Tag: custody

Can My Spouse Cut Me Off Financially if I File For Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

Can My Spouse Cut Me Off Financially if I File for Divorce?

The financial implications of filing for divorce can be scary and confusing. If your spouse has threatened to stop supporting you, or you do not have access to funds to pay your household bills on your own, you may be deterred from even starting a divorce action. There are ways for you to protect your family’s assets and to gain access to financial resources during your Connecticut divorce.

Automatic Orders

The State of Connecticut has Automatic Orders that are immediately implemented in each divorce case. These Automatic Orders are intended to keep financial circumstances status quo until the parties agree otherwise, or until there is a different court order. For example, the Automatic Orders do not allow a party to transfer, sell or encumber assets outside of the ordinary course of business. The Automatic Orders also require that certain insurance policies (homeowners, life insurance and medical insurance for example) continue to be maintained with the same benefits and beneficiaries as were in effect prior to filing.

The Automatic Orders will help protect your assets, and provide for certain expenses to be paid, but what happens to the family’s income and how are the other bills paid during the divorce?

Orders for Temporary Support

If you can, it is usually best, and often most cost effective, for you and your spouse to agree on where income will be deposited, how it will be divided and how the bills will be paid. It is very likely that with the assistance of counsel, you and your spouse can come to an agreement on these issues. If an Agreement is signed, it is submitted to the court for approval and then made a Court Order.

In situations where an Agreement cannot be reached, your attorney can file a Motion for Temporary Support, which asks the Court to issue financial orders regarding alimony, child support or contribution to household expenses.

Motions for Temporary Support can be filed immediately upon the commencement of your divorce action. These types of Motions are typically heard by the Court anywhere from a few weeks to a few months from when they are filed. At the Hearing, you and your spouse will each have the opportunity to present evidence about your family’s income, expenses, assets and financial priorities. The Judge will make the ultimate decision about how to resolve these issues.

Emergency or Ex Parte Motions

Occasionally, if the circumstances are extremely dire, your attorney may suggest filing a Motion with the Court on an emergency basis. It is possible, under certain limited circumstances, to get a temporary immediate Order from the court without a Hearing. Depending on the facts of your case, your counsel may do this “ex parte” which means without notice to your spouse. Your case will then be scheduled for a Hearing within a very short timeframe (typically two weeks or sooner) to decide if the emergency Orders should continue.

If you are contemplating filing for divorce, but you are concerned about being “cut off” from financial resources, we can help you. At Broder & Orland LLC, we can work with you to create a plan for securing support, negotiate and draft a temporary support Agreement, and if necessary, proceed with a Motion for financial support.

How does COVID-19/Coronavirus Impact my Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Are Courts in Connecticut Open?

Yes, the Courts in Connecticut are still open as of March 17, 2020. However, until at least March 27, 2020, the Courts will schedule and hear only those matters identified as “Priority 1 Business Functions.” Specific to Family Law, “Priority 1 Business Functions” are currently limited to: (1) Family Orders of Relief from Abuse, (2) Ex-Parte Motions, and (3) Emergency Ex-Parte Orders of Temporary Custody. This means that if you have a Trial, Hearing, Status Conference, Short Calendar Event, Uncontested Hearing, or Pretrial scheduled between now and March 27, 2020, it will be canceled and rescheduled to a different date. You should talk to your attorney about strategies to try and have your matter scheduled sooner rather than later when Court resumes normal functions, if possible. If you have a matter that falls into the “Priority 1 Business Functions” category, should you talk to your attorney immediately to develop a strategy to file your matter and get into Court on an expedited basis since Court remains open for those serious matters.

Can I still file for Divorce during the COVID-19 Quarantine?

Yes. Since the Courts in Connecticut are still open as of March 17, 2020, this means you can still file a divorce action. Because most Family Law matters in Connecticut are eligible for electronic filing, you or your attorney does not even have to appear at the Courthouse to file your action. In other words, everything can be done remotely to start your case.

