Tag: divorce

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.

I LOVE MY WIFE BUT MY MARRIAGE IS OVER. NOW WHAT?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

What should I do if I am thinking about divorce?

You should do some soul searching if you haven’t already. Reflect on what on what is happening in your relationship and whether there is any hope of repairing it. Seek marriage counseling or couples therapy to get support or assistance in working though conflicts. The decision whether or not to divorce may become clearer as you go through that process.

How can I understand what it means to get divorced?

There are many books and articles about divorce. Also, you likely have many friends and relatives who have been divorced and are happy to share their experiences (or nightmares!) with you. But the best source for the real facts is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney who will give you accurate information. This will include the how to protect yourself; divorce procedure; the discovery process; what to expect regarding alimony, child support and property division; valuations issues; how long the divorce with take; and what it will cost.

What if I don’t want my spouse to know I’m consulting with a divorce attorney?

Good question. Once you consult with a divorce attorney a privilege exists which prohibits that attorney from disclosing to anyone, particularly your spouse, any discussion about legal advice. Furthermore, an experienced divorce attorney will be discreet and never disclose to your spouse at that point that you have consulted with him or her.

Should I surprise my wife with service or give her a head’s up in advance?

Once you have decided to proceed with your divorce and unless there is some reason to believe putting your wife on notice that she will be served with divorce papers will result in an untoward consequence, it is more reasonable to let her know you will be serving her. This can be achieved by the marshal arranging with her a place and time, or if she will have an attorney, by serving that attorney. Never, ever have a marshal serve her in front of the kids or when they are home.

How do I break this to the kids?

In most families where divorce is on the horizon, fighting, bickering and unbecoming behavior have been evident even to the youngest kids. Even if there has been little outward animosity, kids can sense tension. Also, most kids are tuned into divorce through their friends, neighbors or relatives. It probably won’t be a huge shock to them that mom and dad are getting divorced. However, they are likely to be sad and sometimes, angry. Be proactive about alerting teachers, clergy, and professional providers that a divorce is imminent so your kids can receive the support and sensitivity they need. And always watch for signs that your kids are experiencing negative effects, such as health issues, deteriorating school performance, and relationship difficulties. Talk to your spouse about arranging counseling or therapy for your kids, if necessary.

The decision to divorce is one of the toughest ones you will make in your lifetime. And especially so if you still love your wife, as is sometimes the case. At Broder & Orland LLC, our divorce attorneys are sensitive to the emotions that go hand in hand with a divorce as we dispense experienced legal advice. We will virtually hold your hand through the process, while protecting you and advocating on your behalf to the utmost extent. We are available to arrange a discreet consultation with you in our Westport or Greenwich office, whichever is more convenient for you.

 

What is an Uncontested Hearing?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose.

What is an Uncontested Hearing?

 An Uncontested Hearing is the final step in the divorce process, after which the marriage of the parties is dissolved. An Uncontested Hearing occurs only after the parties have reached an agreement on all outstanding issues and memorialized that agreement into a written Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan (if applicable). Generally, both parties will be required to appear in Court on that date. The actual Uncontested Hearing only takes about 15 – 20 minutes.

What Documents need to be Prepared/Submitted before an Uncontested Hearing?

 Prior to an Uncontested Hearing, the parties are required to electronically submit or “e-file” certain documents and forms. In every case, their Separation Agreement and Financial Affidavits must be e-filed. If there are minor children the following documents must be e-filed: the parties’ Parenting Plan, Child Support Guidelines, and an Affidavit Concerning Children. If there is an award of alimony or child support, an Advisement of Rights re: Income Withholding must be e-filed. Finally, if the parties have elected to waive the twenty-day appeal period, a Stipulation to that effect is typically e-filed as well.

Do I have to take the Witness Stand?

 If you are the Plaintiff, yes. You will be called to the witness stand, sworn under oath, and asked certain questions by your attorney and potentially the other attorney or the judge. The Defendant is typically asked fewer questions under oath, and usually remains at counsel table.

 What Questions will I be Asked?

