.  In addition to regular child support, any and all unreimbursed medical expenses (including appropriate child care expenses) will be apportioned between the parents subject to their financial situations.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of a child’s special needs, there may be other entitlements available to the child such as social security disability.

Equitable Distribution of Assets

In dividing assets, parties who have the financial ability to set aside funds for the care of a special needs child will often do so through a special needs trust. It is also strongly recommended that a Trust and Estates lawyer be involved to help the parties plan properly for the future care of their child.

With offices located in Greenwich and Westport, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC have extensive experience in negotiating and drafting divorce agreements involving children with special needs and we offer comprehensive guidance through the wide range of issues that arise during a divorce.

Post-Divorce Housekeeping

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • Post-divorce housekeeping items require your immediate attention
  • Attend to provisions relating to your Parenting Plan and financial distribution
  • Utilize your attorney, accountant, counselor and other professionals to effectuate terms
  • Keeping good records will be critical for post-divorce enforcement

So now you are divorced. But before you close the book, there is one more chapter which requires your attention. That is: Post-Divorce Housekeeping. It is critical that you take certain steps to make sure the provisions of your Separation Agreement (if your case was settled) or the Court’s Judgment of Dissolution (if your case went to trial) are effectuated. You should carefully review one more time whichever of these documents pertains to your situation with an eye toward what must be done. Divorce attorneys who practice in Westport and Greenwich will typically provide you with a checklist or a summary of follow-up items. As much as you may want to leave your divorce in the rear-view mirror, it is important to tie up all the loose ends.

Below is an example of the more common post-divorce items that require attention. It is by no means exhaustive and every case is different, so make sure to consult with your divorce attorney for the particulars of your situation:

  • Discuss any changes in your Parenting Plan with your children, utilizing the support of a counselor when appropriate.
  • Notify your children’s school and activity providers that the divorce is final and arrange for progress reports and notices to be sent to each parent.
  • Convert all joint bank and brokerage accounts to individual accounts.
  • Effectuate all money transfers.
  • Arrange for direct payments of alimony and/or child support.
  • Attend to any title transfers or refinancing of real property.
  • If real property is to be sold, enlist a broker, following the terms of your Separation Agreement or Judgment.
  • Transfer title to all vehicles as necessary.
  • Deactivate joint credit cards.
  • Attend to beneficiary changes for life insurance and retirement accounts.
  • Obtain any additional life insurance you are obligated to provide.
  • Make sure your attorney has arranged for the drafting and implementation of any QDROs which are necessary to divide certain qualified retirement plans.
  • Notify your health insurer of change in covered individuals and arrange for COBRA, if applicable.
  • Contact your accountant about changes in filing status.
  • If you are an alimony recipient, discuss with your accountant the need for quarterly estimates (discuss new tax provisions effective 1/1/19).
  • Change your Will and estate planning documents.

It is important to be organized and efficient with post-divorce items. Keep good records. If your ex-spouse fails to comply with his or her obligations, ask your attorney to follow up with written correspondence to opposing counsel. If that doesn’t work, it may be necessary to file a Motion for Contempt, which could mean a return to Court and an evidentiary hearing. Having good records will be critical in proving your case.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we are careful to advise our clients about post-divorce items, which require attention.  We understand the importance of follow-through to effectuate the terms of the Separation Agreement or Judgment of Dissolution.  In certain cases we may get involved in handling the enforcement of those terms, as well.

How Does My Divorce Impact My Last Will and Testament?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

  • A divorce has the legal effect of invalidating a Will in its entirety if it was executed prior to January 1, 1977
  • If the Will was executed after January 1, 1977, only those provisions affecting an ex-spouse are invalidated and the remaining provisions stay in effect
  • The invalidated provisions of the Will are treated as revoked by the testator and the Will is interpreted as though the ex-spouse predeceased the testator
  • A divorce has no effect on the named Executors, Guardians and Trustees who are responsible for carrying out specific duties in accordance with the testator’s intent

Many married couples have what is called a “Sweetheart Will” which is a term that refers to a common inheritance plan between spouses whereby the surviving spouse receives the entire estate of the deceased spouse.  Since a Last Will and Testament is intended to carry out an individual’s final wishes as to the distribution of one’s estate, an ex-spouse would almost always fall outside the group of intended beneficiaries following divorce.