If you are ready to file for divorce, there are some benefits to filing now, as opposed to waiting until things return to “normal.” First, the typical divorce action currently takes between 6-18 months to complete, but this estimated timeframe is likely to be extended due to the disruption being caused by COVID-19. Second, except for limited circumstances, once you file for divorce, your divorce cannot typically be finalized until the Case Management Date, which is approximately 90-100 days after you first file for divorce. During the first 90-100 days of a divorce case, unless you need to file pendente lite Motions to address temporary financial or parenting issues while the case is pending, your case is will likely be uneventful. Typically, during this time discovery requests are exchanged, Financial Affidavits are drafted, and Parenting Plans are negotiated. The good news is that those actions often do not require face time and are done remotely. So even while you cannot go to Court at this time, you can still work on moving your divorce matter forward. Further, it may even be easier to gather discovery materials or work on your Financial Affidavit from home as opposed to attending to these sensitive matters while at the office or traveling.

Finally, based on the early reports out of China, it appears there is an increase in divorce filings once the quarantine was lifted. If true, this may simply be people deferring filing due to the quarantine or people filing due to being quarantined together! Regardless of the reason, Courts in Connecticut will likely be busier than ever once they return to normal operations. Thus, only if you are ready to file for divorce, now may be the time to start the process.

Can I still file Motions in my pending Divorce Matter during the COVID-19 Quarantine?

Yes. Since the Courts in Connecticut are still open as of March 17, 2020, this means you can still file any Motions in your pending divorce action. Except for those matters which fall into the “Priority 1 Business Functions” category, no one can tell you with absolute certainty when your Motions will be heard by the Court. However, depending on the specific facts of your case, there may still be a benefit to filing those Motions now as opposed to waiting.

If you are experiencing a substantial change in financial circumstances due to the economic impact of COVID-19, whether it be a loss of employment, a reduction in commission income, or a loss of revenue if you are a business owner, you will want to consult an attorney to discuss your options. Although a substantial change in financial circumstances will not likely warrant the filing of an Ex-Parte Motion, if appropriate, you may want to file a regular Motion for Modification now. The benefit to filing now and then having your spouse or ex-spouse served with the Motion, is that the Court then has the discretion to modify your financial orders retroactively to the date of service. This enables you to preserve your claim even while the Court is not currently scheduling financial Motions.

Also, keep in mind that unless and until an Order is modified by the Court, the existing Order remains in place and you must still follow your obligations. In other words, even if you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances, you cannot engage in self-help and voluntarily stop paying your support obligations. If you fail to do so, your spouse or ex-spouse may file a Motion for Contempt against you. Simply filing a Motion for Modification does not insulate you from a Motion for Contempt, however depending on the reasons for filing the Modification it could mitigate the impact of the Motion for Contempt. Further, as mentioned above, filing and serving the Motion for Modification provides the Court with discretion to enter retroactive orders. Since every Order and case are different, you will want to consult with an attorney to discuss your specific options.

Further, since the already busy Court system will inevitably become busier once it resumes normal operations, it may make sense to “get in line now” as opposed to waiting until things return to “normal.” Before the foregoing measures being enacted by the Court, it would typically take 3-4 weeks from the time you filed a non-emergency Motion until it was scheduled on the Short Calendar. No one knows for sure how long the wait will be once Court resumes normal operations, but it will likely be much longer than the typical 3-4 week wait.

I am worried about my children’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, can I keep them from my ex-spouse?

It depends. Every Parenting Plan is different, and your specific circumstances are likely different as well. Similarly, to Financial Orders, Orders related to Parenting Time and Custody must be followed unless and until the same are modified by the Court or you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement. If you have concerns about your child’s safety, generally it is good practice to first reach out to the other parent to discuss your concerns and see if you can reach an agreement that is in your child’s best interest. If you cannot agree, you should consult with your attorney to discuss your options. Further, you should consult with your child’s doctor and follow the advice of the doctor as well as the emergency declarations issued by the government. Further, if you share joint legal custody with your child’s other parent, you likely have an obligation to keep the other parent informed as to your child’s health status as well as the scheduling of any medical appointments or if you believe the situation warrants a visit to the emergency room.

Your attorney cannot advise you to disregard Court Orders, but if you have genuine concerns and your child’s other parent is not in agreement with you on how to handle the situation, you should also talk to your attorney about the consequences that a Court may impose if you fail to follow Court Orders. Also, if you and your child’s other parent reach an agreement, it is advisable to memorialize that agreement in writing (text or email would qualify) to try and protect yourself if the other parent later changes his or her mind.

