Tag: divorce

What Should I Expect at my Initial Divorce Consultation in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

What is the Purpose of the Initial Divorce Consultation?

After having made the difficult decision to contact an attorney regarding divorce and after making an appointment to meet with him or her, it is natural to feel apprehensive or to be unsure of what to expect at that initial meeting.  Most Fairfield County divorce clients have many questions about the divorce process, possible outcomes, and how Connecticut law applies to his or her case.  Those are all appropriate issues to be discussed in an initial consultation.  One of the primary purposes of the initial divorce consultation, in addition to information gathering, is for the potential client and the potential lawyer to meet in order to determine whether both the client and the lawyer are comfortable working together.  As a client, it is important to feel that you can trust your divorce attorney and that there is good communication between you and your divorce attorney.  The initial consultation is a good opportunity for both the lawyer and client to assess whether they can have a good working relationship during a sometimes difficult process.  

What Do I Need to Bring with Me to My First Meeting with a Potential Divorce Lawyer?

Among other things, it is important for a divorce attorney to have as much information as possible so that he or she can accurately evaluate the case and give the appropriate advice.  Of course, if you were the person served with divorce papers, you should bring those papers to the initial consult so that the attorney can review them and explain them to you.  At the first meeting with a divorce lawyer, however, it is not required that you bring any other documents with you.  The divorce attorney will listen to you and ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of the basic facts of the case.  There will be plenty of time after the initial consultation for you to provide relevant documentation to your lawyer.  While you do not need to bring documents with you to the initial consult, there are some documents that you can bring to make the meeting more productive.  For example, if there is a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement in your case, you should bring a copy of that to the meeting.  Most top Fairfield County divorce attorneys will even ask to see the document in advance of the meeting so that he or she can review it beforehand.  Some people also like to bring relevant financial documentation to the meeting, such as tax returns and bank and brokerage accounts, so that specific financial questions they have can be addressed.

Is What I Discuss at My Initial Divorce Consultation Confidential?

The short answer to this question is: yes.  The information you provide to a potential divorce lawyer, even if you do not hire that person, is kept confidential.  Keep in mind, however, the caveat discussed below.

Should I Bring My Friend (or Family Member) to the Initial Consultation Meeting?

It is normal for people to want emotional support at an initial divorce consultation.  If a third party is present in a meeting between a potential client and a lawyer, that presence can jeopardize the confidentiality of the meeting, as confidentiality and attorney-client privilege typically only extend to the potential client.  If you deem it critical to bring a friend or family member with you to the initial consultation, you can discuss how to handle it with the potential divorce lawyer with whom you are meeting.  You and the divorce attorney may decide to have the friend or family member wait in the reception area during all or part of the meeting in order to protect the information discussed.

What are the General Topics Discussed during the Initial Consult?

In general terms, the best initial consultations cover the following topics, as applicable to the facts of your case: the divorce process in Connecticut, custody of minor children and parenting plans, discovery of relevant information during the divorce, division of assets and liabilities, and alimony and child support.  Top Fairfield County attorneys will also discuss with you strategy concerns and any other issues that may be particular to your case.  In order for the divorce lawyer to give you good advice, he or she will ask many questions, ranging from basic to very personal.  The more information you provide, the more you and a potential divorce attorney can begin crafting a timeline and strategy for your case.

What Questions Should I Ask at the Initial Divorce Consultation?

There is no question too insignificant for an initial divorce consult.  A good divorce attorney will want you to feel comfortable that your questions have been answered and will welcome any and all questions that you have.  There is very little that experienced divorce attorneys have not heard or been asked; so, do not be shy about sharing information or asking questions.  Beyond the typical questions about the divorce process, how long divorces in Connecticut typically last, and what to expect with respect to parenting and finances, you should also ask questions about the financial relationship between you and the potential lawyer.  You will want to know the attorney’s hourly rate, requested retainer or other fee arrangements, and how frequently you will receive invoices reflecting time spent on your case.    

