Tag: custody

Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

 A divorce is generally one of the most emotional events you can go through. It is also typically the largest and most impactful financial event of your life. If you are thinking about hiring a divorce attorney in Connecticut, one of the first things you should do after obtaining names of a divorce attorney and/or firm, is to Google them. It may sound basic, but you will be able to read the various Google reviews about these attorneys and/or firms and you will quickly be able to vet them based on the experiences of their past clients.

Once you perform your online due diligence, you will want to prepare for your initial consultation. Every case is different, and every attorney is different, so you want to have a list of questions prepared to make sure you and your potential attorney will be the right match. To help you with that process, below is a list of sample questions you may want to consider asking:

  1. How long have you been practicing family law?
  2. How long have you been practicing family law in Connecticut?
  3. What percentage of your practice is devoted to the field of family law?
  4. Do you handle cases involving domestic abuse?
  5. Do you represent a greater number of Husbands or Wives?
  6. Will anyone else in your office be working on my case? Why would there be multiple people working on my case?
  7. What is your availability to talk and email?
  8. What would your colleagues say about you?
  9. What do you think the Judges say about you?
  10. Do you know my spouse’s attorney? When is the last time you had a case with him or her? What was the result?
  11. Do you mediate cases?
  12. Do you practice collaborative law?
  13. Do you litigate cases?
  14. Are there any options to resolve my case between mediation and litigation?
  15. How often are you in court?
  16. When was the last time you had a trial?
  17. Why did the case go to trial and not settle?
  18. How long does a divorce case take?
  19. How many cases are your currently working on?
  20. Do you handle appeals?
  21. What is your hourly rate? What are the rates for other professionals in your office?
  22. What is the amount of your retainer? Do you issue monthly bills?

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. We understand the importance of an initial consultation for both the prospective client and lawyer. We take the time to answer all of your questions and to set out in detail the divorce process so you leave our office well informed.

What Happens at a Preargument Conference in a Connecticut Family Law Appeal?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

What is a Preargument Conference?

In most appeals of civil cases in Connecticut, including family law and divorce cases, a Preargument Conference is required prior to the appeal progressing to the briefing and oral argument stages. The Preargument Conference is a confidential settlement opportunity that takes place with an experienced judge who will meet with counsel for both parties and attempt to help the parties reach a settlement in lieu of continuing with the appeal. Because an appeal can be a long, expensive process that usually follows an already extensive period of litigation, the Preargument Conference is an opportunity to avoid continuing litigation in favor of the finality of a settlement.

The Preargument Conference can also provide an opportunity to narrow the issues presented for appeal if the case cannot be globally settled. In discussing the pending appellate issues with the judge at the Preargument Conference, he or she can provide helpful insight into the likelihood of success on appeal. If it is appropriate for the case to be transferred to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the Preargument Conference judge has the authority to recommend that as well.

When is the Preargument Conference Scheduled?

In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due; so, if the case settles, the conference avoids the parties having to incur significant legal fees for the research and drafting of the brief. Within a few months of an appeal being filed, counsel for the parties will typically receive a notice or letter notifying them of the assigned time and place for the Preargument Conference.

Where does a Preargument Conference Take Place?

The Preargument Conference usually takes place at a different courthouse from the courthouse where your case was tried. On the day of the Preargument Conference, the assigned judge meets with counsel in chambers. It is rare, though not unheard of, for the judge to meet with the parties.

Do I Have to Attend the Preargument Conference?

The short answer to this question is: Yes. According to Connecticut Practice Book Section 63-10, which governs Preargument Conferences: “Unless other arrangements have been approved in advance by the conference judge, parties shall be present at the conference site and available for consultation.” The primary reason that parties must be present for Preargument Conferences is so that they can actively participate in any settlement negotiations and authorize their counsel to enter into a settlement of the case. If a case settles during a Preargument Conference, the Preargument Conference judge has the authority to enter an agreement into the record that day, and the parties must be present in Court in such an event.

Who Attends the Preargument Conference?

Parties and their appellate counsel must attend the Preargument Conference as a rule (see above). At Broder & Orland LLC, we find it is useful for trial counsel, if different from appellate counsel, to attend as well, as he or she can sometimes provide helpful input regarding the case and potential avenues for settlement. If there are any other professionals or advisors, financial or otherwise, who can aid in settling the case, it may be helpful for them to attend or be available by telephone to discuss any settlement offers.