Prior to 1977 a divorce had the legal effect of revoking or invalidating the entire will by operation of law.  This rule still applies to wills executed before January 1, 1977.  The law changed in 1976 so that wills executed on or after January 1, 1977 are not revoked in their entirety by divorce.  Instead, those provisions that benefit an ex-spouse are treated as though the ex-spouse predeceased the testator, and the remaining provisions that are unaffected by divorce stay in effect.

Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 45a-257c provides, “If, after executing a will, the testator’s marriage is terminated by dissolution, divorce or annulment, the dissolution …shall revoke any distribution or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse … unless the will expressly provides otherwise.  Property prevented from passing to a former spouse due to revocation by dissolution … shall pass as if the former spouse failed to survive the testator, and other provisions conferring power or office on the former spouse shall be interpreted as if the spouse failed to survive the testator.”

Making sure your estate planning documents are reflective of your last wishes with respect to the distribution of your estate is often an overlooked step following divorce.   Although the law provides for revocation by divorce to eliminate an ex-spouse’s interest, there may still be problems created regarding previously nominated executors, trustees and guardians who may no longer be appropriate or willing to carry out their duties.

With offices located in Greenwich and Westport, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC offer comprehensive guidance through the wide range of legal issues that arise during divorce as well as those that may be impacted as a consequence.  We are knowledgeable in identifying issues that may arise post-dissolution, and whenever appropriate refer our clients to Trusts and Estates attorneys to make sure estate plans may be carried out as intended.

Fault versus Cause of the Breakdown of Marriage Factor

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

  • Since 1973 Connecticut has been a “No-Fault” divorce state.
  • Despite being a “No-Fault” divorce state, the Court must at least consider “the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage, or legal separation.”
  • The Court has wide discretion in weighing the applicability of the “cause” element of the statutes when fashioning financial orders.
  • In some cases the spouse that “caused” the breakdown of the marriage is financially punished, while in other cases the spouse is not.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we are often asked how fault factors into the final judgment of divorce.  In 1973 the Connecticut Legislature passed Public Act 73-373, which amended Connecticut General Statutes (“C.G.S.”) §46-32 (now known as §46b-40) to permit a decree of dissolution of a marriage upon a finding that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  Commonly, this is known as the “no-fault” divorce statute.  In Joy v. Joy, 178 Conn. 254, 256, (1979) our Supreme Court held that the statute was constitutional.

C.G.S. § 46b-81(c), provides the relevant statutory criteria that a court shall consider when assigning property, specifically it states:

In fixing the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the court, after considering all the evidence presented by each party, shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income. The court shall also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates. (Emphasis added).

In Posada v. Posada, 179 Conn. 568, 572 (1980), our Supreme Court held that “No-fault divorce does not mean that the causes of a marital breakup are always irrelevant, but it does mean that determining cause is not crucial to the judicial administration of matrimonial matters.” (Emphasis added).  The Supreme Court further stated: “In the text of the statutes, the criterion relating to ‘the causes for the … dissolution of the marriage’ is only one item in an extensive list of criteria that the trial court is directed to take into account. While it would be error for the trial court to refuse to hear witnesses who might attest to the causes of the marital breakdown, the court is entitled to weigh this evidence in conjunction with the other statutory criteria…”

In Jewett v. Jewett, 265 Conn. 669, 692 (2003), the defendant claimed that the trial court improperly “made erroneous findings of fact specifically related to [the] defendant’s fault” for the breakdown of the marriage.  The Supreme Court noted that the trial court did not make a specific finding of fault; rather, it dissolved the parties’ marriage on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown. The Supreme Court also held that “the trial court’s findings of fact regarding the defendant’s conduct, specifically his depletion of assets and that he had slapped the plaintiff, were amply supported by the testimony and the record.”  Id.