Finally, if your child’s other parent desires to travel with your child during the pandemic and you do not agree, you should consult with your attorney immediately about filing an emergency Motion if you genuinely believe your child’s health or safety is at issue. As previously stated, ex-parte or emergency parenting Motions fall within the “Priority 1 Business Functions” category that the Court is still scheduling.

How does my child’s school being closed impact my Parenting Plan?

As everyone is navigating this new world with schools being closed for an indefinite period and many parents working remotely from home, your regular Parenting Plan is likely being affected. If possible, the first thing you should do is reach out to your child’s other parent to try and coordinate your new schedules to see if you can reach an agreement as to what is best for your children. If you cannot agree, or if you have questions as to interpreting your Parenting Plan you should contact an attorney for advice. Further, if your Parenting Plan is vague and/or no longer applicable (i.e. “The Mother shall have Parenting Time from after school on Wednesday until drop off at school on Friday.”) you may want to consult with your attorney to discuss various options to address Parenting Time during this time of uncertainly because an experienced Family Law attorney should be able to provide you with alternatives that have worked for other families.

Broder & Orland LLC, the largest matrimonial and family law firm in Connecticut with offices in Westport and Greenwich, remains committed to working diligently by whatever means are necessary to protect you and to advance your case during these unusual times, while also taking all recommended precautions. We are able to perform our services remotely and are able to host telephonic or virtual consultations, meetings, or mediations. If you have any questions about the impact of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus on your pending or potential divorce action, do not hesitate to call one of our experienced Family Law attorneys.

“Let’s Mediate and Save Money on Lawyers!”

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

“Let’s Mediate and Save Money on Lawyers!”

If you’re reading this blog and are a potential divorce candidate, you may be familiar with this refrain. Usually, it is said in a context that also includes such statements as, “Our case is so simple.” Or, “We can work it out.” Maybe, “I will be fair with you, not to worry.” Often, “If lawyers get involved it will cost a fortune and there will be less for you.” Or, “Mediation is more civil than litigation.”

Are any of these statements valid? Perhaps. But not always. It really depends on the parties and the situation at hand. At our firm, we provide mediation services, as well as litigation alternatives. The key is to screen the case at the outset to determine who and what case is appropriate for mediation.

Mediation requires a great deal of trust between the parties. That may seem odd, since you are getting divorced; however, there are situations where there is still a modicum of trust, despite the decision to go separate ways. If one party has cheated on the other, or has not been 100% transparent about finances, any trust that may have existed has likely eroded. Mediation can be difficult if the parties are in disparate positions with regard to understanding financial matters. For example, if your wife has an MBA and has been involved in complex financial transactions as part of her profession, and you are a person without similar financial acumen, the playing field in mediation will not be level. Or, if your husband is controlling and easy to anger, and you are more passive, the dynamics in mediation will likely follow that pattern making it more difficult to achieve a fair resolution.

If mediation still seems right for you, it will be important to work diligently to attain transparency and to move things along at a pace that doesn’t prejudice either party. Too many cases languish in mediation, without discovery, and prior to filing for divorce, only to fizzle out. It could mean spending weeks and months without any final result. It could also result in the expenditure of significant funds only to have to start the litigation process when the case is not resolved in mediation.

You should also be aware of adjunct costs often associated with mediation. Many people who are going through divorce mediation find it desirable or necessary to retain a coach in order to understand the negotiations, to provide context as to possible outcomes, and to assist with strategy. Even if you don’t employ a coach, at the end you will likely want an experienced divorce attorney to act as review counsel. This attorney will provide a critique of the Separation Agreement, based on the Financial Affidavits, any valuation analyses, appraisals, pleadings, and so forth. It will likely take considerable time for review counsel to provide you with an assessment of your potential settlement.

Children’s issues may also be the subject of mediation. A skilled mediator may be able to help you work though these issues to arrive at a Parenting Plan that will be incorporated into your divorce Judgment. If you and your spouse are fairly close on a Parenting Plan, mediation might assist you with ironing out some final issues. If you are fighting each other about custody, it will likely be hard to resolve your differences through mediation.

Bear in mind, litigation is not a dirty word! It can be a very reasonable alternative to mediation, where some of the issues described above are present. Litigation can be done in an amicable manner, assuming both parties and counsel are willing to do so. It can provide an efficient process for obtaining information and for ensuring that each party’s voice is heard. It can also provide transparency and ensure a level playing field. It does not necessarily result in stratospheric fees if everyone is committed to proceeding expeditiously. It means that one lawyer will be your advocate, coach and review counsel.