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Preargument Conference?

It is helpful to meet or speak with your trial and appellate counsel prior to a Preargument Conference to discuss any settlement offer that you authorize to be made at or before the conference, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both sides’ cases. If you are the appellant (i.e., the person taking the appeal), you should decide before the Preargument Conference what, if any, settlement you would consider in order to withdraw your appeal. As with any settlement negotiation, you should determine your “best case” scenario as well as your bottom line.

If you are the appellee (i.e., the person defending against the appeal), you may question why, as the person who is not appealing the final judgment in your case, you should consider settling. There are many reasons why an appellee could or should consider settling the case, such as: 1) having the finality of a settled judgment; 2) avoiding the time, expense, and uncertainty of further litigation; and 3) avoiding a reversal of the judgment in your case if that is a real possibility. The appellee should consider in advance of a Preargument Conference any concessions he or she would be willing to make in order for the appeal to be withdrawn.

What Happens to the Appeal if the Case is Settled at the Preargument Conference?

Any global settlement at the Preargument Conference should include a statement that the appeal will be withdrawn with prejudice upon acceptance of the settlement agreement by the trial court.

What Happens after the Preargument Conference if the Case Does Not Settle?

Even if you do not settle the case at the Preargument Conference, your case can still be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. If the case is not settled that the Preargument Conference, the appellant must begin preparation of his or her brief, as the deadline for submission usually falls within approximately 45 days of the Preargument Conference. The Preargument Conference judge does have the authority to extend the time for the filing of the appellant’s brief in the event that the appellate counsel needs more time or in the event that the parties request additional time to attempt to settle the case.

Broder and Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating family and divorce cases at the trial court level. If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

Should a Financial Forensic Evaluator be Retained in My Divorce Case ?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

Should a Financial Forensic Evaluator be Retained in My Divorce Case ?

What is a financial forensic evaluator?

A financial forensic evaluator is typically an individual with certain certifications and qualifications who is educated and trained to analyze financial information in your divorce case. This may include, for example, an analysis of income, or valuation of various assets such as privately held businesses, equity awards, private equity and hedge fund interests, and other alternative investments.

When should a financial forensic evaluator become involved in my divorce case?

Usually a financial forensic evaluator should be retained as soon as counsel recognizes that there may be valuation issues in your divorce case. The evaluator can assist in fashioning pertinent discovery requests and responses. Occasionally there are circumstances where one party will wait to see the other party’s analysis and valuation. A seasoned divorce attorney will be able to guide you through these strategic situations.

Can the parties hire one neutral financial forensic evaluator?

This is possible. In some divorce cases the party will agree on one neutral financial forensic evaluator and further agree to be bound by the conclusions of that expert. In other cases, parties may agree to start with a neutral but retain the right to hire his or her own evaluator, should he/she disagree with the neutral’s evaluation.

What types of documents will the financial forensic evaluator want?

In the case of an income analysis, the forensic financial evaluator may want to review tax returns, pay stubs, year-end pay statements, statements from credit card and bank/brokerage accounts, and employment contracts. With regard to business assets, the financial forensic evaluator will want to look at such items as Profit and Loss Statements, Balance Sheets, General Ledgers, Partnership Agreements, Operating Agreements, corporate/partnership tax returns, K-1s, and business accounts. In the case of alternative investments, it will be important to review documents such as Operating Agreements, investor correspondence and Private Placement Memoranda. And for equity awards such as stock options, RSUs, and Phantom Equity awards, items such as vesting schedules, agreements, and plan documents will require review.

Can I expect the financial forensic evaluator to prepare a report?

Whether a report is to be prepared is up to the party hiring the financial forensic evaluator. Again, experienced divorce counsel will be able to guide you on this aspect of litigation.

Will the financial forensic evaluator testify at my divorce trial?

Typically yes, unless there is an agreement that his or her valuation is stipulated to by the other party or the parties work out a compromise valuation. In order to testify as an expert, a party must formally disclose that expert in advance in accordance with Connecticut Practice Book Rules.

Can the financial forensic evaluator assist my divorce case in other ways?

Absolutely! And most commonly with discovery, depositions, analyzing the opposing party’s valuation, Proposed Orders for the Court, and trial preparation. Ideally he/she will assist in settlement negotiations and a resolution of your divorce case without the need for a trial.

At Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut we have extensive experience working with financial forensic evaluators in all facets of divorce litigation.

What Provisions Should Be Included in a Parenting Plan?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is a document, usually in the form of an agreement, that addresses child-related issues, such as legal custody and a parental access schedule. In the absence of an agreed-upon Parenting Plan, a Court will determine a Parenting Plan that it believes is in the child(ren)’s best interests.

 When does a Parenting Plan need to be Submitted to the Court?

 A proposed Parenting Plan must be submitted to the Court on or before the Case Management Date, which is approximately ninety days after filing an action for dissolution of marriage. If parenting issues are disputed at the time of the Case Management Date, the parties are required to appear in Court and may be ordered to meet with a Family Relations counselor.

 What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody is the power to make decisions for a minor child(ren). Such decisions include the child(ren)’s health, education, religion, and welfare. Legal custody may be shared jointly, awarded to one parent only after good faith consultation with the other parent, or awarded solely to one parent without good faith consultation. A Parenting Plan must set forth how legal custody is shared and typically includes a definition of legal custody.

What is a Parenting Coordinator?

A Parenting Coordinator, or “P.C.,” is an individual who may be engaged by parents to help them communicate better, make decisions on behalf of their child(ren), and resolve disputes. P.C.s are generally mental health professionals or social workers. P.C.s are not judges and cannot make binding decisions—they can, however, make recommendations. Often, parents will elect to include a provision about a P.C. in their Parenting Plan. These provisions typically require both parents to meet with a P.C. in an attempt to resolve any parenting dispute before submitting the matter to a Court.

 What is a Regular Parental Access Schedule?

A regular parental access schedule sets forth when each parent will parent the child(ren) during non-holiday and vacation time. It is the day-to-day schedule. A regular parental access schedule is not “one size fits all” and will vary from family to family.

 What is a Holiday and Vacation Schedule?

 A holiday and vacation schedule sets forth all holidays that are celebrated by a family and delineates how they are shared. Parents often elect to alternate holidays such that one parent has parenting time in even-numbered years and the other parent has parenting time in odd-numbered years. Parents may also elect to assign a specific holiday to one parent in every year. A holiday and vacation schedule also addresses summer vacation. Parents will typically select a number of weeks, consecutive or non-consecutive, that each parent will have during the summer.

 What Other Provisions Should be Included?

 Parenting Plans almost always contain non-disparagement language. They should also address notice provisions with respect to travel, as well as provisions related to the attendance of medical appointments, school conferences, extracurricular activities, and the introduction of new significant others.

 What is a Right of First Refusal?

Some parents elect to include a Right of First Refusal in their Parenting Plan. If a parent is unavailable to parent the child(ren) for a certain number of hours on his or her parenting time, he or she must give the other parent the option of parenting the child(ren) before he or she engages a childcare provider. If the non-scheduled parent is also unavailable, then the scheduled parent is typically responsible for the cost of any necessary childcare. The number of hours will vary from family to family. Four to six waking hours are common.

 What if my Spouse has issues with Drugs or Alcohol?

 Drug and alcohol testing may be included in a Parenting Plan. If one or both parents are struggling with substance abuse, he or she may be required to submit to drug or alcohol testing. A testing protocol, including the frequency of tests, will be delineated in the Parenting Plan. Said protocol will also include consequences in the case of a missed or positive test. If the parent struggling with substance abuse issues is able to achieve a certain level of sobriety, his or her parenting time may be expanded upon his or her reaching certain milestones.

Can Parenting Plans be Modified?

 Yes. Parenting Plans may be modified if there has been a material change of circumstances which alters a Court’s finding of the best interests of the child(ren) or a finding that the original order sought to be modified was not based upon the best interests of the child(ren).

At Broder & Orland LLC, we understand the sensitive nature of parenting issues in a divorce or custody dispute in Connecticut. Our skilled attorneys will guide you through the process of crafting a Parenting Plan that is consistent with your minor child(ren)’s best interests.

Connecticut Divorce Differences

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.

Connecticut Divorce Differences

Is Property Division in a Connecticut Divorce Different from Other States?