Thus, even though Courts no longer have to determine if either party was a fault for the marriage ending, the Court is required to at least consider the causes for the breakdown of the marriage when making financial orders.  Courts have found that substance abuse, physical abuse, dissipation, and/or affairs to be the cause of the breakdown of the marriage and have financially compensated the spouse that did not cause the breakdown of the marriage.  Conversely, Courts that have determined that one spouse caused of the breakdown of the marriage did not always financially compensate the other spouse.  This discrepancy is due to the Court having wide discretion when applying the numerous statutory criteria to the unique facts and circumstances of each case.

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 understand how to effectively present “cause of the breakdown” issues to the Court, as well as how to “value” your case for settlement purposes.

Can You Enforce A Foreign Divorce Judgment in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • Divorce Attorneys in Connecticut may be asked to enforce a “foreign divorce.” In Connecticut, the term “foreign divorce” means a divorce that took place in another state or country.
  • If you move to Connecticut after getting divorced in another state, you can enforce the judgment in Connecticut so long as the issuing state had jurisdiction to enter the judgment, both parties filed appearances in the divorce action, and the judgment is final.
  • If you move to Connecticut after getting divorced in another country, Connecticut will still enforce the judgment as long as it is not contrary to public policy or the morals of this state.
  • Before you can enforce your foreign divorce, you must first follow Connecticut procedure to file the foreign judgment with the court.

Connecticut Will Give Full Faith and Credit to Out-of-State Judgments

“Full faith and credit” means that Connecticut must give an out-of-state judgment the same force and effect to which the order is entitled to in the issuing state. However, before full faith and credit is given, Connecticut has threshold requirements which must be met. First, Connecticut requires the issuing state to have had jurisdiction to grant the divorce. Proper jurisdiction means that at least one of the parties to the divorce action was domiciled in the state at the time of the order (even if domicile might not have been required in that state). Second, in order to enforce alimony and support orders, the Connecticut court requires both parties to have filed appearances in the out-of-state proceeding. This ensures that both parties were aware of the orders rendered by the foreign state. Third, the orders must be final orders, and not temporary in nature. For example, a judgment that is pending appeal in one state cannot be enforced in Connecticut until it is adjudicated.

Divorce Judgments from Other Countries May be Enforceable in Connecticut

A divorce decree rendered in another country is not given, per se, full faith and credit in Connecticut. However, the Connecticut court will generally recognize and enforce a divorce judgment from another country if it is not contrary to the public policy or morals of the state of Connecticut. For example, if the jurisdictional requirements of the foreign country were met, but those requirements are contrary to the public policy of Connecticut, the court in Connecticut may decline to recognize and enforce the judgment.

You Must File the Foreign Judgment in Connecticut Before You Can Enforce It

In order to enforce a foreign judgment, you must first follow a specific procedure to file the foreign judgment with the Connecticut courthouse in which you are seeking enforcement. For example, if you live in Darien or Greenwich, you would seek enforcement in the Stamford Superior Court. According to Connecticut General Statutes §46b-71, you must:

  1. File a certified copy of the foreign judgment.
  2. Submit a certification stating that the judgment is final and has not been modified, altered, amended, set aside, vacated, stayed, or suspended. The certification must also include the full name and last known address of the other party.
  3. If the judgment has been modified, altered, or amended, submit an affidavit describing the modification or amendment, as well as certified copies of the modification or amendment. The Connecticut court will ultimately enforce the judgment as modified, altered, or amended.
  4. Notify the other party of the filing, by certified mail or personal service, within five days, and provide proof of service to the court.

You will not be able to take any action to enforce the judgment for a period of twenty days, to allow the other party the opportunity to advise the court of additional terms or modifications of the judgment. Once the twenty days has expired, the matter will be assigned a docket number and you may proceed in attempting enforcement or modification of the order.

If you or your ex-spouse live in Connecticut and you need to enforce a foreign judgment, it is important to hire experienced counsel to guide you through the process. The team of attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC can help you assess your case, file your judgment, and litigate the enforcement as necessary.

