Category: Divorce

LEGAL SEPARATION V. DIVORCE

Often clients come into our office asking about the difference between obtaining a legal separation and obtaining a dissolution of marriage, the term used in Connecticut for a divorce. The common misconception is that a legal separation can be obtained more quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively than a divorce. The only significant difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that parties to a legal separation are not permitted to get remarried, but the parties pursuing a legal separation have to go through the same process as they would if they were pursuing a divorce, including the time and fees required to accomplish same.

There are two common reasons that top divorce attorneys in Greenwich, Westport, Stamford, Darien, and New Canaan encounter for clients seeking a legal separation over a dissolution of marriage. The first most common reason is that the parties may be unwilling to seek a dissolution of marriage for religious reasons, but may be unwilling to continue to live together or rely upon an informal agreement for living apart.

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WHAT DIVORCE PROCESS IS RIGHT FOR ME? PART II – COLLABORATIVE

The previous post discussed mediation and this post will continue with collaborative divorce.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

Collaborative divorce offers an alternative between mediation and litigation. In a strict collaborative process, the divorcing couple executes a contract binding each other and his or her respective attorney to the non-adversarial process and disqualifying the attorney’s right to represent his or her client in any future litigation. The collaborative process generally follows the same track as the mediation process, with the exception that each spouse is represented by an attorney instead of having a mediator facilitate the process.

The major advantage of collaborative divorce compared to mediation is the fact that each spouse is represented by an attorney. First, this generally provides a person with added comfort since his or she will have an experienced advocate on his or her side, which means the spouses will not have to navigate through potentially complex issues alone. Second, representation should help level the proverbial playing field, since an experienced family law attorney should have the requite knowledge and skills to: (a) request production of the necessary information and documents and (b) analyze the information and documents on behalf of the client to properly advise the client as to reasonable settlement options related to legal custody, physical custody, alimony, child support, housing, division of bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, and the division of personal property. Third, on the date of the divorce, each spouse will be represented by an attorney in court, instead of going through the uncontested divorce hearing unrepresented.

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EMERGENCY MOTIONS

In Connecticut, divorces, post judgement motions and child custody issues can sometimes take months or even years to be resolved. Experienced divorce lawyers who practice in Westport, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan and who are faced with an issue in a case that requires immediate court intervention will consider applying for a restraining order, protective order or temporary injunction. These “emergency motions” are often the most efficient way to get a temporary decision on a time-sensitive issue; they are usually presented to the Court along with an affidavit signed by the applicant (the party requesting the relief) and decided based on the Application itself (without a hearing) on an ex parte basis (without notice to the Respondant).

Restraining and Protective Orders. Applications for Restraining Orders and Protective Orders are requests for judicial intervention and orders to confine the respondent’s actions or prohibit specific behavior for a brief period pending notice and hearing. In Connecticut, restraining orders and protective orders are typically filed when there is a continuous threat of imminent physical harm to the applicant or the applicant’s children. There are different types and levels of relief that are available, ranging from orders that the Respondent not contact the Applicant, orders that the Respondent must leave the marital home, to orders of temporary custody of minor children. The Applicant may also request certain limited financial orders in conjunction with a Restraining Order.

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STARTING THE DIVORCE PROCESS

You finally summoned the courage to call a “divorce attorney.” Now what?

For many clients, the most difficult day of the entire divorce, is the day initial contact is made with a divorce attorney. Thoughts of divorce may have been festering for a long time. Or sometimes, there is a spontaneous revelation such as the discovery of an e-mail or a text message, which prompts that call. Regardless of the reason, the actual prospect that you may be divorced suddenly hits you in the face once you start the process. It is a scary proposition for most.

Clients are often referred to divorce attorneys through other people, including friends, family, therapists, and financial planners. Others, because they don’t have these personal contacts on which to rely or because they choose to be discreet, find their divorce attorney on line.

It is most typical that a brief phone conversation takes place between the attorney and potential client, after an initial conflicts check is performed. This serves as a preliminary screening to determine whether it is appropriate to set up an initial office consultation and also includes a discussion of the financial terms of that consultation. Some lawyers in Westport, Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, charge a fee for an initial office consultation; others do not. It is important to discuss that during the preliminary phone conversation.

