Category: Divorce

What Should I Expect at my Initial Divorce Consultation in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

What is the Purpose of the Initial Divorce Consultation?

After having made the difficult decision to contact an attorney regarding divorce and after making an appointment to meet with him or her, it is natural to feel apprehensive or to be unsure of what to expect at that initial meeting.  Most Fairfield County divorce clients have many questions about the divorce process, possible outcomes, and how Connecticut law applies to his or her case.  Those are all appropriate issues to be discussed in an initial consultation.  One of the primary purposes of the initial divorce consultation, in addition to information gathering, is for the potential client and the potential lawyer to meet in order to determine whether both the client and the lawyer are comfortable working together.  As a client, it is important to feel that you can trust your divorce attorney and that there is good communication between you and your divorce attorney.  The initial consultation is a good opportunity for both the lawyer and client to assess whether they can have a good working relationship during a sometimes difficult process.  

What Do I Need to Bring with Me to My First Meeting with a Potential Divorce Lawyer?

Among other things, it is important for a divorce attorney to have as much information as possible so that he or she can accurately evaluate the case and give the appropriate advice.  Of course, if you were the person served with divorce papers, you should bring those papers to the initial consult so that the attorney can review them and explain them to you.  At the first meeting with a divorce lawyer, however, it is not required that you bring any other documents with you.  The divorce attorney will listen to you and ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of the basic facts of the case.  There will be plenty of time after the initial consultation for you to provide relevant documentation to your lawyer.  While you do not need to bring documents with you to the initial consult, there are some documents that you can bring to make the meeting more productive.  For example, if there is a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement in your case, you should bring a copy of that to the meeting.  Most top Fairfield County divorce attorneys will even ask to see the document in advance of the meeting so that he or she can review it beforehand.  Some people also like to bring relevant financial documentation to the meeting, such as tax returns and bank and brokerage accounts, so that specific financial questions they have can be addressed.

Is What I Discuss at My Initial Divorce Consultation Confidential?

The short answer to this question is: yes.  The information you provide to a potential divorce lawyer, even if you do not hire that person, is kept confidential.  Keep in mind, however, the caveat discussed below.

Should I Bring My Friend (or Family Member) to the Initial Consultation Meeting?

It is normal for people to want emotional support at an initial divorce consultation.  If a third party is present in a meeting between a potential client and a lawyer, that presence can jeopardize the confidentiality of the meeting, as confidentiality and attorney-client privilege typically only extend to the potential client.  If you deem it critical to bring a friend or family member with you to the initial consultation, you can discuss how to handle it with the potential divorce lawyer with whom you are meeting.  You and the divorce attorney may decide to have the friend or family member wait in the reception area during all or part of the meeting in order to protect the information discussed.

What are the General Topics Discussed during the Initial Consult?

In general terms, the best initial consultations cover the following topics, as applicable to the facts of your case: the divorce process in Connecticut, custody of minor children and parenting plans, discovery of relevant information during the divorce, division of assets and liabilities, and alimony and child support.  Top Fairfield County attorneys will also discuss with you strategy concerns and any other issues that may be particular to your case.  In order for the divorce lawyer to give you good advice, he or she will ask many questions, ranging from basic to very personal.  The more information you provide, the more you and a potential divorce attorney can begin crafting a timeline and strategy for your case.

What Questions Should I Ask at the Initial Divorce Consultation?

There is no question too insignificant for an initial divorce consult.  A good divorce attorney will want you to feel comfortable that your questions have been answered and will welcome any and all questions that you have.  There is very little that experienced divorce attorneys have not heard or been asked; so, do not be shy about sharing information or asking questions.  Beyond the typical questions about the divorce process, how long divorces in Connecticut typically last, and what to expect with respect to parenting and finances, you should also ask questions about the financial relationship between you and the potential lawyer.  You will want to know the attorney’s hourly rate, requested retainer or other fee arrangements, and how frequently you will receive invoices reflecting time spent on your case.    

At Broder & Orland LLC, we pride ourselves on our informative initial consultations, which typically initiate an effective attorney-client relationship that lasts throughout the case.  We strive to advise potential clients in a forthright manner so that they feel comfortable about what to expect from the divorce process in Connecticut and so that they understand their options moving forward.

Living Arrangements During a Divorce: Who Stays in the House?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • Connecticut law protects each party’s right to live in the martial home during a divorce.
  • You cannot deny your spouse continued use of the marital home without an agreement or Court order.
  • The Court has the authority to give exclusive use of the marital home to either party if warranted.
  • It usually does not harm your case if you voluntarily move out of the house.