 Both parties will be asked about the agreement: whether they read it, signed it, understand it, believe it to be fair and equitable under the circumstances, believe it to be in the best interests of the minor children (if applicable), signed it of their own free will absent coercion or duress, and would like it to be entered as a Court order? If either or both parties have agreed to waive alimony, he, she, or they will be asked if they understand that if alimony is waived, they cannot later make a claim for alimony. The Plaintiff will be asked basic background questions: when and where the parties were married, the names and birth dates of the minor children (if applicable), whether or not either party or any minor child is receiving state aid, and if the marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably with no hope of reconciliation? The Plaintiff will then be asked about the salient points of the parties’ agreement. This exercise will generally not be repeated with the Defendant. Instead, he or she will be asked if he or she agrees with the Plaintiff’s responses.

 What Happens After the Canvas?

 After both parties have been canvassed, the Court will make certain findings: that it has jurisdiction, when and where the parties were married, the names and birth dates of the minor children (if applicable), the presumptive amount of child support pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines and whether or not the application of the Guidelines is appropriate under the circumstances (if applicable), that the Parenting Plan is in the best interests of the minor children (if applicable), and that the parties’ agreement is fair and equitable. After it has made its findings, the Court will order the marriage of the parties dissolved and the maiden or prior name of the wife restored if she so desires.

 Is my Divorce Final that Day?

Yes, provided the parties have agreed to waive the twenty-day appeal period.

Can I have my Maiden Name Restored?

 Yes. As part of an Uncontested Hearing, you may request that the Court restore your maiden or prior name. While the restoration of that name is a valid Court Order, there is still follow-up work to be done such as going to the DMV or Social Security Office.

 Are there any Final Documents that I need?

Yes. You should keep copies of all of the Uncontested Documents in a safe place. It is also advisable to obtain Certified Copies of your Judgment File and Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage. You may need these documents to prove that you are divorced or to complete the process of restoring your prior name. At Broder & Orland LLC, we will prepare and send to you a packet of all Uncontested Documents.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience in settling cases and attending Uncontested Hearings throughout Connecticut, including Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury, and New Haven. Uncontested Hearings may seem intimidating, but our skilled and compassionate attorneys will ensure that you are adequately prepared to bring your case to a conclusion.

 

HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE IN CONNECTICUT

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.

HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE IN CONNECTICUT

Typically families and couples rely on a single health insurance coverage plan, either through the spouse’s employer or privately, to maintain coverage for the entire family. Once a Judgment of Divorce is entered, the non-subscribing spouse is no longer eligible for coverage under the former spouse’s policy.

CAN YOU REMOVE YOUR SPOUSE FROM HEALTH INSURANCE DURING DIVORCE?

No. First, health insurance regulations do not allow the removal of a covered beneficiary from a policy except during specific periods, but Connecticut Family Law also prohibits removal during the pendency of a divorce action. Doing so is a violation of orders that go into effect at the inception of a divorce case and may result in court-ordered penalties and remedial action.

WHAT IS COBRA AND IS ITS COVERAGE AUTOMATIC?

COBRA is the acronym for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, the federal law that allows a spouse who loses coverage due to divorce to continue coverage under the same plan for thirty-six months. The spouse who elects COBRA coverage must take steps with the policy plan administrator and pay for the continued coverage individually. It is advisable to comparison shop before divorce is final to determine whether COBRA coverage is the right option because it is temporary and can be costly. Information on available options is available at www.accesshealthct.com.

WHICH SPOUSE IS OBLIGATED TO PROVIDE HEALTHCARE COVERAGE FOR THE CHILDREN?

The State of Connecticut requires parents to provide health insurance for minor children according to their respective abilities until the later of child/ren reaching the age of 18 or graduating high school but no later than the age of 19. In a divorce, it is typical for the spouse whose coverage is in effect at the time of divorce to agree to continue doing so for so long as it remains available through an employer at a reasonable cost. If it is no longer available to that spouse at a reasonable cost, then the other spouse typically agrees do so if available through an employer at a reasonable cost. If it is not available to either spouse, then both may agree to share the cost of private coverage or apply for HUSKY coverage. Many divorcing parents, agree for health insurance to extend to age 26, the maximum allowable age limit in Connecticut, or until the child is able to secure health insurance through his/her own employer, spouse or domestic partner.

HOW ARE UNREIMBURSED AND UNINSURED MEDICAL EXPENSES PAID AFTER DIVORCE?