 

Common Myths With Respect to Alimony in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Myth #1: Alimony is awarded for half the length of the marriage
  • Myth #2: Lifetime alimony means that the alimony payor must pay alimony for the rest of his or her life
  • Myth #3: My spouse works full-time; therefore, I do not have to pay alimony

There is No Law in Connecticut Stating that Alimony is Awarded for Half the Length of the Marriage

At Broder & Orland LLC, we hear many of the “myths” about alimony that our Fairfield County divorce clients learn, oftentimes through their social circles or the Internet.  It is important for us to dispel these myths so that our clients have the correct information before making decisions about alimony in their cases.  In some cases, people are pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that the myths about alimony are not true.

One of the most common myths divorce attorneys hear from clients from Greenwich to Fairfield is that the term of alimony is half of the length of the marriage.  It is important for clients to realize that there is no law in Connecticut that says that alimony should be awarded for half of the length of the marriage, or for any other length of time, for that matter.  Judges in Connecticut have discretion under our law to award alimony for the length of time that they deem appropriate based on the facts of the case and the statutory factors set forth in General Statutes Section 46b-82, including the ages of the parties, the parties’ amount and sources of income, their health, their employability, and the assets awarded to them pursuant to the divorce, amongst other factors.  The length of the parties’ marriage is one of the factors that judges can consider in determining the duration of the alimony term, but it is not the deciding factor.

In some cases, half the length of the marriage is the appropriate duration of alimony because of the specific facts of the particular case.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are no “rules” as to what the duration of alimony must be.  Fairfield County divorce attorneys advise clients as to what the reasonable ranges are for the duration of alimony in a particular case based on their experience in the field and review of trends in Connecticut case law.

In settlements, duration of alimony can be negotiated to achieve a client’s particular goal.  Sometimes, a client may be willing to receive a lower amount of alimony than what may be typical based on the facts of the case in exchange for receiving alimony over a longer period of time.  Others prefer a higher amount of alimony over a shorter period of time than the norm.

Lifetime Alimony is not as Daunting as it Sounds

In long term marriages, particularly where one spouse did not work or received significantly less income during the marriage, the breadwinner spouse will hear that he or she has exposure for paying “lifetime alimony.”  Not surprisingly, this is often an unwelcome proposition for the breadwinner spouse.  At Broder and Orland LLC, we have clients ask us whether that means that they must pay alimony until they die.  They also want to know whether lifetime alimony means that they cannot stop working.

Lifetime alimony in Connecticut means that the alimony payor must continue pay alimony for so long he or she is working and earning income.  Unlike defined alimony terms that end on a specific date, lifetime alimony is written in Court decisions or settlement agreements as ending “upon either party’s death or the alimony recipient’s remarriage.”  What this language means is that, if the alimony payor continues working until age seventy-five and earns income from that employment, he or she will still have an obligation to pay alimony.

Lifetime alimony does not, however, prevent a person from retiring at a reasonable retirement age, usually no earlier than age sixty-five, though every case is different.  Reasonable retirement age can be dependent on the industry in which the alimony payor works or his or her profession.  Once the alimony payor is ready to retire, assuming that he or she is retiring at a “normal” retirement age, he or she has the right to file a Motion to modify his or her alimony obligation, requesting that alimony should cease on the basis of retirement.  Unlike defined alimony terms, lifetime alimony awards put the onus on the alimony payor to go back to Court to request modification of the alimony award on the basis of retirement.  Lifetime alimony does not mean, however, that the alimony payor cannot retire.

Alimony is Sometimes Awarded to a Spouse Who Works Outside of the Home

Some people living in Greenwich and Stamford may be surprised to learn that sometimes alimony is warranted in cases where both parties are gainfully employed outside of the home.  In certain situations, typically where there is a marked income disparity between the parties, the spouse who earns more income will have to pay alimony to the other spouse for a period of time.  The amount of alimony in these types of cases is usually less than what the alimony payor would have had to pay had the other spouse not worked outside of the home.