It is commonly assumed by people who are contemplating divorce that particular types of assets will be considered separate and will not included in the marital estate, and thus not shared with one’s spouse.  Divorce laws differ from state to state, and Connecticut’s approach to property division happens to be unlike that of the majority of states that do characterize certain property as separate from the outset of a divorce.

What is the Court’s Approach to Dividing Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

In Connecticut, a three-step analysis is applied by courts to equitably divide property.  First, the asset is classified to determine whether it is property within the meaning of Connecticut General Statutes 46b-81. Second, the value of the asset is considered, and what the appropriate valuation method is.  Third, the equitable distribution of the property is decided.

Although this system of property division is referred to as an “equitable distribution” scheme, as it is in many other states, there is a significant difference in that Connecticut does not “limit, either by timing or method of acquisition or by source of funds” the property that is characterized as marital and subject to the court’s power to divide.  Krafick v. Krafick, 234 Conn. 783, 792, 663 A.2d 365 (1995).

Thus, property is not automatically classified as separate, regardless of when the property was acquired, whose name it is titled in, or the method of acquisition.  Below are common examples.

Are Premarital Assets Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

Property acquired prior to the marriage will not automatically be characterized as separate.  If you owned a house, an art collection, or your own business before you married your spouse,  these assets will not be set aside as nonmarital property, they will be considered part of the marital estate.  Depending on the overall marital estate, a court may or may not award the premarital property to the original owner.

Are Retirement Accounts Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

The 401(K), the IRA, pension, restricted stock units, or any other type of employment related benefit that you acquired before your marriage will be included in the marital estate regardless of sole legal ownership.  Depending on the sufficiency of the collective assets to meet the needs of the parties, a court may allocate solely titled retirement assets to the titled owner to reduce the number of account divisions especially if transaction fees are involved. However, it is very common to divide all retirement accounts 50/50.

Are Inherited Assets Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

Inheritances, whether real property or stock accounts, are not designated as separate property in Connecticut as they may be in many other states.  Inherited assets are included in the marital estate in Connecticut.  There may be equitable reasons to allocate one’s inheritance to the titled owner, but not until the entire marital estate and statutory factors of Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81 are considered.

Are Future Inheritances Considered Part of the Marital Estate in a Connecticut Divorce?

Anticipated future inheritances expected from people who are alive are not considered property within the meaning of C.G.S. 46b-81.  Courts cases addressing this issue have determined that the marital estate does not include interests that are unvested or merely expected.

When Are Assets Valued in a Connecticut Divorce?

Unlike other states, in Connecticut, assets are valued on or as close as possible to the date of dissolution rather than the date the action was filed.  This is based on the principle that financial awards and orders should be based on the current financial circumstances of the parties.

How are Assets Equitably Divided in a Connecticut Divorce?

Connecticut courts have wide discretion to allocate marital assets to either spouse so long as   statutory criteria is considered.  “When deciding to whom to assign property to, the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the … dissolution of the marriage … the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81.

The court is not required to give equal weight to each factor, nor is the court required to provide its reasoning as to which factor may have influenced its decision in making an equitable division.  Caffe v. Caffe, 240 Conn. 79 (1997). The courts have also refused to adopt a presumption of equal division.  Rivnak v. Rivnak, 99 Conn. App. 326 (2007).  Thus, each divorce is determined on a case-by-case basis according to its facts and it is important not to draw conclusions based on broad information derived from sources that are not specific to Connecticut.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce.  Our attorneys are very experienced with the financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce, and understand the importance of accurately identifying assets and methods of valuation to optimize financial circumstances moving forward.

  

Testifying in a Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Do I have to testify during my Connecticut Divorce?

A divorce action is a civil lawsuit, so any time evidence is required to resolve a disputed issued testimony of witness is likely required.  Typically, the witnesses in a divorce action are you and your spouse, however, it is common for other fact or expert witnesses to also testify.  An example of a disputed issue which could require your testimony is what school your child should attend.  You and your spouse will likely be required to provide testimony as to why you believe a certain school is a better fit for your child and why it is in your child’s best interest to attend that school.

What is the format of testifying during my Connecticut divorce?

The two main categories of testimony are direct examination and cross examination.