Who Gets to Live in the Marital Home During a Divorce?

In Connecticut, both parties are entitled to live in the marital home during the divorce action, unless there is an agreement or Court order stipulating otherwise. If the parties cannot live together, but cannot agree on who should leave, the Court has the authority to order exclusive use of the family home to one party, regardless of how the property is titled. The decision of who lives in the house during the divorce may come down to two main factors: first, what is most practical for your family; and second, the family’s financial circumstances. Sometimes, divorcing couples opt for a “bird nesting” arrangement whereby the children stay in the marital home and the parents rotate in and out. One party leaves the marital home when it is the other party’s turn to reside there, and vice versa.

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

In Connecticut, there are automatic orders (Connecticut Practice Book §25-5) which provide that if you are living together with your spouse on the date that the divorce action is started, you may not deny him or her use of the residence. For this reason, it is always best to consult with an attorney prior to changing the locks on the marital home. 

Will it hurt my Case if I Move out of the Marital Home? 

Divorce can be a contentious, emotional time for families. You may want to live separately but are afraid that you will be accused of abandoning your family or you may be concerned that it will hurt your divorce case in some other way.

Under most circumstances, it does not hurt your divorce case to voluntarily move out of the marital home—specifically, if it is done in order to alleviate stress or tension within the home, especially when there are minor children involved.  In fact, Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-83 provide that if one of parent leaves the family home voluntarily during the case and leaving is in the best interests of the child, the Court may consider that fact in making or modifying custody orders.

How Do I Get a Court Order for Exclusive Occupancy?

If you believe that your circumstances warrant exclusive use of your marital residence, you can file a Motion for Exclusive Possession with the Court to request an order which prevents your spouse from living in the home during the divorce.  This type of Motion is typically only filed in extreme circumstances.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in securing exclusive possession for our clients, defending against such claims, and in the alternative, helping to devise living arrangements during the divorce that will meet our clients’ specific needs.

Can I Date While Going Through My Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

Is a Person Allowed to Date While Going through a Divorce?

Yes. There is no restriction against dating. In fact, it can often relieve the daily stress of the divorce process. However, as explained below, there are some important things to keep in mind if you decide to date while going through your divorce.

Can I buy Gifts for My Girlfriend/Boyfriend during my Divorce?

If a party purchases gifts for a girlfriend or boyfriend during the divorce process in the state of Connecticut, the Court could consider the expenditure(s) a dissipation of marital assets and allow the other party to receive a credit for such expenditure(s) at the time of dissolution.

Can I Introduce My Girlfriend/Boyfriend to my Children During the Divorce?

While there is no absolute restriction in Connecticut against doing so, it is highly advisable that a party does not take this step unless and until there is consent from the other party and/or it is done with the assistance of a therapist. Sharing this information with a 5-year-old is obviously different than sharing it with a 10-year-old or even a 15-year-old. Accordingly, we strongly suggest that you receive the proper advice before introducing your girlfriend/boyfriend to your children during a divorce.

Can I Remarry After my Divorce? If so, how soon Thereafter?

Yes, this is actually a more common question than people realize.  You may do so the next day.

Should I Wait to Date Until my Divorce is Final?

This is entirely an individual question and one must determine if he/she is emotionally ready. One reason to avoid dating is because if your spouse finds out, it may cause jealousy. This jealousy may manifest itself in a more aggressive and litigious approach, which may make it more difficult in trying to reach a resolution.

Do I Want my Spouse to Date During the Divorce?

The answer is often yes.  Many clients have said that the best thing that happened during the divorce was that their spouse started dating, because it kept him/her more grounded and calm throughout the process.

At Broder & Orland LLC we often discuss the pros and cons and the possible outcomes and issues that a party, and more importantly, his/her child(ren) may face as a result of dating during the divorce process.

The Financial Cost of Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

What will my Divorce Cost?

The short answer is that it is hard to know at the outset what a divorce will eventually cost.  Since virtually all divorce lawyers in Connecticut bill on an hourly rate, the cost is a function of time spent on the case. At Broder & Orland LLC, we have handled divorces ranging in cost from a few thousand to millions of dollars.

Is Cost Related to the Complexity of the Case? 

Not necessarily. Some of the more financially complex cases settle quickly when the parties, their counsel, and experts are sophisticated and are financially savvy. These cases sometimes involve a variety of compensation components, including for example, stock options, RSUs, SARs, phantom stock, and deferred compensation. While this can initially appear daunting, it doesn’t have to be if the parties are well-educated about income variants.