Contact a Top Fairfield County Divorce Attorney to Discuss Connecticut Alimony Law

There is no substitute for seeking the advice of an experienced attorney with respect to what the law is in Connecticut regarding alimony.  At Broder & Orland LLC, we can dispel any myths people may have heard regarding the amount of alimony typically awarded or the length of time for which it is awarded.

 

Should I Depose My Spouse in Our Divorce Action?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

In all divorces cases in Connecticut a party has the right to depose his or her spouse pursuant to C.G.S.Sections 52-148a-152 and Connecticut Practice Book Sections 13-26. 13-331. A Deposition is a proceeding whereby the deponent is questioned and provides testimony under oath. It typically occurs in the office of the lawyer representing the party who is taking the Deposition. The spouse is either subpoenaed (served by a marshal) to appear or appears pursuant to a Notice of Deposition served on the spouse’s attorney. Most often, attached to the subpoena or the Notice is a schedule with document requests. These requests may include documents relating to a broad swath of items that relate to finances, custody and/or any issues in the case.

Some of these documents may have been produced prior to the Deposition and need not be produced again, except for updates if applicable. If the requests seek documents that are objectionable, for example if they are too broad or are harassing, the deponent’s lawyer can object and may file a Motion for Protective Order seeking protection from “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or undue burden or expense.” Connecticut Practice Book Section 13-5. The Court will then decide what must be produced or not.

For all practical purposes the deposing attorney can ask almost any question that is tangentially related to the case and the deponent must answer unless he or she asserts a privilege such as attorney/client, therapist/patient or self-incrimination, or if the question is merely intended to harass the deponent.

There is no proscribed time for the length of a Deposition. Rarely is it less than a couple of hours but it may go on for several days, consecutively or over time, depending on the complexity of the case. The deposing party is entitled to be present but is not required to be there.

So the question arises, “Should I depose my spouse?” It is a decision that must be discussed thoroughly with your lawyer and experienced lawyers in Westport and Greenwich can assist you in making a strategic decision. Reasons for deposing your spouse may include: the efficiency of obtaining testimony under oath; the need to get documents and have them explained; the benefit of locking in testimony that can be used at trial; the opportunity for counsel to get a feel for the deponent’s veracity and demeanor; and providing the deponent with a reality check of the examination and scrutiny he or she will undergo at trial. However, there may be situations where you will not need to or want to depose your spouse, for example if he or she: has been forthright and attentive about supplying information and documents; no further explanations are required with regard to the documents; there is no suspicion of untrustworthy behavior; and you and your spouse are on amicable terms. Cost is also a factor to think about, as Depositions are time consuming and costly. You should also consider that taking your spouse’s Deposition can be an emotional event for both of you and can increase hostilities, which may then negatively affect future negotiations and settlement.

Our lawyers at Broder & Orland LLC have vast experience with Depositions and can effectively help you weigh the options and guide you to the correct decision when it comes to deposing your spouse.

Connecticut Divorce Decisions: Sex, Drugs, Alcohol, & Abuse*

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

In a recent Connecticut divorce decision a judge wrote:

[The husband] sometimes gave numeric ratings to the wife on her performance in bed; one morning after the parties had engaged in sexual intercourse, the wife woke to find a note from the husband informing her that she had earned a “0”.

Many people would be quite surprised to read a quotation like the one above. However, as a Connecticut divorce lawyer, this excerpt did not surprise me.  Instead, it made me realize that people getting divorced should know what type of information may be contained in a Judicial Decision – as many people are under the incorrect impression that Connecticut divorce decisions are sealed.

Are Connecticut Divorce Decisions Sealed?

No.  They are available to the public. Prior to the internet, in order to obtain a decision, you would have to go to the courthouse, stop by the clerk’s office, request a copy, and pay a fee.  Today, Connecticut divorce decisions are often available for everyone to read online and can be found with a simple Google search on a smartphone.

What Can Judges Write About in Connecticut Divorce Decisions?