Litigation may also present an opportunity for mediation! Once discovery is complete, if there are still issues that prevent your case from being resolved, it can be most effective to hire a mediator to get to the end. In this scenario, the parties and their attorneys may spend a day with an experienced mediator who may be a former family law judge, an elder statesman of the bar, or a very experienced practicing divorce attorney. Most cases settle after mediation of this type.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we provide divorce mediation services as well as litigation alternatives. We are able to counsel you as to whether or not mediation is right for you and if so what type of mediation will ensure the best process and the optimal result.

What Should I Expect at Trial?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose.

Will my Case go to Trial?

Divorce trials are rare in Connecticut. However, in the event the parties are unable to reach a settlement as to either or both parenting and financial issues, the disputed issues will be submitted to the Court for determination after a trial.

When will my Case be Ready for Trial?

Typically, a case will be ready for trial after all discovery has been exchanged and reviewed, depositions have been completed, and, if applicable, any and all experts have completed their evaluations and reports.

How do I Prepare for Trial?

Prior to trial, you will meet with your attorney to go over your testimony and how to testify. It is important that you provide a marital history in advance of trial so that your attorney has all of the relevant factual information involving your marriage and can prepare an outline of important topics to be covered. Although your attorney will have reviewed all discovery and depositions in advance, it is important for you to review those documents as well.

How Do I Testify?

When you are called as a witness, you will take the witness stand and be sworn in by the Clerk. This involves an affirmative response that you will tell the truth while testifying. You will then be asked questions by both attorneys. It is imperative that you listen to the question being asked of you and that you answer only that question. Unresponsive answers may be stricken from the record. It is also important that you wait until the question is completed. The Court Monitor takes down everything that is said during a trial, so no one should talk over another person. If you hear the word “objection,” you should wait to answer until the Judge has made his or her ruling on the objection.

 Do any Documents need to be Submitted Prior to Trial?

Yes. Ten days before a trial, the following documents must be submitted to the Court: Proposed Orders, which may include a Proposed Parenting Plan if custody and parenting issues have not been resolved, a Financial Affidavit, a list of any outstanding Motions to be heard, as well as a list of potential exhibits and witnesses. If child support is at issue, a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet must also be submitted.

Who Will Testify at Trial?

 Both parties will testify. If there are outstanding parenting issues and a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed, he or she will testify as to his or her recommendation and the basis thereof. In some cases, there may be additional third-party witnesses, such as expert witnesses or fact witnesses. Common examples of expert witnesses include business evaluators, custody evaluators, and real estate appraisers.

What Actually Happens at Trial?

 The Plaintiff will go first. He or she will call witnesses to testify and introduce relevant exhibits during the examination of each witness. The Defendant will have the opportunity to cross-examine the Plaintiff’s witnesses. Once the Plaintiff has completed its case-in-chief, the Defendant will present its case by following the same process as the Plaintiff. The Guardian Ad Litem, if applicable, typically testify after both sides have completed their cases-in-chief.

When Will I Receive a Decision?

Judges in Connecticut have 120 days to render their decision. The Judge may issue his or her decision before the expiration of the 120-day timeframe, or may ask for an extension, if necessary.

Is my Trial Public?

Generally, yes. Any member of the public may sit in the gallery during a trial. On rare occasions, the Courtroom may be closed.

Can I Order a Transcript of My Divorce Proceedings?

Yes. The Court Monitor takes down everything that is said during a trial.

In the event your case goes to trial, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC will ensure that your case is ready and that you are absolutely prepared. While testifying can be stressful, we make sure you are as comfortable as possible during your trial.

WHAT DOES DISSIPATION OF MARITAL ASSETS MEAN IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht. 

WHAT DOES DISSIPATION OF MARITAL ASSETS MEAN IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

One spouse’s reckless, out-of-control and wasteful spending may be a dissipation of assets resulting in the other spouse receiving a credit in the final allocation of the marital estate. Connecticut courts have the statutory authority under Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81 to consider a spouse’s dissipation of marital assets when determining the nature and value of property to be assigned to each spouse. Finan v. Finan, 949 A.2d 468 (2008). Not all types of spending qualify as a dissipation of marital assets. For example, the sudden repayment of a large loan to parents without the knowledge of the other spouse may or may not be a dissipation of marital assets, depending on the circumstances.

