Category: Divorce

WHAT DIVORCE PROCESS IS RIGHT FOR ME? PART IV – ADR

The previous posts in this series discussed mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation, and this post will continue with ADR.

ADR

The most popular models of ADR utilized in family law matters for individuals living in Greenwich or Westport are ADR mediation and arbitration.

In our practice at Broder & Orland, LLC, if the parties and counsel cannot reach a settlement, the next step before trial is often to participate in an ADR mediation. ADR mediation is not binding and the mediator does not force a party to sign an agreement. Each party has input into the process and the ability to walk away if he or she is not comfortable.

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HOW LIFE INSURANCE IS TREATED IN DIVORCE CASES IN CONNECTICUT

Life insurance coverage is an important topic that must be addressed in the majority of divorce cases in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Experienced divorce practitioners are aware that life insurance coverage can present issues during and after a divorce case and are vigilant about ensuring that their clients are protected with respect to these issues.

During the Divorce

Many divorce clients in Fairfield County, such as Greenwich or Darien, have life insurance policies, or their spouses do. At the inception of the divorce case, it is important for both sides to ensure that whatever life insurance policies exist at the time of the filing are maintained throughout the divorce case. Life insurance policies owned by a party should be disclosed on his or her Financial Affidavit, but it is common practice for divorce attorneys in Fairfield County, Connecticut to request copies of all life insurance policies as part of their discovery requests. By reviewing the policies, the client and the attorney can discover what the terms of the policies are and what the coverage is, which is important to know for settlement negotiations and trial preparation. For example, if a party owns a term policy, one needs to know when the policy ends and if the premiums increase after a certain date.

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WHY PARTIES NEED REVIEW COUNSEL DURING MEDIATION

Mediation is a process whereby parties who are looking to resolve their divorce or post judgment issues meet with a neutral third party (the Mediator) in an effort to settle the case. The parties’ agreement is then memorialized by the Mediator.

In Mediation, the parties (not a Judge and not the Mediator) determine how the case settles. While the Mediator may provide neutral guidance to both parties, the Mediator does not take sides and does not advocate for either party. In fact, in Connecticut, Mediators are not even necessarily attorneys! Since most parties to a divorce action are not attorneys themselves, how are they to navigate the complexities of a divorce, including making major financial and parenting decisions, without someone on their side? This is why it is critical for parties to hire their own Review Counsel to assist them during mediation.

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IMPORTANT DATES & TERMS IN CT DIVORCE CASES

A Connecticut divorce attorney is often asked “What are the most important dates in a divorce case? Is it the date I file for divorce, the return date, the case management date, the uncontested date– what does it all mean?” This article is a general guide to understanding what some of the more important dates that someone getting divorced in Connecticut should know. Whether you are getting divorced and live in Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Greenwich, Stamford, Fairfield or Hartford, these dates all have the same meaning.

Date of filing the action: This is not the date the papers are served upon your spouse but rather the date that they are filed with the court along with proof that service by a Marshal has occurred.

Return date: The return date is actually the date that the court considers to be the start of the divorce action. It is typically approximately two (2) weeks after the date of filing and it is from this date that the 90-day waiting period or case management date is established. Nothing will occur in court on the actual return date and it is not necessary for anyone to appear that day.

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HOW DO I FIND A DIVORCE LAWYER THAT IS RIGHT FOR ME?

If you are contemplating divorce or have been served with divorce papers, this is one of the first questions to cross your mind. Unless you’ve been divorced before, it’s unlikely you have had any real experience with a lawyer who concentrates in that area of the law. So where to get started?

Most likely, given the divorce rate in Westport, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and surrounding Fairfield County towns, you have friends and family who have been down this road before. Their stories range from text book to nightmare and their assessments of the lawyers involved runs a similar gamut.

Take a deep breath. There are some wonderful lawyers who practice Family Law, of which divorce is a part. They are dedicated to their clients and behave in a skillful and ethical manner. They exhibit a healthy balance of objectivity and compassion. This is the type of lawyer you should seek out.

If you’re willing to share some confidences, the most natural place to start is by asking a couple of trusted friends or colleagues who have successfully navigated the process in the past. It is important to bear in mind that each case is different and the results can vary widely. So don’t get married to a set of facts or outcomes, but rather try to get a feel for what attorney might be the best match for you.