Judges have great latitude to write about almost anything in relation to a marriage or family in a Connecticut divorce decision.  A judge will issue orders concerning custody, a parenting plan, alimony, child support, and the equitable distribution of assets in a divorce decision. He or she may also discuss their thought processes which led to the decision. This can, and often does, include detailed facts related to the causes of the breakdown of the marriage.

Can a Judge in a Connecticut Divorce Decision Case Discuss Extramarital Affairs?

Yes. Below are some excerpts from Connecticut divorce decisions:

  • When the husband was 35 years old he began a romantic and sexual relationship with another woman, who was then approximately 21 years old. The husband also commissioned an artist to paint a portrait of his girlfriend which he subsequently hung in the playroom of the marital home – not telling his wife that it was based on his girlfriend.
  • During the late months of 2012, the husband began a series of sexual interludes with women he had met via internet dating sites. He also visited massage parlors that provided sexual services. During that same time period… he continued to have regular sexual intercourse with his wife.
  • Just prior to the separation of the parties and the filing of this action, the defendant admitted to the plaintiff that he had been having sexual affairs with numerous (approximately fifteen) other women since the first or second year of their marriage. One of these affairs was with an employee of the restaurant and took place in an office room of the restaurant. Another of the affairs took place while the parties were on vacation with each other and another couple. The defendant had sexual relations with the wife of the other couple in their hotel room while the plaintiff and the husband of the other couple were down at the beach. These affairs were the cause for the breakdown of the marriage.
  • At a wedding reception… in front of his Wife and others, Husband allowed another woman to simulate an act of oral sex on him. Although Wife now claims that she was hurt by this incident, Wife demonstrated her own willing participation and endorsement of this rude and crude behavior by taking a photograph to memorialize this incident.
  • As a result of the parties’ swinging lifestyle, on or about New Year’s Eve, the defendant and the wife of the other couple became pregnant.
  • Equally hard to believe is the plaintiff’s story about her relationship with [Mr. X], a friend she met at the end of August 2004. In November 2004, the plaintiff and a close friend took a vacation to Key West, and lo and behold, guess who was in Key West during that exact period of time? Mr. X! And then the plaintiff planned a trip to the Bahamas, and guess who was also in the Bahamas at the same period of time? Mr. X!

Can a Judge in a Connecticut Divorce Case Discuss Drug/Alcohol Abuse?

Yes. Oftentimes substance abuse is an issue in custody and parenting conflicts as well as being a reason for the cause of the breakdown of the marriage. Below are some excerpts from Connecticut divorce decisions in which the judges discussed these issues:

  • The husband frequently consumed alcohol to excess, and sometimes became violent with the wife; the wife often came home late at night or not at all; there was a lack of sexual intimacy between the parties; he called the wife violent names such as whore and slut; he accused her of getting on her knees to get her job.
  • During most of the marriage, both parties consumed alcohol to excess but the husband’s drinking evolved into him becoming an alcoholic. He has probably been a problem drinker all of his adult life. He had worked as a police officer and he had one DUI arrest and a second DUI stop which did not result in an arrest, presumably due to his status as a former police officer.
  • Unfortunately, the defendant is an alcoholic. When he is drinking, he shows a lack of judgment. The defendant has had periods of sobriety. However, he has spent time at Fairfield Hills Hospital and at Guenster House. As a result of his alcoholism, the parties lost their home.

Can a Judge in a Connecticut Divorce Case Discuss Abuse?

Yes. Whether it is physical, emotional, or financial, a judge can and will discuss incidents and allegations of abuse as indicated below:

  • The Husband claimed the reason for the breakdown of the marriage was the Wife’s constant yelling, screaming, threatening and arguing. He believes she has serious emotional problems including excessive attention to cleanliness. The Wife claimed the Husband was physically abusive to her and the child, abused alcohol and drugs, may have been unfaithful, told her repeatedly that he did not want the baby, smoked or permitted secondhand smoke around the child who was prone to middle ear problems, had poor parenting skills, diet and cleanliness habits, did not have proper religious practices, was irresponsible, lazy, and a poor dresser.
  • That leaves a mother with so little fortitude and so few personal resources that she cannot protect her own child from a perceived danger. Hardly an endorsement for a custodial parent.
  • The level of [The Father’s] anger is apparent to all, and it calls his overall parental judgment into question…. [His] anger has already had negative consequences for his children just within the eighteen months since [the parties] have lived apart.