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF A DISSIPATION OF ASSETS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

Not all forms of excessive spending are a dissipation of marital assets. “[A]t a minimum, dissipation in the marital dissolution context requires financial misconduct involving marital assets, such as intentional waste or a selfish financial impropriety, coupled with a purpose unrelated to the marriage.” Gersham v. Gersham, 286 Conn. 341, 346 (2008). Gambling, spending on a paramour, concealment or transfer of an asset to another for little or no consideration are traditional examples of the type of financial misconduct required to obtain a credit. “Even a sharp disagreement between spouses over the wisdom of an expenditure, without more, does not render that expenditure a dissipation of marital assets. … The test is whether the asset was actually wasted or misused.” Id.

DOES THE MISCONDUCT HAVE TO OCCUR DURING THE PENDENCY OF A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

There is a timing requirement for the spending to have occurred, although not limited to the pendency of the divorce case. Just because the expenditures occurred prior to filing the action does not take it out of consideration. “[I]n order for a transaction to constitute dissipation of marital assets for the purposes of equitable distribution … it must occur either (1) in contemplation of divorce or separation; or (2) while the marriage is in serious jeopardy or is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” Finan v. Finan, 949 A.2d 468 (2008). Thus, financial misconduct that occurred pre-separation may properly be considered as long as the marriage was undergoing irretrievable breakdown.

HOW DOES A PARTY ASSERT A CLAIM OF DISSIPATION OF ASSETS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

In addition to claiming a credit for the dissipation of assets in the final allocation of the marital estate pursuant to C.G.S. 46b-81, a party may also assert a claim of dissipation during the pendency of the action as a violation of Automatic Orders pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 25-5. Although the particular misconduct may not be financially remedied with a credit until the end of the divorce action, filing a motion for contempt during the action may serve to preserve the claim and effectively enjoin the conduct.   See, for example, Greenan v. Greenan where a spouse violated automatic orders when he “mortgaged assets, took out loans and converted assets, all the while exercising little restraint over his spending and acting with a sense of entitlement.” Greenan v. Greenan, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk, Docket No. FST FA-09-4015784-S (August 30, 2012, Calmar, J.) Similarly, see the Court’s orders in Barr v. Barr: “In view of the defendant’s dissipation of more than $109,000 in marital assets in violation of the automatic orders, the court finds that such a remedial punishment is appropriate. Accordingly, the defendant shall pay $50,200 (representing 50 percent of $109,000 …) to the plaintiff from his equitable distribution share of the marital assets upon entry of the dissolution decree.” Barr v. Barr, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk, Docket No. FST FA13-4025428-S (May 28, 2015, Heller, J.).

BRODER & ORLAND LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in divorce and family law. Our attorneys are extremely knowledgeable about financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce and are very experienced with seeking the appropriate relief for, as well as defending a claim of, a dissipation of marital assets.

Connecticut Divorce Location

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Where can I file my Connecticut Divorce?

Generally, the town where you reside in Connecticut will dictate in which Judicial District you will file your divorce case. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 51-345, if either you or your spouse are residents of Connecticut, you must file the case in the Judicial District where either you or your spouse resides, except, if your or your spouse resides in the town of:

  1. Manchester, East Windsor, South Windsor or Enfield, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of Tolland.
  2. Plymouth, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of New Britain or the judicial district of Waterbury.
  3. Bethany, Milford, West Haven or Woodbridge, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of New Haven or the judicial district of Ansonia-Milford at Milford.
  4. Southbury, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Ansonia-Milford at Milford or the judicial district of Waterbury.
  5. Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport or Wilton, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk or the judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport.
  6. Watertown or Woodbury, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Waterbury or the judicial district of Litchfield at Torrington.
  7. Avon, Canton, Farmington or Simsbury, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of New Britain.
  8. Newington, Rocky Hill or Wethersfield, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of New Britain.
  9. Cromwell, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of Middlesex at Middletown.
  10. New Milford you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Danbury or the judicial district of Litchfield at Torrington.
  11. Windham or Ashford, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Windham or the judicial district of Tolland.

If you reside in a town where you are eligible to file your divorce case in more than one Judicial District, there may be a benefit to you to file in one Judicial District versus the other depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Prior to filing your divorce action, you should always discuss your filing options with your attorney.

Can you file for divorce online in Connecticut?

