Tag: connecticut divorce attorney

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.

What is a Discovery Special Master (DSM)?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • The Court may appoint a DSM in your divorce case to resolve discovery disputes.
  • Discovery may include production of documents, written responses to questions, and/or Deposition testimony.
  • Utilizing a DSM often saves the parties time and money, as opposed to having the Court decide discovery disputes.
  • Typically the DSM is paid from marital funds during the divorce litigation.
  • The Court retains ultimate authority with regard to discovery disputes.

In certain cases where there are disputes involving discovery, the parties may agree or the Court may appoint a Discovery Special Master. Discovery in divorce cases typically includes the production of certain documents, responses to written questions and/or testimony at a Deposition. Discovery in Connecticut is very liberal. Essentially, if the information sought is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,” it must be produced unless there is some prevailing privilege, such as that between attorney and client, to the contrary. Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 13-2. However, it is not uncommon in divorce cases to have a disagreement as to what must be produced. If the parties cannot agree they can bring the issue before the Court through Motion practice. The Court has the option of deciding the dispute or referring the matter to a DSM. With their busy dockets and frequent understaffing, Courts generally are not inclined to spend hours sorting out discovery disputes, some of which may be granular in nature. It is, therefore, more practical for the Court to assign the discovery issues to a DSM.

Who Serves as a DSM?

Any lawyer can serve as a DSM. The parties can agree on whom that person should be or in the absence of an agreement, the Court can choose the DSM.

What Protocol Does the DSM Use for Addressing Discovery Disputes?

The Court may establish a general protocol in its Order. Each DSM may handle a case differently, but generally the DSM will ask counsel to provide to him or her the discovery requests in issue along with a memorandum in support or opposition of production, along with certain documentation relevant to discovery. If there is an issue of law, the DSM may ask for legal support in the form of a memorandum or brief. Next, the DSM may either decide the dispute on the papers or confer telephonically or at an in-person conference with counsel and sometimes the parties.

Is the DSM’s Decision Binding?

The Court retains ultimate authority to determine discovery disputes.

Who Pays for the DSM?

The parties are responsible for paying the DSM. Typically, the DSM’s fees are paid out of martial funds during the litigation.

What is the Advantage of Having a DSM?

An experienced DSM can usually give more timely attention and move through the issues quicker than the Court can do, thereby saving the parties attorney’s fees and money in the long run, and preventing delays due to discovery disputes.

What Other Matters Might a DSM Address?

The DSM can address matters of Deposition scheduling for parties, witnesses and experts as well as substantive issues related to these Depositions.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Greenwich and Westport, we have significant experience working with Discovery Special Masters in our divorce cases throughout Connecticut. We are adept at streamlining the discovery process to the extent possible in order to get the information we need and in producing required information to your spouse, in a timely and cost effective manner.  We recognize that the DSM can be an excellent resource in that regard.

The Best Way to Prepare for Divorce? Get Organized!

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Ask any top divorce attorney in Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Westport and beyond, what practical steps should be taken to prepare for the divorce process, and the answer will be to locate and organize your financial records.

Which Financial Records are the Most Important?

At a minimum your past 3 years of individual tax returns; past 2 years of bank statements, credit card statements and retirement accounts; the last year of pay stubs; and any life insurance and medical insurance policies.  In every marital dissolution action, this is mandatory disclosure so it helps to have it organized ahead of time.

What if I Do Not Have Access to Accounts?

Most accounts can be readily accessed online if the account is in your name or jointly with your spouse.  If you are unsure, call the financial institutions and find out how to establish online access or how best to obtain statements.  Many are surprised to learn that lack of accessibility is simply a lack of familiarity that is easily overcome.   If the account is in your spouse’s sole name, then it is his/her obligation to provide it.

Is There a Time Frame or a Due Date?

The time frame is generally within the first 30 days from when the action filed, when many attorneys formally request production.  Officially, the due date is 60 calendar days from the date of the written request.

Do I Need to Print Paper Copies?

No.  Electronic copies are preferred, but if you do have paper copies, consider scanning them to avoid the possibility of incurring a fee for law firm staff to do it.

Are There Additional Documents that will be Required?

Yes.  It is common practice for attorneys to request an exhaustive list of any kind of document relating to an interest held in any type of asset or source of income.  For example, appraisals, trusts, deferred compensation, business interests, inheritances, educational savings, safe deposit box contents, and employment contracts.

What Happens if a Party Does Not Comply?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a party to object to discovery requests, for example, on the grounds that the particular request is “overbroad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence.”  When there is disagreement over discovery, there is the possibility that court involvement will be necessary to resolve the issue.