At Broder & Orland LLC, we pride ourselves on our informative initial consultations, which typically initiate an effective attorney-client relationship that lasts throughout the case.  We strive to advise potential clients in a forthright manner so that they feel comfortable about what to expect from the divorce process in Connecticut and so that they understand their options moving forward.

Living Arrangements During a Divorce: Who Stays in the House?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • Connecticut law protects each party’s right to live in the martial home during a divorce.
  • You cannot deny your spouse continued use of the marital home without an agreement or Court order.
  • The Court has the authority to give exclusive use of the marital home to either party if warranted.
  • It usually does not harm your case if you voluntarily move out of the house.

Who Gets to Live in the Marital Home During a Divorce?

In Connecticut, both parties are entitled to live in the marital home during the divorce action, unless there is an agreement or Court order stipulating otherwise. If the parties cannot live together, but cannot agree on who should leave, the Court has the authority to order exclusive use of the family home to one party, regardless of how the property is titled. The decision of who lives in the house during the divorce may come down to two main factors: first, what is most practical for your family; and second, the family’s financial circumstances. Sometimes, divorcing couples opt for a “bird nesting” arrangement whereby the children stay in the marital home and the parents rotate in and out. One party leaves the marital home when it is the other party’s turn to reside there, and vice versa.

Can I Change the Locks on my House During the Divorce?

In Connecticut, there are automatic orders (Connecticut Practice Book §25-5) which provide that if you are living together with your spouse on the date that the divorce action is started, you may not deny him or her use of the residence. For this reason, it is always best to consult with an attorney prior to changing the locks on the marital home. 

Will it hurt my Case if I Move out of the Marital Home? 

Divorce can be a contentious, emotional time for families. You may want to live separately but are afraid that you will be accused of abandoning your family or you may be concerned that it will hurt your divorce case in some other way.

Under most circumstances, it does not hurt your divorce case to voluntarily move out of the marital home—specifically, if it is done in order to alleviate stress or tension within the home, especially when there are minor children involved.  In fact, Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-83 provide that if one of parent leaves the family home voluntarily during the case and leaving is in the best interests of the child, the Court may consider that fact in making or modifying custody orders.

How Do I Get a Court Order for Exclusive Occupancy?

If you believe that your circumstances warrant exclusive use of your marital residence, you can file a Motion for Exclusive Possession with the Court to request an order which prevents your spouse from living in the home during the divorce.  This type of Motion is typically only filed in extreme circumstances.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in securing exclusive possession for our clients, defending against such claims, and in the alternative, helping to devise living arrangements during the divorce that will meet our clients’ specific needs.

The Financial Cost of Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

What will my Divorce Cost?

The short answer is that it is hard to know at the outset what a divorce will eventually cost.  Since virtually all divorce lawyers in Connecticut bill on an hourly rate, the cost is a function of time spent on the case. At Broder & Orland LLC, we have handled divorces ranging in cost from a few thousand to millions of dollars.

Is Cost Related to the Complexity of the Case? 

Not necessarily. Some of the more financially complex cases settle quickly when the parties, their counsel, and experts are sophisticated and are financially savvy. These cases sometimes involve a variety of compensation components, including for example, stock options, RSUs, SARs, phantom stock, and deferred compensation. While this can initially appear daunting, it doesn’t have to be if the parties are well-educated about income variants.

Will the Cost of my Divorce be Minimal if our Assets are Very Modest? 

We would hope so and at our firm we strive to make it cost-effective for our clients in every case. Unfortunately, different pressures can arise when the marital estate is relatively modest and there isn’t enough money for both parties to live their lives post-divorce in the manner they were doing so during their marriage. In these cases particularly, it is imperative to do a cost-benefit analysis and to be real about the results. 

Will Children’s Issues Increase the Cost of Divorce?

Quite possibly. It is in everyone’s best interest to settle on a realistic Parenting Plan as early as possible in the case. If that doesn’t happen, the Court will sometimes appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) as an investigatory arm of the Court whose role it is to report on the best interests of the children, or Attorney for Minor Children (AMC), who will act as an advocate for the children taking into consideration their best interests. The cost of these additional individuals will be borne by the marital estate and having them involved typically signals additional litigation and therefore, higher cost. 