The short answer is yes. In 2015 Connecticut transitioned from paper files to electronic files for divorce cases filed after October 15, 2015. Thus, if you or your attorney is registered for E-services on the Connecticut Judicial Website, you can file your divorce action online, after your spouse is served by a Marshal, without appearing at the Courthouse to file your case.

At Broder & Orland LLC, the largest matrimonial and family law firm in Connecticut with offices in Westport and Greenwich, we carefully consider with our clients the most advantageous place to file their divorce when there is an option under the statute

How To Divorce Discreetly

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

HOW TO DIVORCE DISCREETLY

  1. Are divorce records public?

Generally, yes. However, experienced divorce attorneys in Westport, Greenwich, and other Fairfield County locations know how to limit public exposure by negotiating a divorce agreement prior to filing an action. Once the agreement is finalized, it may be possible to file the action and get divorced the same day!

  1. What is the advantage of handling a divorce in a discreet manner?

Most importantly, it protects the children from conflict and/or embarrassment. It also protects the parties from scrutiny or disclosures of personal information.

  1. Can wealth and fame be protected in a discreet manner?

Yes. High asset and/or celebrity divorces can be handled in a discreet manner, without public disclosure of sensitive or proprietary information. It is an effective way of protecting one’s career and reputation.

  1. Do both parties have to agree to handle their divorce in this manner?

Yes. Without such an agreement or understanding between the parties, one spouse or the other could file for divorce and litigate the case, which then becomes public. Divorce files are available to anyone who wants to see them and courtrooms are generally open to the public, meaning your divorce could be on display to the public.

  1. Will handling a divorce discreetly result in lower attorneys’ fees?

Most often, yes! Litigation typically drives up costs. That’s not to say that a discreet divorce is always inexpensive. There may be complicated assets which could require valuations such as interests in private equity, hedge funds, venture capital funds, closely held businesses, start-up companies, stock options, and restricted stock. These interests may require special expertise and time to sort out but the cost will be considerably less than sorting this out through protracted litigation.

  1. How can the parties assist in a discreet divorce?

It will be important to get all your ducks in a row as expeditiously and efficiently as possible. Prepare a spreadsheet of all assets and liabilities, regardless of whose name they are titled in.

Discuss between you and your spouse what your goals and objectives are with regard to the division of assets. With your attorney, determine if spousal support will be an element of your divorce agreement.

  1. How should you handle children’s issues?

Make your Parenting Plan a priority. Be realistic about what is in the best interests of your children and the times each parent can be available to have them. If necessary, utilize professionals such as therapists or social workers to arrive at the best plan. Have it ready to go as soon as possible so you can then turn your attention to financial matters.

At Broder & Orland LLC we are very experienced in handling divorces in a discreet manner. While often these cases involve extreme wealth or celebrity status, the principle can apply to any parties who want to shield their personal lives from the public. Done properly, it is an efficient and generally more cost effective way to get divorced. And of course, it is more civil as well!

 

 

Parental Alienation in Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

What is Parental Alienation?

 Alienating Behavior is defined as an action by a parent which threatens the relationship between a child and a parent.

Parental Alienation has been defined as: “circumstance where one parent portrays the other parent in a negative light, and the child takes note of such portrayal. The child has less or no contact with the alienated parent based on the perception put forth by the other parent.” In re Jaime S., 120 Conn. App. 712, 726–28 (2010).

Thus, the difference between Alienating Behavior and Parental Alienation is for there to be Parental Alienation, alienating behaviors must result in the child having less or no contact with the parent being alienated.

Some examples of Alienating Behavior are:

  1. Unreasonably calling the police on the other parent;
  1. Unreasonably calling the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on the other parent;
  1. Abducting a child;
  1. Preventing parenting time;
  1. Severing communication between a parent and child; or
  1. Telling a child to lie to disrupt parenting time.

Do Connecticut Family Courts Recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome?

 The short answer is no. The Court in Mastrangelo v. Mastrangelo, No. NNHFA054012782S, 2012 WL 6901161, held: “the concept of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ does not meet the relevant standards.” The Court based its reasoning in part that: “the concept of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ is not recognized as a disorder by the medical or legal communities and the theory and related research have been extensively criticized by legal and mental health scholars for lacking scientific validity and reliability.”

How does Parental Alienation Impact my Connecticut Divorce?