Divorced spouses are responsible for his/her own unreimbursed and uninsured medical expenses, including dental, vision and prescriptions. For as long as either parent is responsible for a child’s health insurance, unreimbursed and uninsured medical expenses are paid in proportion to each parent’s percentage share of combined net income but the parties may also to pay according to a different percentage that is negotiated.

ARE FORMER SPOUSES ELIGIBLE FOR MEDICARE BENEFITS?

Medicare is a national health insurance program that provides health insurance for individuals and their spouses who are 65 years and older and who have paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years. After a divorce, one may still be eligible for Medicare based on the former spouse’s work history. In order to qualify using a former spouse’s employment history, one must be unmarried and at least 62 years old, the marriage with the former spouse must have lasted for at least ten years, and the benefit from one’s own employment history is less than that of the former spouse.

The attorneys at the firm of BRODER & ORLAND LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, are very experienced in all facets of divorce including issues that involve healthcare coverage for the parties and their children.

May A Civil Court Enforce a Ketubah as a “Prenuptial Agreement?”

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot.

May a Civil Court Enforce a Ketubah as a “Prenuptial Agreement?”

  • What is a Ketubah?

In the Jewish tradition, many couples (including both observant and non-observant couples) sign a Jewish marriage contract, known as a Ketubah, in conjunction with entering into a civil marriage.   While the wording of Ketubahs is not uniform, generally speaking they outline certain rights and responsibilities of the parties vis-à-vis their spouse. In many (if not most) instances, a Ketubah is viewed by the signatories as merely a symbolic religious document that holds no legal weight, and is often written in a language that the parties may not even understand. But what if one party seeks to have a Ketubah, or certain provisions of the document, enforced as a contract in a divorce?

  • May the Provisions of a Ketubah be Enforced in a Civil Divorce?

The short answer to this complicated question is — it depends. Specifically, it depends upon the nature of the terms or provisions in a Ketubah for which enforcement is sought, and what (if anything) the Ketubah actually says with respect to such terms or provisions. Most notably, it depends on whether a Court’s enforcement of the Ketubah as a contract in the manner requested would violate First Amendment principles.

  • How is the First Amendment Relevant to this Issue?

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in pertinent part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” U.S. Const., amend I. These clauses are commonly referred to as the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. Boiled down to its essence, the First Amendment bars the federal and state governments, including courts, from actions that, “foster an excessive entanglement with religion.” Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971). However, this proscription against judicial entanglement with religion does not prohibit courts from adjudicating a dispute solely because it happens to involve a religious institution, party or document. Rather, the First Amendment permits courts to resolve disputes involving religious institutions, parties or documents if, but only if, the court can do so by applying “neutral principles of law.”

  • An Exploration of Relevant Cases

In adjudicating disputes over Ketubahs, the challenge for courts is to determine whether adjudication would, in fact, excessively entangle a court with religious matters in violation of the First Amendment or whether the dispute can be resolved by applying neutral principles of law. This distinction can be highlighted by analyzing two Connecticut cases, one of which was recently litigated by Broder & Orland LLC. In that case, the parties’ Ketubah stated that in the event of a divorce, the parties had agreed to divorce “according to Torah law as is the manner of Jewish people.” The Husband asserted that pursuant to “Torah Law” (1) premarital and inherited property was not subject to equitable distribution; and (2) the Wife could not seek an award of alimony against the Husband. In denying the Husband’s application to have the parties’ Ketubah enforced as a premarital agreement in this manner, the Court reasoned that the Husband was not merely asking the Court to apply “neutral principles of law,” but was instead asking the Court to both interpret and apply religious law and doctrine in direct contravention of First Amendment principles.

This case can be contrasted with the Court’s decision in Light v. Light, 55 Conn. L. Rptr. 145, 148-149, wherein the parties’ Ketubah expressly stated that the Husband would pay the wife $100 per day from the date they physically separated until the date when the Husband granted the Wife a Jewish divorce known as a “get.” The Court enforced that provision of the parties’ Ketubah as a contractual obligation because the relief sought was only to compel the Husband to perform a specified monetary obligation to which he had contractually bound himself and did not require the court to “evaluate the properties of religious teachings.”

Although rare, cases involving religious based agreements are extremely complex and, in order to be handled properly, require a great deal of expertise and attention. At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience handling matters involving these issues and are poised to help clients achieve favorable and fair results when these issues arise.

 

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.