What Other Factors can drive up the Costs of a Divorce? 

Divorce costs may spiral upward for many reasons, for example: one or both parties may not be cooperative in the discovery process or have unrealistic expectations.  Attorneys and clients may not be in sync about objectives and goals. The Court system is fraught with inherent delays and continuances mean more time and more money. 

What can I do to keep my Divorce Costs from Getting out of Control?

  • Hire a reputable and knowledgeable attorney.
  • Make sure you are always on the same page as to how your case is being handled.
  • Settle the kids’ issues as soon as possible. Attend to discovery deadlines.
  • If finances are complex, make sure to assemble a good team of experts who can educate you about the various components. In short, demystify the finances so you can move forward to settlement.
  • Be reasonable in negotiations with your spouse even if there are bad feelings, as is typically the case in divorces.
  • Pay attention to your monthly bills and your retainer status.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, we strive to make our clients’ divorce cases cost efficient, whether the case involves a modest marital estate or is a high net-worth or high-income earner matter. We constantly counsel our clients on the cost-benefit of decisions as the case progresses. Our goal is to achieve for our clients the best possible outcome at the most reasonable cost.

What is an Educational Support Order?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

Does the Court have the Authority to Order a Party to Contribute to a Child’s College Expenses? 

Yes.  Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(a), the Court has jurisdiction to enter an order requiring one or both parents to provide support for a child to attend an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction for a total of four full academic years.  

Are there any Prerequisites for the Court to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Yes.  The Court may not enter an educational support order unless the Court finds, as a matter of fact, that it is more likely than not that the parents would have provided support for a child’s higher education or private occupational school, had the family remained intact.  

What does the Court Consider in Determining Whether to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(c), in determining whether to enter an educational support order, the Court shall consider all relevant circumstances, including: (1) the parents’ income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents; (2) the child’s need for support to attend an institution of higher education or private occupational school considering the child’s assets and the child’s ability to earn income; (3) the availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans; (4) the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child’s academic record and the financial resources available; (5) the child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education; and (6) evidence, if any, of the institution of higher education or private occupational school the child would attend. 

What Expenses Qualify as “Educational Expenses?”

An educational support order may include support for any necessary educational expenses, including room, board, dues, tuition, fees, registration and application costs, books, and medical insurance.  

What is the Maximum Amount of an Educational Support Order?

An educational support order may not exceed the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student at the time the child matriculates.  The “UConn cap” applies to the entire educational support order for both parents.

Could Parties Agree to Alternate Arrangements regarding Educational Support Orders?

Yes.  The “UConn cap” may be exceeded by the parties by agreement.

When can the Court enter an Educational Support Order?

The Court may enter an educational support order at the time of a decree of dissolution, legal separation, or annulment.  The Court may reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date.  This is usually done in cases of young children.  If the Court does not reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date, then no educational support order may be entered thereafter.  If the Court does reserve jurisdiction, a party may petition the Court to enter an educational support order at a later date.  

When do Educational Support Orders Terminate? 

An educational support order must terminate no later than a child’s attaining age twenty-three.

Could an Educational Support Order be entered for a Child’s Graduate School Expenses?

No, the Court does not have jurisdiction to enter an educational support order for a child’s graduate or postgraduate education beyond a bachelor’s degree.  However, parties may agree to be responsible for and share these expenses.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience in addressing disputes related to a child’s post-secondary educational support throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut, whether the issue arises incident to a dissolution of marriage action or post-judgment.

How is Life Insurance Treated in a Connecticut Divorce Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

Can I Obtain Information Regarding My Spouse’s Life Insurance Coverage during a Connecticut Divorce?

As part of the discovery (i.e., information gathering) phase of any Connecticut divorce case, it is critical that both sides disclose to one another information regarding any life insurance policies in place at the time, including life insurance policies provided through employment and life insurance policies held in a life insurance trust.  Each party has an obligation to disclose any life insurance policies on his or her life on a Financial Affidavit.  Even if a life insurance policy is held in a life insurance trust, it should still be disclosed on a Financial Affidavit, though not all parties do so.  It is common practice for Fairfield County divorce attorneys to request copies of life insurance policies and life insurance trusts as part of their formal discovery requests in order to obtain necessary information about insurance coverage.