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DIVORCE AND COLLEGE EDUCATION COSTS

“Who will have to pay for our children’s college expenses?” is one of the most frequent questions posed to divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westport. Given that divorce is often a time of great financial uncertainty and anxiety for divorcing spouses, it is certainly understandable that many of our clients are concerned about whether, and to what extent, each parent will be obligated to contribute to their children’s college expenses.

Most clients are aware, even before they meet with a family law attorney, that a primary custodial parent will be entitled to receive child support payments from a non-custodial parent under Connecticut law. However, while such child payments are meant to cover a broad range of child-related expenses (such as food, shelter, clothing and other basic necessities), child support obligations do not account for college costs. In fact, child support obligations extend only until a child reaches the age of eighteen (or, in situations where a child does not graduate from high school by age eighteen, until the earlier to occur of a child’s graduation from High School or his or her 19th birthday).

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WHAT DIVORCE PROCESS IS RIGHT FOR ME? PART III – LITIGATION

The previous posts in this series discussed mediation and collaborative divorce and this post will continue with litigation.

LITIGATION

You most likely associate the word “litigation” with nasty court room battles at a great expense. In some instances that is the case, however, “litigation” does not always have to be an expensive battle. In its simplest form, litigation is the process of taking legal action. Whether you choose mediation, collaborative, litigation, or alternative dispute resolution divorce models, you must take legal action against your spouse, which means a Marshal serves your spouse with the Summons, Complaint, and Automatic Orders, and then you file those documents with the Court. The differences between the various models hinge on what course you and your spouse decide to take after the action is filed with the Court. Sometimes you do not have a choice based on your spouse’s actions, and the default model is litigation. Irrespective of the model, you and your spouse must still resolve the same issues including legal custody, physical custody, alimony, child support, housing, division of bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, and the division of personal property.

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WHAT IS AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?

“Do I have to go to Trial?” It is a question that family law attorneys who practice in Westport, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and Stamford are often asked by their clients. The answer is, “No”! When the parties to a divorce action are able to reach a settlement of all custody and financial issues, a formal Separation Agreement is drafted. The case is then scheduled for an Uncontested Divorce Hearing.

An Uncontested Divorce Hearing takes place at the Courthouse in the same type of courtroom in which a Trial would occur. The courtroom is open to the public, which means that depending on how busy the day is, there will likely be other people (litigants, attorneys) sitting in the Courtroom as they wait for their own matter to be heard. At the beginning of the Uncontested Divorce Hearing, the Plaintiff’s attorney will ask the Plaintiff to provide the parties’ background information to the Judge, such as the date of marriage, location of marriage, maiden name, length of residency in Connecticut, and the names and ages of any children of the marriage. These questions are asked in order to make sure that the Judge has appropriate jurisdiction to grant a divorce.

Next, the Judge will review the Separation Agreement. This is typically done by having the Plaintiff’s attorney review the salient points of the Agreement with the Plaintiff. The Agreement is reviewed before the Judge for a few reasons:

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IN WHICH COURTHOUSE DO I FILE MY DIVORCE CASE AND WHO WILL BE THE JUDGE IF MY CASE GOES TO TRIAL?

Where do I file for divorce?

The Connecticut Statutes have specific provisions that govern which courthouse you are to file for divorce. It is dependent upon where either the Plaintiff or the Defendant resides. Specifically, in Fairfield County:

a.) If either party resides in the town of Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport, or Wilton, the divorce action can be filed in the Stamford courthouse.

b.) If either party resides in towns such as Fairfield, Easton, Trumbull, Shelton, Bridgeport, or Monroe, the divorce action shall be filed in the Bridgeport courthouse.

If the parties have already separated and, for example, the Husband lives in Greenwich and the Wife lives in Fairfield, wherever the action is first filed is the courthouse that will handle the case.

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PREPARING FOR DIVORCE

For most people, deciding to get divorced is not a snap decision. It often comes after many years of pain and turmoil in a marriage. Therefore, there should be sufficient time to prepare for divorce as it is critical to ensuring that the process goes as efficiently as possible.

Experienced divorce attorneys in Westport, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and Stamford, often are asked by a potential client in an initial meeting, “What should I be doing before filing for divorce to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible?” The answer is multifaceted and often depends on the particular facts of the case but below are certain general steps that each divorce litigant should address prior to an action commencing:

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