Will the Cost of my Divorce be Minimal if our Assets are Very Modest? 

We would hope so and at our firm we strive to make it cost-effective for our clients in every case. Unfortunately, different pressures can arise when the marital estate is relatively modest and there isn’t enough money for both parties to live their lives post-divorce in the manner they were doing so during their marriage. In these cases particularly, it is imperative to do a cost-benefit analysis and to be real about the results. 

Will Children’s Issues Increase the Cost of Divorce?

Quite possibly. It is in everyone’s best interest to settle on a realistic Parenting Plan as early as possible in the case. If that doesn’t happen, the Court will sometimes appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) as an investigatory arm of the Court whose role it is to report on the best interests of the children, or Attorney for Minor Children (AMC), who will act as an advocate for the children taking into consideration their best interests. The cost of these additional individuals will be borne by the marital estate and having them involved typically signals additional litigation and therefore, higher cost. 

What Other Factors can drive up the Costs of a Divorce? 

Divorce costs may spiral upward for many reasons, for example: one or both parties may not be cooperative in the discovery process or have unrealistic expectations.  Attorneys and clients may not be in sync about objectives and goals. The Court system is fraught with inherent delays and continuances mean more time and more money. 

What can I do to keep my Divorce Costs from Getting out of Control?

  • Hire a reputable and knowledgeable attorney.
  • Make sure you are always on the same page as to how your case is being handled.
  • Settle the kids’ issues as soon as possible. Attend to discovery deadlines.
  • If finances are complex, make sure to assemble a good team of experts who can educate you about the various components. In short, demystify the finances so you can move forward to settlement.
  • Be reasonable in negotiations with your spouse even if there are bad feelings, as is typically the case in divorces.
  • Pay attention to your monthly bills and your retainer status.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, we strive to make our clients’ divorce cases cost efficient, whether the case involves a modest marital estate or is a high net-worth or high-income earner matter. We constantly counsel our clients on the cost-benefit of decisions as the case progresses. Our goal is to achieve for our clients the best possible outcome at the most reasonable cost.

What is an Educational Support Order?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

Does the Court have the Authority to Order a Party to Contribute to a Child’s College Expenses? 

Yes.  Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(a), the Court has jurisdiction to enter an order requiring one or both parents to provide support for a child to attend an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction for a total of four full academic years.  

Are there any Prerequisites for the Court to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Yes.  The Court may not enter an educational support order unless the Court finds, as a matter of fact, that it is more likely than not that the parents would have provided support for a child’s higher education or private occupational school, had the family remained intact.  

What does the Court Consider in Determining Whether to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(c), in determining whether to enter an educational support order, the Court shall consider all relevant circumstances, including: (1) the parents’ income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents; (2) the child’s need for support to attend an institution of higher education or private occupational school considering the child’s assets and the child’s ability to earn income; (3) the availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans; (4) the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child’s academic record and the financial resources available; (5) the child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education; and (6) evidence, if any, of the institution of higher education or private occupational school the child would attend. 

What Expenses Qualify as “Educational Expenses?”

An educational support order may include support for any necessary educational expenses, including room, board, dues, tuition, fees, registration and application costs, books, and medical insurance.  

What is the Maximum Amount of an Educational Support Order?

An educational support order may not exceed the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student at the time the child matriculates.  The “UConn cap” applies to the entire educational support order for both parents.

Could Parties Agree to Alternate Arrangements regarding Educational Support Orders?

Yes.  The “UConn cap” may be exceeded by the parties by agreement.

When can the Court enter an Educational Support Order?

The Court may enter an educational support order at the time of a decree of dissolution, legal separation, or annulment.  The Court may reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date.  This is usually done in cases of young children.  If the Court does not reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date, then no educational support order may be entered thereafter.  If the Court does reserve jurisdiction, a party may petition the Court to enter an educational support order at a later date.  

When do Educational Support Orders Terminate? 

An educational support order must terminate no later than a child’s attaining age twenty-three.

Could an Educational Support Order be entered for a Child’s Graduate School Expenses?

No, the Court does not have jurisdiction to enter an educational support order for a child’s graduate or postgraduate education beyond a bachelor’s degree.  However, parties may agree to be responsible for and share these expenses.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience in addressing disputes related to a child’s post-secondary educational support throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut, whether the issue arises incident to a dissolution of marriage action or post-judgment.

Should I Hire a Private Investigator for my Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Private investigation of issues in a high conflict divorce can be extremely helpful and an efficient method of fact gathering prior to and during a divorce, as well as post-dissolution.

How Can I Locate Hidden Assets?