 Even though Parental Alienation Syndrome is not recognized by Connecticut Family Courts, the underlying actions or behavior by a parent may have a major impact on your divorce, especially concerning issues of legal custody and parenting time. When entering orders relative to custody, care, education, or visitation, the Court is governed by Connecticut General Statutes §46b-56. Specifically, the Court shall consider the best interest of the child and sixteen factors are listed, which the Court may consider. Of the sixteen factors, three relate directly to the issues of Alienating Behavior and Parental Alienation. Specifically: “…(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders; (7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute; …(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;…”

If you believe your spouse is attempting to alienate the children from you, it is important to contemporaneously document the alienating behavior as best you can. For example, if your spouse is making it difficult for you to spend time or communicate with your children, it will be beneficial to make requests in writing (email is preferable to text messages) requesting dates and times to spend with your children and/ or talk to them. This way you will be able to prove that you made the requests and your spouse’s responses (good or bad) could end up as evidence as well.

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 and custody trial lawyers we understand how to effectively prosecute and defend cases involving Parental Alienation to the Court, as well as how to retain the necessary consultants and/or experts for your case.

 

What is the Difference between a Family Services Evaluation and a Private Custody Evaluation in a Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

I Have a Contested Custody Case: What are My Options for a Custody Evaluation?

In some divorce cases in Connecticut where legal or physical custody is at issue, or where there is a significant custody-related dispute, such as a dispute regarding a parent’s relocation with the children, a custody evaluation can take place. A custody evaluation is performed by a neutral mental health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker, who is trained to perform custody evaluations in litigated custody cases. The purpose of the custody evaluation is to cull information about the parties and their children that has bearing on the particular custody dispute, to interpret that information for the Court, and, typically, to make recommendations regarding the dispute. A custody evaluation does not take place in every custody case in Connecticut; however, if the parties or the Court decide that a custody evaluation is necessary, there are options for the type of custody evaluation that can take place. Two types of custody evaluations in Connecticut are evaluations that take place through the Family Services Unit and evaluations that are performed privately by forensic psychologists.

Who Decides Whether a Custody Evaluation Will Occur?

Many times, the parties and their counsel in a contested custody case will agree that a custody evaluation should take place. Typically, experienced counsel will agree as to the type of custody evaluation that is appropriate given the particular facts and circumstances of the case. If there is an agreement as to both the decision to have a custody evaluation and the type of custody evaluation, the parties and their counsel will prepare a Stipulation setting forth the scope of the evaluation and will present the Stipulation for approval by the Court.

If there is no agreement that a custody evaluation should take place, or, if there is no agreement as to the type of custody evaluation that is appropriate for the case, one or both parties can file a Motion requesting that the Court order a custody evaluation. If a Motion is filed, the Court will hear argument from both parties as to why a custody evaluation should or should not take place and the type of evaluation that is appropriate. The judge will then decide whether to order a custody evaluation, and, if ordered, the type of custody evaluation. If a private custody evaluation is ordered, the Court will enter orders as to how the evaluator will be paid.

What is a Family Services Evaluation?

The Family Services Unit is an arm of the Connecticut Judicial Branch system that assists the Court in the resolution of disputes in family law cases, including custody cases. They have offices in each courthouse. The Family Services Unit provides several different services to the Court system, including Issue-Focused Evaluations and Comprehensive Evaluations in contested custody cases. An Issue-Focused Evaluation involves the evaluation of a limited disputed issue, and so the information-gathering is usually tailored to that issue. These evaluations typically take the least amount of time to perform because they have a limited scope. A Comprehensive Evaluation is more appropriate when broad custody and/or parenting plan issues are in dispute.

Family Relations Counselors, who work in the Family Services Unit, are trained in mediating custody disputes and in performing custody evaluations. If a case is referred to Family Services for an evaluation, whether by agreement of the parties or by a judge, a Family Relations Counselor will be assigned to perform the evaluation.

A Family Services Evaluation will typically include meetings with both parties, whether jointly or individually, meetings with the children, and home visits. Both parties usually will sign releases so that the Family Relations Counselor can speak with collateral sources, such as the children’s teachers, doctors, and mental health professionals. The Family Relations Counselor may also speak with the parties’ mental health professionals and doctors as well.

How Does a Private Custody Evaluation Differ from a Family Services Evaluation?

