Tag: Divorce Attorneys

What is the Significance of the Case Management Agreement in a Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • The Case Management Agreement is a document that must be filed in every Connecticut divorce case.
  • The Case Management Agreement includes important dates for your case, but these dates are not set in stone.
  • You and your spouse can agree to proceed with your case more quickly than the deadlines found in your Case Management Agreement.

What is the Case Management Agreement in a Connecticut Divorce Case?  

The Case Management Agreement is a document that must be filed in every contested Connecticut divorce case.  It is an agreement between the parties and their counsel that sets forth whether the case is a contested custody action, or a case in which parenting issues have been resolved. The Court wants to know at a relatively early point in the case whether there are contested parenting issues that require Court intervention.  If parenting issues are resolved, then the Case Management Agreement will state that only financial issues exist in the case.

The Case Management Agreement also includes dates by which discovery requests will be made, discovery completed, depositions taken, appraisals done, and expert disclosures made. This Agreement sets forth the approximate date that the parties anticipate being ready for a settlement conference. The Case Management Agreement needs to be filed with the Court on or before the Case Management Date, which is approximately 90 days after the divorce case is filed.

Each Case Management Agreement is tailored to the facts of the particular case, taking into account the issues in the case, how complicated the case is, and how quickly the parties want the case to move.  In cases where the parties cannot agree on the dates in their Case Management Agreement, a judge will decide what the dates are.  It is rare for parties not to agree on the dates in their Case Management Agreement, especially when competent Fairfield County divorce attorneys are involved.

Why Aren’t We Abiding by the Dates in my Case Management Agreement?

At Broder & Orland LLC, we take the position that the dates in the Case Management Agreement are deadlines that a Court could impose, even if Courts do not impose them in every instance.  The general purpose of the Case Management Agreement is to put in writing both parties’ expectations for moving through the discovery phase of the divorce case so that meaningful settlement discussions can begin.

Many times, judges in Connecticut do not enforce the exact dates in a Case Management Agreement with respect to deadlines for discovery requests and depositions because there can be particular reasons or developments in a case that warrant some flexibility.  For example, though the Case Management Agreement may say that discovery requests must be made by a certain date, a Court is unlikely to preclude a discovery request after that deadline, particularly where new information has been discovered that leads to additional documents being needed.

One area where the Case Management Agreement does provide an enforceable deadline is with respect to expert disclosures.  If the parties are using, or expect to use, experts, such as business valuation experts, real estate appraisers, or earning capacity experts, the Case Management Agreement will establish the deadline by which those experts must be formally disclosed to the other side.  Unless the parties and their counsel mutually agree to disclose their experts pursuant to a different schedule, the expert disclosure dates in the Case Management Agreement will be strictly enforced by most judges.

Can My Case Move More Quickly Than the Dates Set Forth in My Case Management Agreement?

Westport and Stamford divorce clients will be pleased to know that they can settle their case at any time, including prior to the date that the Case Management Agreement needs to be submitted.  At Broder & Orland LLC, we encourage our clients to provide discovery to the other side promptly, prior to the deadline set forth in the Case Management Agreement, so the case does not get stalled while the other side pursues missing or late discovery.  If both parties are motivated to complete their case earlier than the dates in their Case Management Agreement and cooperate to ensure that they do so, it will typically get done at a faster pace.

Appeals in Connecticut Family Law Cases

Every Connecticut litigant has the right to appeal a final judgment entered by a trial court.  In divorce cases, these appeals often arise after the trial court enters financial orders, but, on occasion, there may be sufficient cause to appeal a trial court’s orders concerning the custody of and/or visitation with minor children.  In Connecticut, an appeal must be filed no later than twenty days after the court issues notice of its decision.  It is important that if you receive a decision from the trial court with which you disagree or that you do not understand, you seek out the advice of seasoned appellate counsel immediately.  If your former spouse is filing an appeal, you should speak with an appellate lawyer to make sure that your position is adequately defended on appeal and to ensure that your rights are protected during the pendency of the appeal.  The attorneys at Broder and Orland LLC have experience representing individuals in Connecticut’s Appellate Courts and can help answer your questions.

In Connecticut, most appeals from a trial court’s final judgment are heard and decided by the Connecticut Appellate Court.  After the Appellate Court has rendered a decision, a party can ask the Connecticut Supreme Court to review the decision of the Appellate Court.   On rare occasions, an appeal of a trial court’s final judgment can be heard directly by the Supreme Court without the need to seek review first with the Appellate Court.  This can occur when: (1) the appeal concerns an issue that has never been ruled upon by the Appellate Court or the Supreme Court in Connecticut; (2) the appeal raises an issue where the Appellate Court has issued disparate opinions in the past that are in need of being harmonized; or (3) when the Supreme Court determines that the issue at hand is a matter of utmost public importance.

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.  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.  The trial court can terminate the automatic stay of its orders on its own volition or after a motion is filed by either party.  In such a situation, the trial court is not 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 the Appellate Court.

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 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.  The Appellate Court has the same power to review the issuance of a stay as it does the termination of one.

The likelihood of success on appeal is largely determined by the level of scrutiny applied by the Appellate Court.  The Appellate Court has broad authority to overturn a trial court’s decision when the decision rests upon a question of law which would include a constitutional claim, interpretation of prior precedents, and statutory interpretation.  This is referred to as plenary review; the Appellate Court decides the issue anew.  Issues concerning factual findings by the trial court or any other decision where the court has the discretion to enter an order as it sees fit is governed by the abuse of discretion standard of review.  Unlike plenary review, the Appellate Court will defer or give the benefit of the doubt to the considerations and determinations made by the trial court.  Mixed issues of law and fact invoke the plenary review standard.  The attorneys at Broder and Orland LLC can review your case to tell you which standard of review would apply to your case.

Unlike the trial court, the Appellate Court does not seek or require the submission of new evidence or new testimony.  The cases at this level are resolved after each party submits well-researched briefs and argues his or her position before the Appellate Court.  In addition to reviewing the trial court’s decision, preparation of an appellate brief requires review of the transcripts from the trial court proceedings at issue and review of the exhibits submitted to the trial court judge.   The party who filed the appeal files the first brief and the other party files a brief in response to the appealing party’s brief.  The appealing party gets the final word and files a reply brief to the responsive brief.  After all of the briefs are filed, the Appellate Court will schedule a date for oral argument before a panel of Appellate judges.  At the Appellate Court, the panel typically consists of three judges.  At the Supreme Court, the panel consists of seven justices.   A party may attend oral argument, but is not required to do so.

Broder & Orland LLC is a full-service family law firm that can provide you with seasoned, practical and vigorous representation in all aspects of family law appellate litigation in Connecticut.