When it comes to the discovery process, we encourage our clients to maintain an open and cooperative approach to avoid disagreements that often cause delays and end up being costly for both sides.  So if there is anything practical you can do to prepare yourself, it is to organize your files, and familiarize yourself as best you can with your financial records.

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable and experienced with the process of discovery and how to resolve the various issues that arise throughout each case.

The Evolution of Cohabitation

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Although the term “cohabitation” is not statutorily defined or even mentioned in the statute itself, it is a well-known concept in Connecticut Family Law referring to grounds to have alimony payments reduced, suspended or terminated following divorce.

  • Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-86(b) authorizes the court to reduce, suspend or terminate alimony payments based on proof that 1) the alimony recipient is living with another person; and that 2) the living arrangement has caused an alteration of the alimony recipient’s financial needs.
  • “Living with another person” does not necessarily mean residing together under the same roof—it can still be found where the alimony recipient and significant other have separate residences.
  • The “alteration” of financial needs must be quantified, however, the amount does not have to be significant, and according to recent case law, can also be shown by cost savings that result from the living arrangement.
  • The evidentiary burden of proof for modification is lower for cohabitation claims requiring only a “change in circumstances” rather than the “substantial change in circumstances” that is required based on other grounds for modification under General Statutes § 46b-86(a).

The Rationale Behind the Statute

The statute was enacted “to correct the injustice of making a party pay alimony when his or her ex-spouse is living with a person of the opposite sex, without marrying, to prevent the loss of support.”  (H.B. No. 6174, 1977 Sess. Statement of Purpose).  The statute was clearly meant to address the situation of alimony recipients taking steps to avoid the loss of spousal support.  Consistent with this principle, in cases where the initial component of living together is disputed, Connecticut courts will look beyond whether the alimony recipient and significant other maintain separate residences and consider facts that support whether the relationship is marriage-like.

“Living With Another Person”

In many cohabitation cases, there is a concession of living together, and the focus shifts to whether the living arrangement so affects the financial circumstances of the alimony recipient as to justify a modification of alimony.  However, in cases where living together is challenged, the fact that separate residences are maintained will not necessarily stave off a finding of cohabitation.  For example, in Boreen v. Boreen, Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford, Docket No. FA084015215S (October 31, 2017; Shay, J.), cohabitation was found where a couple resided together under the same roof 50% of the time, ate many of their meals together and frequently traveled together even though both maintained separate housing. The court noted that “the statute does not specify that the parties must live together under the same roof twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the court to make a finding that they are living with another person.”  The court found cohabitation based on the couple’s long-time, committed and monogamous relationship that came with a financial benefit for the alimony recipient.

Financial Benefit

The statute requires not only a finding of living with another, but that the living arrangement alters the financial needs of the alimony recipient.  This must be shown in dollar amounts, but does not have to be significant in order to be sufficient.  For example, courts have deemed the evidence sufficient where a party was receiving $100 a week from a cohabitant, D’Ascanio v. D’Ascanio, 237 Conn. 481 (1996); where a party received $400 a month for rent from a cohabitant, Duhl v. Duhl, 7 Conn.App. 92 (1986); and where a party received $30 a week from a cohabitant who also performed handyman chores, Lupien v. Lupien, 192 Conn. 443 (1984).  Recently, the Connecticut Appellate Court reversed a trial court for not considering a party’s savings in rent that resulted from the alimony recipient moving in with her boyfriend.  Murphy v. Murphy, 181 Conn.App. 716 (2018).

Change in Circumstances

Once it is shown that an alimony recipient is living with another person within the meaning of the statute, and that there is a measurable financial benefit to the alimony recipient, the threshold change in circumstances is met and the court then engages in the analysis of consideration of the General Statutes § 46b-82 factors.  The required change in circumstances is lower pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86(b) than the “substantial” change in circumstances required pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86(a).

In 2013, General Statutes § 46b-86(b) was amended to include the language, “In the event that a final judgment incorporates a provision of an agreement in which the parties agree to circumstances, other than as provided in this subsection, under which alimony will be modified, including suspension, reduction, or termination of alimony, the court shall enforce the provision of such agreement and enter orders in accordance therewith.”  This means that parties may negotiate and agree to their own terms of what constitutes cohabitation and the court will enforce their agreement.  Therefore, carefully considered drafting of the Separation Agreement is critical, and knowledge of the foregoing essential if cohabitation is a future possibility for either party.

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable in the issues that arise following divorce such as alimony modification based on cohabitation, as well as how to avoid potential issues by careful and comprehensive drafting of Separation Agreements.

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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