In a private custody evaluation, a forensic psychologist performs the custody evaluation, as opposed to the Family Services Unit. One of the biggest differences between a private custody evaluation and a Family Services Evaluation is cost, as the Family Services Evaluation is performed at no cost to the parties, whereas the private custody evaluation must be paid for by the parties. The private custody evaluator will perform many, if not all, of the same tasks as a Family Relations Counselor, as described above, but the private custody evaluator will often perform psychological testing on the parties and the children. After performing these tests, the forensic psychologist will analyze the results, particularly with respect to how the results inform any recommendations as to custody. For a variety of reasons, including the psychological testing, private custody evaluations usually take longer to complete than Family Services Evaluations. Some parties opt for a private custody study, however, because they think that the psychological testing will provide valuable information regarding their case.

Will a Written Report be Prepared in Both Types of Custody Evaluations?

Yes. The written reports prepared in a custody evaluation should set forth in detail the findings of the custody evaluator, the days and times he or she met or spoke with the parties, the children, and collateral sources, and will include his or her recommendations. In a private custody evaluation, interpretation of psychological testing results will be included.

Are the Recommendations in the Custody Evaluation Binding?

Regardless of what type of custody evaluation takes place in your case, the results are not binding on either party. That said, the recommendations in a custody evaluation are given great weight by a Court in deciding custody disputes. It is typical in a custody trial that the custody evaluator testifies in Court and that his or her report is entered into evidence. While a judge has discretion in custody cases and does not have to agree with the custody evaluator, the custody evaluator’s analysis will be presented to the Court for consideration.

Should I Have a Family Services Evaluation or a Private Custody Evaluation?

There is no “one size fits all” approach to custody evaluations, as the facts of each particular case are different. The decision as to whether a custody evaluation should take place, and what type of evaluation is appropriate, is a decision that should only be made after careful consultation with your family law attorney. There are many different factors to consider, including cost and time.

At Broder & Orland LLC, our attorneys have significant experience with custody cases and can provide you with advice regarding the type of custody evaluation best suited for your particular situation. It is important to know your options and discuss the pros and cons of each type of custody evaluation prior to making a decision, as custody evaluations carry great weight in either the settlement of or the trial of custody disputes.

Divorce in Connecticut – Who’s on Your “Team?”

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy.

Divorce in Connecticut—Who’s on your “team?”

Whether you are just starting to consider divorce or you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, having a team of carefully selected professionals to support you can make a huge difference when navigating through divorce.

  1. Legal counsel

One of the most important decisions that you make in your divorce case is who to retain as your attorney. It almost goes without saying that you should consider the personality and experience of an attorney before deciding that he or she is “the one.” A good fit between attorney and client can make the entire process of divorce more tolerable.

Before you decide who will represent you, consider not just the individual attorney that you are hiring, but also the firm behind the attorney. For example, inquire about the size of the firm and whether other attorneys will be working on your case. The approachability and reliability of support staff is also an important consideration that is often overlooked.

  1. Emotional and mental health support

Friends and family are useful sounding boards. However, don’t be surprised if your attorney asks whether you have a therapist (psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker) in place. You may even be asked this as early as in the initial consultation. It is not meant to be invasive. Your attorney should know what type of support (other than legal support) you have as you engage in the divorce process. If you do not have a therapist, your attorney may be able to provide you with some recommendations. Experienced attorneys should have a network of therapists to consider in making a tailored recommendation for a client.

You may be concerned that there is a stigma attached to seeing a mental health provider before or during your divorce. While your attorney can best advise you about the pros and cons, experienced divorce attorneys have generally found that to be untrue. Therapists can be valuable team members during divorce.

  1. Financial experts and consultants

Depending on the issues in your case, you may need to obtain a financial expert or consultant to assist you in forensic accounting, valuing a business, financial planning, discovering assets, or even just to help with basic or complex tax issues. It is best to identify the need for experts early in your case, so they can be involved with discovery as needed. You may even develop a working relationship with the expert(s) during the divorce and continue to utilize his or her services (such as accounting or financial planning) after the divorce action.

At Broder & Orland LLC we are proud of our team approach to resolving divorce issues. We frequently staff cases with more than one attorney from our firm, in an effort to provide seamless litigation and/or settlement support to our clients. We are experienced in building support teams for our clients, which often include mental health providers and/or relevant experts and consultants.