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WHAT DIVORCE PROCESS IS RIGHT FOR ME? PART I – MEDIATION

Divorce touches almost every family in our state. According to statistics published by the Judicial Branch from the time period of July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, nearly 33,000 family cases were added to the already crowded docket. Just as no two marriages are the same, no two divorces are the same either. If you are a person living in Greenwich, Westport, Stamford, Darien, or New Canaan contemplating divorce, you have several options to choose from. Generally, the options fall into four main categories: (1) Mediation, (2) Collaborative, (3) Litigation, and (4) Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”). At Broder & Orland LLC, we counsel individuals as to the positives and negatives of each category. This four (4) part series will discuss some of those points, starting with mediation.

MEDIATION

In strict mediation, the divorcing couple works with a neutral mediator whose job is to help facilitate and/or broker a comprehensive agreement on all issues related to the divorce including legal custody, physical custody, alimony, child support, housing, division of bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, and the division of personal property.

Theoretically, this is the most idealistic of the main categories because it involves the couple working together to resolve their issues outside of the courtroom in an expeditious manner at a minimal cost. However, in application, mediation often does not follow the idealistic path. Generally, for a mediation to be successful, each spouse needs to (a) fully trust one another, (b) be on equal footing with regard to knowledge of his/her finances, and (c) be invested in truly wanting to get divorced.

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MODIFICATION OF ALIMONY IN CONNECTICUT BASED ON COHABITATION

What happens to alimony if the alimony recipient lives with a significant other after the divorce? This is one the more common questions we at Broder & Orland, LLC hear from our clients, as cohabitation after divorce is becoming more common in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Typically, alimony ends upon the remarriage of the alimony recipient. What happens if the alimony recipient decides to live with a significant other rather than get remarried is a more complicated issue.

Top divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport know that, unless the parties agree otherwise or a judge orders otherwise as part of the final orders in a divorce case, alimony orders are modifiable based on the cohabitation of the alimony recipient. Those paying alimony need to know what their rights are in the event that an ex-spouse is cohabiting. Likewise, those receiving alimony need to be aware that living with a partner after the divorce could put their alimony award at risk.

In Connecticut, we have what divorce lawyers refer to as a “cohabitation statute,” though the statute itself does not use the word “cohabitation.” Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(b) says:

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LOCATING HIDDEN ASSETS IN A DIVORCE

In many divorces, particularly in Fairfield County, Connecticut, it is common for a party to suspect his or her spouse of hiding assets. Methods of hiding assets can be simple, such as filling a safe deposit box with valuables, or skimming cash from a small business. The less obvious methods of hiding assets are more frequently overlooked– such as pre-paying or over-withholding taxes, overpaying credit cards, using a corporate entity to conceal or transfer funds, establishing a trust to “shield” assets, or failing to disclose equity interests.

Top family lawyers who practice in towns such as Westport and Darien understand the possibility of undisclosed assets and take the necessary steps to discover them. For example:

Insist on a signed, sworn Financial Affidavit thirty days after the return date. Connecticut Practice Book Section 25-5(c)(1) requires the parties in an action for Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union, Legal Separation, Annulment, or Application for Custody or Visitation, to complete and exchange sworn Financial Affidavit within thirty days of the return date. Believe it or not, this rule is often ignored and rarely enforced. There are instances where one spouse may take months to provide a signed, sworn Financial Affidavit, simply because they have not been pressured to comply with the Practice Book, and the Court is not made aware of the delay.

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WHEN THE DIVORCE GETS DOWN TO POTS AND PANS…LITERALLY.

Top divorce lawyers who handle Greenwich cases know all too well that the division of personal property can end up being the most emotional part of the case. It seems incomprehensible that divorces where a party is a high earning hedge fund or private equity professional devolve over who keeps what art, furniture, antiques, and yes…in some cases, pots and pans!

Experienced lawyers, who practice in Greenwich, know that the battle is really not so much about these material possessions, but rather a vindictiveness resulting from unresolved marital discord or an inability to let go of the marriage, even if it was a bad one.

Courts loathe to waste precious time assigning personal property for obvious reasons. Arbitration for determining who gets what is sometimes used as a last resort when all other attempts to work out personal property fail. Typically, this involves the parties employing a neutral person, often another attorney, to break the logjam.

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