Can I Change the Beneficiary of My Life Insurance Policies during a Connecticut Divorce?

In Connecticut, changing the beneficiary of life insurance policies while the divorce action is pending is a violation of the Automatic Orders.  If a divorce attorney discovers that the opposing party has changed the beneficiary of his or her life insurance policy during the pendency of the case from his or her spouse to someone else, or has let the policies lapse by failing to pay the premiums, he or she can file a motion in order to request remedies from the Court.

Is Life Insurance an Asset that a Court Can Divide? 

Generally speaking, life insurance policies are not assets divisible by a Connecticut Court.  The cash value of any whole life insurance policies, however, is an asset that can be divided in a divorce case.  Typically, the spouse who owns the whole life policy will keep the policy and the other spouse will receive an asset equivalent to his or her one-half share of the cash value.  

Will Life Insurance Be Included in the Final Orders in My Connecticut Divorce?

Under Connecticut law, particularly General Statutes Section 46b-82, Courts can order that life insurance be maintained as security for a party’s alimony, child support, and/or college obligations.

Can I Use My Life Insurance Trust to Satisfy My Life Insurance Obligation?

It is common in Fairfield County for divorce clients to have life insurance trusts that own their life insurance policies.  In cases where there is a life insurance trust, the divorce attorneys must obtain a copy of the trust in order to review the terms.  Some life insurance trusts exclude the other spouse as a beneficiary upon the filing of a divorce action and others exclude an ex-spouse.  Many times experienced divorce attorneys will work with the parties’ estate planning attorneys in order to determine the terms of the trust.

What if I Cannot Afford Life Insurance?   

General Statutes Section 46b-82 provides that a party may not be ordered to maintain life insurance after the divorce if he or she can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is uninsurable or cannot pay the cost of the life insurance premiums.  If a party has health issues or has other reasons, including age, for not being able to afford life insurance, he or she can request that life insurance not be ordered, or that it a reduced amount of coverage be ordered.

Is My Life Insurance Obligation Modifiable?

Unless there is an Order precluding a party from modifying his or her life insurance obligation, most life insurance Orders in Connecticut are modifiable by law if a party can prove a substantial change in circumstances.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have experience in dealing with life insurance coverage issues, and can work with clients to ensure they are best protected, whether during or after a divorce.

Common Questions About Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

Let’s face it – everyone knows someone who is divorced or going through a divorce. You may start the divorce process already armed with questions and misconceptions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about family law in Connecticut.

Am I Allowed to Date During my Divorce?

Your divorce action has been filed in Connecticut. Are you and your spouse now “allowed” to start dating other people? The short answer is, yes. However, while you are not legally prevented from dating during the pendency of your divorce, use discretion. The divorce process is already emotional, even before you add third parties to the mix. The implications of dating during the divorce are different in every case, and can depend on many factors, such as whether children are impacted or if assets are being spent.

Does the Party Who Files for Divorce have an Advantage?

In Connecticut, it does not matter if you are the Plaintiff (the party who initially files the divorce action) or the Defendant (the responding party). There is no presumption of guilt or fault either way.  If your case goes to a Hearing or a Trial, the Plaintiff will present to the Judge first, and the Defendant will go second. Otherwise, Plaintiffs and Defendants are treated the same.

You may have personal reasons as to why you would prefer to be the person initiating the divorce action or the person responding to it. At Broder & Orland LLC, we try to take these preferences into consideration when deciding how to start the case.

Can I Change the Locks on my House During my Divorce?

In Connecticut, we have automatic orders (Connecticut Practice Book §25-5) that address this issue. If you are living together with your spouse on the date that the action is started, you may not deny him or her use of the current primary residence. If you believe that your circumstances warrant exclusive possession of the primary residence, you can file a Motion with the Court to request an order which prevents your spouse from living in the home during the divorce.

Do I Need to have a Reason for Filing for Divorce, Such as Adultery or Abandonment? 