Direct examination is the questioning of a witness by the party that called the witness to testify.  An example of direct examination is when your attorney calls you as a witness to testify.  Proper direct examination questions are posed in an open-ended manner.  Typically, direct examination questions begin with: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Once your attorney concludes your direct examination, your spouse’s attorney has the option to cross-exam you.  Unlike direct examination, where the questions are open-ended, proper cross examination questions are leading.  A question is considered leading if the answer is suggested in the question.  If done properly, during cross examination the attorney is essentially testifying, and the witnesses is merely confirming or denying the question posed by the attorney.

An example of a direct examination question versus a cross examination questions is as follows:

Direct – Where did you and your spouse marry?

Cross – Isn’t it true that you and your spouse were married in Greenwich, Connecticut?

Once your spouse’s attorney concludes his or her cross examination of you, your attorney will have the option to redirect you.  Redirect is the opportunity to correct or expand on the topics covered during cross examination.  Since proper cross examination often requires are simple yes or no answer, you may want the opportunity to offer more expansive testimony on the topic.  For example, on cross examination you may be asked: Isn’t it true that you were late in paying alimony, yes or no?  If the answer is “Yes”, on redirect examination your attorney may ask you: Why were you late paying alimony? You will then explain the reason why you were late paying alimony.

Thereafter, the opposing attorney will have the option to recross examine you, but he or she can only ask questions within the scope of the redirect examination.  For example, if the redirect examination is limited to questions pertaining to alimony, you typically cannot be asked questions about custody on redirect examination.  This format of redirect and recross examination will continue back and forth until there are no further questions.

What are my basic responsibilities while testifying?

Your first and most important responsibility is to tell the truth.  You will be given an oath by the Clerk to tell the truth, and failure to tell the truth could result in perjury charges or the Judge not finding you to be credible.  In a divorce case, credibility is one of the most important aspects since often a dispute comes down to a “he said, she said” situation.

Second, you need to only answer the question that is asked.  Otherwise, you answer could be stricken as non-responsive, which will only prolong the process.  You may find yourself not wanting to answer the question posed to you by opposing counsel, but you have an obligation to answer the question, unless an objection to the question is sustained.  You also need to remember that your attorney will be able to ask you follow up questions on redirect examination to correct or expand on the question.

Third, if an objection is raised, do not answer the question until you receive instructions from the Judge.  If the Judge sustains the objection you do not have to answer the question.  If the Judge overrules the objection you must answer the question.

Finally, you do not want to fight with opposing counsel.  Opposing counsel may purposefully ask incendiary questions to get you to lose your composure in front of the Judge.  You must do you best to try and stay in control and have faith in your attorney to “fix” any issues on redirect examination.

Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event.

What Orders Are in Effect While a Connecticut Divorce Case is on Appeal?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

Do the Trial Court’s Orders Take Effect Immediately Following a Divorce Trial?

Once an appeal is filed, the order(s) associated with the final judgment may be automatically stayed.  This means that until the appeal is finally concluded, the trial court cannot enforce the order(s) that are the subject of the appeal.  Generally speaking, orders regarding the division of assets and liabilities are stayed while a family law appeal is pending.  A common example of the automatic stay in practice in family cases occurs where the trial court orders that the marital home be sold.  Pursuant to the automatic stay rule, that order would not be enforced during the pendency of the appeal without the trial court terminating the stay of execution of that order, as discussed herein.

There are certain exceptions to the automatic stay rule that are permitted by the Practice Book in family cases.  For example, final orders concerning periodic alimony, child support, custody, and visitation are not automatically stayed pending an appeal.  If you are unhappy with the trial court’s alimony orders, those orders will go into effect during the pendency of your appeal unless you ask the court to impose a stay where there is not one automatically imposed by the court rules.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Have Divorce Orders that are Stayed Pending Appeal Take Immediate Effect?

Under Connecticut rules, the trial court can terminate the automatic stay of its orders on its own volition or after a motion is filed by either party.  A Motion to Terminate Stay is filed in the Appellate Court, but is decided by the trial court judge who decided the divorce case following a hearing.  In deciding a Motion to Terminate Stay, a trial court must consider the following factors: 1) the needs and interests of the parties and their children (and any other third parties affected by the orders); 2) the potential prejudice to either party, the children, or a third party affected by the orders if a stay is or is not imposed or if a stay is terminated; 3) the need to preserve the mosaic of the trial court’s orders; 4) the rights of the party taking the appeal to obtain effective relief in the event that his or her appeal is successful; 5) the effect of the Automatic Orders on any of the other factors; and 6) any other factors affecting the equities of the parties.  At the hearing on a Motion to Terminate Stay, both parties can present legal argument, and sometimes testimony, regarding whether the automatic stay should be terminated.