A private investigator may uncover jointly held assets that were wrongfully transferred into solely held accounts, which is prohibited in Connecticut upon initiation of a divorce action.  It is not uncommon for a spouse to suspect that funds are being diverted into undisclosed assets. An investigator can help with finding them and your attorney may in turn seek a court order to restore the funds or account for them at the conclusion of the divorce.

How do I Track Improper Transfers?

An experienced private investigator may be able to search databases and records to identify wrongful financial conduct.  In a Connecticut divorce, expenditures made by a spouse for a purpose outside of the marriage (such as gambling or an affair) can often be quantified and may in some cases constitute what is called a dissipation claim for the other spouse to receive a credit when assets are divided.  Having a trained professional obtain this information rather than doing it yourself may be critical to the process of presenting evidence later to ensure admissibility because wrongfully obtained information may be ruled inadmissible in court proceedings. 

How do I Catch my Cheating Spouse?

A picture is worth a thousand words.  In some cases, a picture or video surveillance of a spouse’s conduct can be used in a variety of ways, not just proof of infidelity.  For example, to show the spouse who is claiming inability to be gainfully employed pictured on the golf course or at the casino on a week day.  Sometimes the situation is reversed, and a spouse wants to know whether s/he is being tracked, surveilled or hacked by the other.  A private investigator can conduct a sweep of the residence, vehicle, phone and computer to find out.

How can I Prove Cohabitation?

A former spouse paying alimony finds out that the recipient spouse is in a relationship and needs to know whether it is to the level warranting a reduction or termination of alimony payments under the cohabitation statute.  Cohabitation requires proof of living together and a measurable economic benefit to the alimony recipient.  “Living together” does not necessarily mean residing together under the same roof at a single address.  A court can find that spending several nights a week together satisfies the requirement, depending on the situation.  Surveillance is one of the best ways to demonstrate the actual time spent together.

How do I Prove a Parent is Unfit?

In a custody action, one parent may want to show that the other parent is not appropriately parenting, for example, driving the children in a vehicle without car seats/restraints, or driving them while under the influence.  Perhaps surveillance would show that the parent on duty left small children unattended at a park or other public place or perhaps show permissive behavior such as allowing teens to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana.

Another reality for divorcing parents includes the introduction by a spouse of his/her romantic partner to the children.  Sometimes a good way to alleviate some anxiety in this situation is to have a private investigator run a background check on the romantic partner.

Whatever the situation, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, have significant experience involving private investigators in developing the right legal strategy to optimize the desired result whether financial or custodial.

Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut?

To commence a divorce action in Connecticut, the Plaintiff must plead a statutory approved ground for seeking the divorce.  You cannot simply plead: “I do not want to be married.”  If a Court finds sufficient evidence to support a finding that the ground occurred, it has jurisdiction to grant the divorce.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40(c), the only permissible grounds are as follows:

  1. The marriage has broken down irretrievably;
  2. The parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the eighteen months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect that they will be reconciled;
  3. For purposes of this statute, “adultery” means voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than such person’s spouse;
  4. Fraudulent contract;
  5. Willful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty;
  6. Seven years’ absence, during all of which period the absent party has not been heard from;
  7. Habitual intemperance;
  8. Intolerable cruelty;
  9. Sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year; and
  10. Legal confinement in a hospital or hospitals or other similar institution or institutions, because of mental illness, for at least an accumulated period totaling five years within the period of six years next preceding the date of the complaint.

Can I Plead More than One Ground in a Divorce? 

Yes, you can plead more than one ground in a divorce.  However, except for rare circumstances, a party almost always solely pleads “the marriage has broken down irretrievably.”  This is because it requires minimal proof, i.e. one question “Has your marriage broken down irretrievably?”, whereas the other grounds may require substantial discovery, opposition, time, and resources to ultimately arrive at the same result, which is the granting of a divorce.

Is Connecticut a Fault Divorce State? 

No, Connecticut is a “no fault” divorce state.   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 divorce 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) the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the statute was constitutional.

Can Infidelity Affect Alimony?

Yes, the cause of the breakdown of the marriage can affect alimony and property orders.  Thus, even though a Court is not required to determine if a party was a fault for the marriage ending, the Court may consider the causes of the breakdown of the marriage when making financial orders.  Courts have found substance abuse, physical abuse, dissipation of assets in contemplation of divorce, and/or infidelity to be the cause of the breakdown of the marriage and have financially compensated the spouse who did not cause the breakdown of the marriage.  Conversely, Courts have found a spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage but did not 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, 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.

 

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).