Connecticut is a no-fault divorce state. This means that neither party has to prove, and a Judge does not need to make a finding, that one spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, in Connecticut, a party can file on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown,” which is a claim that the marriage has broken down permanently without hope of reconciliation. Most Connecticut divorces are filed this way.

If you file for divorce on the basis of irretrievable breakdown, you may still argue that your spouse’s actions caused the breakdown of your marriage. However, such facts will go to the Judge’s decision about the division of assets and alimony and not to the issue of whether or not a divorce should be granted.

How Are Assets Divided in a Connecticut Divorce? 

Whether your case is resolved by agreement or a trial court order, in Connecticut, a Judge must find that the arrangement is equitable. Equitable does not always mean even, and assets are not necessarily divided 50/50 between spouses. Your assets will be divided in a way that is fair based on the circumstances of your case. Considerations include the length of your marriage, the nature of your estate, the employability of you and your spouse and the contributions of each spouse, as well as several other factors.

Broder & Orland LLC encourages potential clients to arrange for an initial consultation in either our Westport or Greenwich office in order to ask questions, dispel misconceptions and gain knowledge about the divorce process in Connecticut.

Second Opinions in Connecticut Divorce Cases

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

Is it Appropriate to Get a Second Opinion in my Divorce Case? 

Divorce litigation is difficult. It’s costly both emotionally and financially. It is not uncommon for clients to feel overwhelmed by the process and at times disenchanted with their attorneys. Given that your divorce is one of the most impactful events in your life, you want to get it right. And sometimes, that means getting a second opinion just as you would for example, when it comes to medical care.

What Can I Expect From a Second Opinion? 

Often the second opinion will be confirmatory. If you have wisely chosen your divorce attorney, likely he or she has done everything consistent with your best interests. Eliciting a second opinion from another well respected attorney will make you feel more comfortable that your divorce is on the right path. Sometimes a second opinion with a well qualified attorney will enlighten you as to alternative approaches creative solutions, or issues that require attention.

Should I Discuss Getting a Second Opinion with my Current Divorce Attorney? 

Ideally, if you think a second opinion is warranted, you should discuss it with your current attorney instead of circumventing him or her. Seasoned attorneys have confidence in their abilities but also recognize that there are times when another set of well-trained eyes on your case can be very constructive. There may even be situations where your current divorce attorney will suggest that you get another opinion. You should consider the recommendation that you do so in the best light, not as a signal that your attorney is giving up on you.

What Information Should I Provide to the Second Opinion Attorney? 

When you meet with an attorney for a second opinion you should make sure to provide that attorney in advance with as much information as you can in order for that meeting to be meaningful. This might include, for example: pleadings, Financial Affidavits, Case Management Agreements, any Court rulings, Briefs and Memoranda of Law, Pre-Trial Conference memoranda, reports of experts, appraisals, discovery responses, custody and psychological evaluations, financial documents, settlement offers, and pertinent correspondence.

Schedule enough time with the second opinion attorney to be able to discuss all of the issues. It will also be helpful for you to bring your own written agenda items in order to address all your concerns. Make sure to take notes during the meeting. If you don’t understand something, ask again until you do. Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of all the items you wanted to discuss.

What Should I do After Receiving a Second Opinion?

Make an appointment with your current attorney to review what you have learned. Again, make sure there is enough time to discuss it all. Bring your notes with you. Remember, the point is not to challenge your attorney but to augment what both of you have previously addressed.

In most cases, if you carefully choose your initial attorney and then your second opinion attorney, you will find that you will want to stay with your original choice. While there is added cost to seeking another opinion, it is typically minimal compared to the overall cost of your case and really terrific value in that it will round out your knowledge, set you on a clearer path, and make you feel more comfortable.

If seeking a second opinion causes you to have concerns about continuing with your current attorney, you should discuss that with him or her in a very straightforward manner. Be up front about why you want to change attorneys and request that your attorney cooperate with successor counsel, whether it’s the second opinion attorney you met with or someone else. Do make sure to settle any outstanding bill with your current attorney before moving on. He or she may have a right to retain your file until you do so, but beyond that, it is the right thing to do and will start off your representation with your new attorney on the right foot.