Can I Request that Orders that Go into Immediate Effect be Stayed While the Appeal is Pending?

It is also possible to file a Motion to impose a discretionary stay on any orders that go into immediate effect while an appeal is pending.  Such a Motion is filed in the trial court, unlike a Motion to Terminate Stay.  The trial court judge must consider the same factors recited above in deciding whether to impose a stay of the court’s orders or not.

What is My Remedy if I Do Not Agree with the Trial Court’s Decision Regarding a Request for Stay or to Terminate Stay?

The trial court is not necessarily the final arbiter of determining whether there should or should not be a stay of execution of its order.  A party aggrieved by orders regarding the termination of a stay can seek review of those orders by filing a Motion for Review with the Appellate Court.  The Appellate Court has the same power to review the issuance of a stay as it does the termination of one.

Broder and Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating at the trial court level.  If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

THE SECRET TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEDIATED DIVORCE

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where you and your spouse jointly hire a neutral third person (a mediator) to help settle the terms of your divorce. Your agreement is then memorialized by the mediator. One of the major benefits of mediation is that you and your spouse have control over the process, such as the timing of the case, the tenor of the negotiations and the ultimate terms of an agreement.

What do I need to know before I agree to mediation?

In mediation, you and your spouse (not a Judge and not the mediator) determine how the case settles. While the mediator may provide neutral guidance, he (or she) will not take sides and does not advocate for either party. In fact, in Connecticut, mediators are not even necessarily attorneys.

How can I best represent myself in mediation?

Without your own independent counsel, you may find it difficult to navigate the complexities of a divorce, including making major financial and parenting decisions. The secret to getting the most from mediation is to hire your own attorney to coach you through mediation, or “review counsel” to assist you during the process. Instead of taking a neutral approach, as the mediator does, your divorce coach or review counsel will help you negotiate a resolution that is in your best interest.

What is the role of the lawyer who serves as coach or review counsel?

Review counsel typically does not attend the mediation sessions with you. He or she also does not usually file an appearance with the Court, but instead provides you with background support, such as:

  1. Explaining the Divorce Process. You may have questions that you do not want to ask the mediator in front of your spouse. Review counsel can provide you with a more detailed explanation tailored to your concerns.
  1. Strategic Preparation for Mediation Sessions. One of the major benefits of retaining a divorce coach is the ability to plan and prepare for mediation sessions in advance. For example, if you know that your next mediation session will be focused on alimony, you can meet with your review counsel in advance to review your rights and settlement options.
  1. Review of the Parenting Plan/Separation Agreement. Your divorce coach or review counsel should review any agreement before you sign it, to make sure that it is drafted in a way that is fair, equitable and beneficial (or at least not detrimental!) to you.

Am I allowed to have a divorce coach or review counsel during Mediation?

It is perfectly acceptable for you to have an attorney “on your side” during mediation. In fact, Mediators often recommend it to both parties.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are committed to helping our clients navigate their divorce issues in the most effective way possible, whether it be assisting clients as a mediator or as mediation divorce coach or review counsel.

A Secret from a Seasoned Divorce Attorney…

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

What Might I Not Learn from my Friends About Divorce?

The dirty little secret in divorce cases is that the parameters of the likely outcome are relatively narrow. Connecticut is not a community property state where martial assets are automatically divided equally. However, the division of assets in most Connecticut settlements or Court awards will hover around 50%-50%, with some possible variation, such as 55%-45% or 60%-40%.

Likewise, child support is set by a formula contained in the Child Support Guidelines, which allow for some fairly standard deviations, and alimony typically is within a range that any reputable divorce attorney can estimate.

When it comes to children, most Parenting Plans are fairly routine and provide for a schedule that reflects the availability of each party to parent the children, unless a parent has some overriding behavioral issues including physical or emotional abuse, or substance or alcohol abuse.

 How Can I Learn More About the Parameters of a Likely Outcome in my Divorce?

When analyzing the asset division in your case, ask your attorney to provide you with a spreadsheet that will reflect the allocations of 50%-50%, 55%-45%, and 60%-40%. In many cases, the difference will not be substantial, relative to the size of the marital estate. In some cases, that difference will be neutralized by the fees and costs you will pay to pursue what you feel is a more favorable division. Have your attorney do a cost/benefit analysis.