Are Financial Details of a Connecticut Divorce Case Sealed?

No. Actually, the court must unseal the financial affidavit, (a document which lists a party’s income, expenses, assets, and liabilities) during a trial. Moreover, a court’s decision will often discuss, analyze and/or list the parties’ assets, income history, and liabilities.

Who Can Read a Connecticut Divorce Opinion?

Anyone! For example:

  1. The parties’ children.  They may be young now, but some day they will be able to read all of the gory details of their parents’ relationship, allegations, and the judge’s findings.
  2. Any future dating prospect.
  3. A potential employer or client.
  4. Family and friends, which will add to the gossip mill.

Is it Really Necessary for Connecticut Divorce Judges to Discuss These Details?

I have discussed with a number of Judges why in judicial decisions they provide information regarding affairs and abuse issues. The most common answer is that they need to substantiate their decision and their impressions with facts.  Another common reply is that by including such information future litigants will realize that by going to trial the details of their personal lives will be out there for everyone to see. Hopefully, this will be a factor that will encourage people to settle their divorce.

*The names of the parties in all of the above-referenced cases have been intentionally left out this article to protect the anonymity of those involved. 

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, concentrates specifically on 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.

 

How Do I Stop or Slow Down My Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

There are instances where one spouse decides to file for divorce while the other spouse strongly desires to salvage the marriage. Sometimes the legal process is well under way when one or both parties suddenly decide to explore the possibility of reconciliation. Divorce clients throughout Fairfield County in towns from Greenwich to New Canaan to Weston find themselves in these situations, and are surprised to learn that the law provides a way for divorcing spouses to stop the process without losing the benefit of what they have already invested time and money in.

  • Gen. Stat. § 46b-53 allows a party to request conciliation within the first ninety days of the commencement of an action, which is automatically granted.
  • Gen. Stat. § 46b-10 allows a party to initiate conciliation at any time during the pendency of a case which is permitted with the approval of the Court.
  • The Automatic Orders that go into effect at the commencement of an action pursuant to Practice Book § 25-5 are not affected by the reconciliation period and remain in place.

In the first instance, the process involves the submission of a request to the clerk within the first ninety days following the filing of a complaint.  The clerk “shall forthwith enter an order to meet a conciliator. …” C.G.S. 46b-53(1). The conciliator may be a mutually agreed upon clergyman, physician, domestic relations officer or marriage counselor, and all communications during the consultations are absolutely privileged. C.G.S. 46b-53(c). Within the ninety day period or within 30 days of the request, whichever is later, the parties must attend two mandatory consultations with the conciliator.  The purpose is to determine the possibility of reconciliation or “of resolving the emotional problems which might lead to continuing conflicts following the dissolution of the marriage.” C.G.S. § 46b-53(b). Failure of either party to attend the consultations, except for good cause, results in no further action being taken on the complaint for six months following the return date. Id.

The second situation involves the filing of a motion at any time prior to judgment but requires the Court’s permission to halt the process for the purpose of attempting reconciliation.  The legal effect of reconciliation status is a stay of the proceedings, discovery deadlines and other mandatory Court obligations without prejudice, and either party may move to have the case restored to the docket.

The Automatic Orders that are issued to both parties upon the signing and service of the complaint pursuant to Practice Book §25-5 “remain in place during the pendency of the action unless terminated, modified, or amended by further order of the Court upon motion of either of the parties” and are therefore not disturbed by the reconciliation process.

Of course, it is always possible to end a case altogether by filing a withdrawal of the action.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-80 provides that a party may withdraw an action as of right after the commencement of an action but prior to the commencement of a hearing on the merits.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable in both the substantive family law and the applicable procedural rules to customize the legal approach that best serves an individual client’s needs, and which, occasionally, results in no divorce at all.