At Broder & Orland LLC we recognize that certain divorce clients may want to seek a second opinion and on occasion we even initiate the suggestion that they do so. In certain cases we also provide second opinions with an appropriate protocol in place.

How Do I Commence an Action for Divorce in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

What Documents Must be Prepared and Served Upon my Spouse in order to Commence an Action for Divorce?

In order to commence an action for divorce in Connecticut, the following documents must be prepared and served upon your spouse: a Summons, a Complaint, a Notice of Automatic Orders, and a blank Appearance form.  

What is a Summons?

A Summons is a notice to a Defendant that he or she is being sued.  In a divorce case, a box will be checked indicating that the Plaintiff is seeking a dissolution of marriage from the Defendant.  The only information contained in a Summons is the location and address of the Court where the action will be heard, each party’s name and address, a Return Date, and a Case Management Date.  A Summons will be signed by your attorney.

What is a Complaint?

A Complaint sets forth the legal and factual basis for the divorce action.  The following information will be contained in a Complaint: each party’s name, including any maiden name(s), if applicable, a statement establishing the Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, the names and dates of birth of any child(ren) under the age of twenty-three, a statement indicating whether either party or any child(ren) have received state aid and/or public assistance, and a statement setting forth the grounds for the divorce, and a statement that the marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably.  A Complaint will also state, in very general terms, the relief sought from the other party.  A Complaint will be signed by your attorney.  

What are the Automatic Orders?

The Automatic Orders are “stand still” orders meant to maintain the status quo during the pendency of a divorce action with respect to financial matters, as well as child-related matters.  The Automatic Orders become binding on the Plaintiff when his or her attorney signs the initial documents, and they become binding upon the Defendant upon service.  

What is an Appearance Form?

An Appearance form will be completed by either by your spouse, if he or she chooses to represent him or herself, or by his or her attorney.  The Defendant’s Appearance indicates to the Plaintiff that the Defendant will be participating in the case.  It also ensures that the Defendant receives notice of all documents and pleadings filed in the action.  An Appearance will list the name and address of a self-represented party, or his or her attorney, as well as a statement as to whether that individual agrees to accept service of documents and pleadings electronically.

Who Serves the Initial Documents on my Spouse?

Initial papers for a divorce must be served by a State Marshal.

Must my Spouse be Served with the Initial Papers Personally?

Not necessarily.  If your spouse has already retained an attorney, it is possible that the initial papers may be served on his or her attorney, if that attorney is authorized to accept the initial papers on your spouse’s behalf.  If you spouse has not already retained an attorney, the initial papers must be served on your spouse.  This may be accomplished by having the initial papers personally served upon your spouse, or by having them left at your spouse’s usual place of abode.

What Happens After my Spouse is Served with the Initial Papers?

After your spouse has been served, the initial papers will be filed with the Court, together with proof that service has been made by a State Marshal.  The initial papers must be filed with the Court on or before the Return Date specified in the Summons and Complaint.    

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience in commencing divorce actions throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.  Our attorneys will ensure that you fully understand exactly what this process entails.

Can I Get Exclusive Use of the Marital Residence During My Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Yes.  Connecticut courts have the authority to award exclusive use and occupancy of the home  to either spouse while a divorce is pending, which means that one spouse can be ordered to vacate the home until further court order.  Connecticut General Statutes 46b-83(a) provides, “At any time after the return day of a complaint … [t]he court may also award exclusive use of the family home or any other dwelling unit which is available for use as a residence pendent lite to either of the parties as is just and equitable without regard to the respective interests of the parties in the property.”

What is the Procedure in Connecticut?

A motion is filed with the court which will be scheduled for hearing before a judge within a few weeks of filing. “Each motion for exclusive possession shall state the nature of the property, whether it is rental property or owned by the parties or one of them, the length of tenancy or ownership of each party, the current family members residing therein and the grounds upon which the moving party seeks exclusive possession.”  Connecticut  Practice Book § 25-25.

Does it Matter Which Party Has Title to the House?