With regard to child support, have your attorney run the Child Support Guidelines with probable scenarios. Again, you may see that the comparison is not all that significant.

Alimony can be a little trickier, especially since the enactment of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which essentially eliminates the federal deduction for divorces after December 31, 2018. The rule of thumb and conventions previously employed to arrive at a reasonable alimony award are different now, but with sufficient data your attorney should be able to easily guide you as to a probable range.

Ask your attorney for input on your Parenting Plan. He or she should be able to advise you on a reasonable schedule and provide you with context as to what a Court would likely order.

How Can I Turn this Advice into an Advantage in my Divorce?

The real question is: why make divorce a war? Understandably, most people who are getting divorced harbor ill feelings about their spouse for various reasons. But being vengeful or vindictive likely will not significantly affect the bottom line. It will only ramp up emotions and drive up costs.

It is most important that you find an experienced divorce attorney who can educate you about the likely outcome. It will save you anguish, time, and money. And then hope that your spouse does the same!

At Broder & Orland LLC, we make a point of educating our divorce clients early on about the parameters of the likely outcome of their case. We draw on years of experience to provide context for settlements and trials. We also share documentation with our clients which quantify possible scenarios and comparisons so they can make well-informed decisions about their case.

Three Critical Issues to Address in a Prenuptial Agreement

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot

A prenuptial agreement is a written contract entered into by two people before they are married. Its purpose is to resolve, in advance, various financial matters that will necessarily arise from the marriage in the event of divorce or death of a spouse.  Notably, prenuptial agreements offer parties on opportunity to resolve financial issues in whatever manner they choose, rather than leaving such issues to be determined by the divorce laws of a particular state.  While the contents of prenuptial agreements can vary widely, there are certain issues that are commonly addressed in such agreements, three of which are discussed herein.

Property Distribution and Asset Classification: 

Prenuptial agreements typically define which types of assets will be subject to division in the event of divorce (i.e., which assets will constitute “Marital Property”), and which types of assets will necessarily be retained by one party to the exclusion of the other (i.e., which assets will constitute “Separate Property.”)  While there are many ways to classify assets, it is common for agreements to state that any assets brought into the marriage by a particular party shall constitute that person’s Separate Property, while any assets acquired during the marriage shall constitute Marital Property.  It also common for prenuptial agreements to provide that inheritances received by a party during the marriage shall constitute that person’s Separate Property.  In addition to classifying assets as Marital or Separate Property, many prenuptial agreements expressly set forth the manner in which Marital Property will be divided between the parties in the event of divorce.  For example, Marital Property might be divided equally, “equitably” (as determined at a later time under the laws of a particular state), or in some percentage allocation other than 50/50.

Many prenuptial agreements also address the disposition of assets that are acquired during the marriage with a combination of each party’s Separate Property and/or Marital Property, often referred to as “Mixed Property.”  Often prenuptial agreements will be drafted to ensure that both parties will recoup any Separate Property contributions he or she made to the acquisition of Mixed Property.

Alimony

Generally speaking, there are three options when it comes to addressing alimony in a prenuptial agreement.  One option is for the parties to agree to mutual “alimony waivers,” meaning that each party agrees that he or she will have no right to seek alimony from the other in the event of a divorce.  A second option is for each party to retain the right to seek alimony from the other, while leaving the issue open for determination at the time of divorce.  A third option is for parties to expressly agree upon specific alimony obligations that one party shall have to the other in the event of divorce, which may could include specific provisions regarding the duration and/or the amount of such alimony.

Estate Rights

In most jurisdictions, absent a written agreement to the contrary, each party to a marriage will be guaranteed by law to receive a certain minimum share of his or her spouse’s estate (the “elective share”) upon their spouse’s death.  For example, the “elective share” in Connecticut is comprised of the lifetime use of one-third of the value of all real and personal property owned by a party at the time of his or her death, after the payment of all debts and charges against that party’s estate.  However, a spouse’s right to an “elective share” can be waived in a prenuptial agreement, and it is not uncommon to see estate rights waivers in prenuptial agreements particularly where one or both parties have children from a prior relationship.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut negotiating and drafting prenuptial agreements that align with our clients’ circumstances.