No.  A court may award exclusive occupancy regardless of whose name the home is titled in.  In fact, ownership of a home is not necessary, and a court may order exclusive use of rental properties as well.

Are Specific Grounds Required?

There are no specific statutory grounds, however, the Practice Book requires the motion to state “the grounds upon which the moving party seeks exclusive possession.”  While a court will consider factors such as the nature of the relationship between the parties, the grounds must be more compelling than that of spouses not getting along.  The existence of physical and/or substance abuse for example, will be considered significant, especially if these conditions are taking place in the presence of minor children.

Does It Affect Who Has to Pay the Expenses While the Divorce is Pending?

Courts are reluctant to order the parties to pay for two residences if it is evident they cannot afford it, however, if the circumstances justify it, a court will grant the motion regardless of the financial situation.  While a Connecticut divorce is pending, there are Automatic Orders in effect which are intended to preserve the status quo as to the payment of household expenses, and courts may order the payment of ordinary household expenses from assets if necessary.

What Happens if There are Minor Children Involved?

A court may base its orders on what is in the best interests of the minor children, which often means that the children will stay in the marital home with the primary caregiver.  Depending on the circumstances, the court will also require the parties to work out a temporary schedule of appropriate parenting access.  Sometimes that may involve a schedule of “bird nesting” to keep the children in the marital home while the parents rotate occupancy of the home or part of the home.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, are very experienced with the issue of exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence during a Connecticut divorce and with assisting clients in developing an appropriate plan to meet individual and family needs.

What is Legal Separation in Connecticut?

This Week’s blog by Lauren M. Healy

What is Legal Separation? 

Legal Separation is a lawsuit that is commenced by one spouse against the other, resulting in an enforceable court order that resolves issues such as custody, division of assets and liabilities and the payment of alimony and/or child support. Married couples who are separating and want to have a formal agreement on important issues have the option of filing for either Divorce or Legal Separation.

Is Legal Separation the same thing as Divorce?

No. Although Legal Separation and Divorce have many similarities, they are two different legal actions. The major difference between Divorce and Legal Separation is that when a Divorce is completed, the parties are free to remarry. When parties are legally separated, they are still legally married and unable to remarry.

Can you turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce? 

Yes. There are two ways to turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce. One option is to convert the action (from Legal Separation to Divorce) while the lawsuit is still pending. This requires filing a simple Motion with the Court, requesting that the action be converted before any orders are final.

It is also possible to wait until after the Legal Separation is finalized to convert the Legal Separation into a Divorce judgment. There is no time limit on requesting a divorce after Legal Separation. Sometimes parties live legally separated for years before getting divorced.

Why file for Legal Separation instead of Divorce?

The decision of whether to file for Legal Separation or Divorce is very personal. In some cases, for religious or other reasons, Divorce is not a suitable option. If a couple wants to live separate and apart physically or financially, without the finality of a Divorce, Legal Separation could be a better choice. Legal Separation can also be used as a stepping stone to Divorce. Since it is so easy to convert to a Divorce, sometimes the party commencing the action chooses to start with the softer concept of Legal Separation.

Also, a couple may choose to pursue Legal Separation if they prefer to be separated but can maintain or acquire benefits by remaining legally married, such as health insurance or social security benefits.

What are the Grounds for Legal Separation in Connecticut? 

In Connecticut, you need a reason, or grounds, to be legally separated. The grounds for Legal Separation are the same as for Divorce. Since Connecticut is a “no fault” state, it is not necessary for either party has to prove that the other caused the marriage to end. Instead, the parties can simply represent that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, with no hope of reconciliation.

Do I need a Lawyer for a Legal Separation?

Just as in a Divorce, parties are not required to have legal representation to obtain a Legal Separation. However, since major parenting and financial issues are negotiated and decided, including custody, assets, liabilities and support, it is advisable to obtain legal counsel in order to fully understand your rights and obligations pursuant to Connecticut law.

At Broder & Orland LLC we apply our experience and knowledge of the law to the specific circumstances of each case, in order to help our clients decide the best course of action when considering a Divorce or Legal Separation.