Tag: Divorce Lawyer

How To Divorce Discreetly

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

HOW TO DIVORCE DISCREETLY

  1. Are divorce records public?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. How should you handle children’s issues?

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

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

 

 

Parental Alienation in Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

What is Parental Alienation?

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

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

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

Some examples of Alienating Behavior are:

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

Do Connecticut Family Courts Recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome?

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

How does Parental Alienation Impact my Connecticut Divorce?

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

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

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. As experienced divorce and custody trial lawyers we understand how to effectively prosecute and defend cases involving Parental Alienation to the Court, as well as how to retain the necessary consultants and/or experts for your case.

 

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.

 

Why Taking Divorce Advice From Friends Can Be Dangerous

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy.

Why Taking Divorce Advice From Friends Can Be Dangerous

Scared. Lonely. Angry. Sad. Vulnerable. Just a few of the emotions that you may feel when you are going through a divorce. It is no wonder that our clients often look to friends and family, especially those who have also been divorced, to provide comfort and support during a difficult time. After all, it is friends and family who have your best interest at heart. Why, then, should your divorce attorney be cautioning you against taking such advice?

Unrealistic Expectations

Probably the most common mistake that people make when taking the advice from friends, colleagues or acquaintances about divorce is assuming that all Connecticut divorces are treated the same way. For example, if your friend who was married for the same amount of time as you received lifetime alimony in her divorce, shouldn’t you receive the same? Even the most innocuous conversations about other people’s divorces can set unreasonable or unrealistic expectations. In reality, settlement outcomes, and trial decisions for that matter, are largely fact specific. While there are particular statutes that provide criteria for a judge consider when determining alimony and property division, the actual application of that statutory criteria is different in every case. There are so many different factors that come into play that it is downright risky to assume that your case will result in the same outcome as any other case. Your attorney is the best person to advise you about how your case is likely to be resolved.

Not All Divorces Are Created Equal

It is important to work with your attorney to create a strategy for your case that is determined based on the facts and goals of your family. It is common for clients to feel pressure from outside sources, be it family, friends or other advisors, to make demands or act in a certain manner. Taking strategic advice from non-attorneys, no matter how well-meaning, can backfire because they most likely do not understand all of the intricacies involved. While it can be helpful to consider the input of outside advisors, remember that such advice might be entirely inconsistent with the facts of your case or the applicable law. Your attorney is looking at the big picture, including your needs, your goals as well as the likelihood of achieving certain outcomes. It can be extremely helpful to put these advisors in touch with your attorney, so that there can be collaboration and understanding with regard to the possible and likely resolutions of your case.

You Hired Us For A Reason. Let Us Do Our job!

You went through the process of carefully vetting your attorney and you hired us for a reason—to guide you through the legal process of divorce, and to provide you with the knowledge and power to make decisions that are best for you. Listen to us! We have particular insight, not just in the laws of the state of Connecticut, but also into the background of the Judges, court system and opposing counsel. While you may not always want to take our advice, at least make sure you understand it, before rejecting it. In the end, know that the decision will be yours, as the client.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we are sensitive to the unique facts of every case. We encourage the inclusion and participation of different support systems for our clients and will often create a team approach, along with therapists and financial professionals, in order to best achieve a positive resolution for our client.

CAROLE T. ORLAND QUOTED IN GREENWICH MAGAZINE, JULY 2019.

No.191 SEPARATE WAYS CAROLE ORLAND

When it comes to divorce, the dirty little secret is not that one of the partners had an affair; rather, it’s that this transgression will not significantly affect the court settlement. Here in Connecticut, assets in most  divorce cases nearly always get split down the middle. As for his affair with the dog groomer? That might nudge the needle a bit, to 50/50 or maybe 60/40 percent – but beyond that? Not likely.

Child Support is mandated by state guidelines, and alimony, too, falls within a range that any reputable divorce attorney can estimate. Even Parenting Plans are predictable, reflecting the availability of each party to parent the children. While the court considers all circumstances in a divorce case, says Carole Topol Orland, attorney and cofounding member and partner of Broder & Orland LLC in Westport and Greenwich, it doesn’t have to apply any of them to the settlement.

So why make divorce a war? Find an experienced attorney beforehand who can clue you in on the likely outcome, saving you lots of anguish, time and money.  Carole T. Orland

Read the full article, published in the July 2019 issue of the Greenwich Magazine as well as all their publications including Westport, New Canaan-Darien, Stamford and Fairfield.

 

 

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.

Mediation in Divorce Cases

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

What is Mediation in the Context of Divorce?

Mediation can be a helpful approach in certain divorce cases. Typically the mediator is a lawyer who objectively tries to help resolve your case or specific issues within the case.

Are There Different Kinds of Divorce Mediations?

Yes.  Sometimes the parties hire a divorce mediator before either one has filed for divorce or shortly thereafter. Often the reason is that they are desirous of an amicable process and resolution at a moderate cost.

In other instances, the parties litigate the divorce with counsel and at some point decide they want assistance in settling the case, typically before trial. In this model, they usually hire a retired judge or elder statesman of the bar to conduct a session with the parties and counsel. This process can last anywhere from several hours to a full day.

On occasion, parties who are represented by counsel may hire a mediator near the beginning of the case to help resolve disputes as the case is litigated.

Is Mediation the Opposite of Litigation?

Not necessarily. As described above, mediation is often done in the context of litigation. Litigation is not necessarily a scary term and does not have to be contentious or nasty. It is often a conventional way of moving the divorce process along. In some instances it can be easier, quicker, and less expensive than mediation.

When Does Mediation Without Counsel Work Best?

If the parties have trust in each other and share the same objective and timetable for resolving their divorce, mediation can be a good approach. Of course, it is key to hire a reputable, experienced mediator. 

When Does Mediation Not Work Best?

Often, trust has eroded leading up to divorce. Also, sometimes the parties are on such unequal footing with regard to an understanding of financial issues, that the well informed party has an inherent advantage to the detriment of the other party. A common refrain is: “Let’s go to mediation. We will avoid lawyers and save money. We can work this out!” Sometimes, that obfuscates the underlying motive of trying to “put one over” on the other party. A failed mediation can be a real detriment to ultimately resolving the divorce as it can be a waste of time and money, as well as a disappointment when it is perceived that a spouse has not acted in good faith.

Is Mediation a Good Approach to Resolving the Part of the Case Relating to Child Custody and Parenting Time?

It can be. Good divorce lawyers make it their business to resolve custody and parenting issues at the beginning of the case. But an alternative might be that the parties resolve these issues on their own with a mediator. In that case, the mediator may be a mental health professional, such as a family therapist.

What Does it Mean to Have a Mediation Coach or Review Counsel?

Most of the time, parties who hire a mediator on their own will also separately hire lawyers to coach them as to divorce laws, strategy, and outcomes. They also may hire review counsel to review the Separation Agreement drafted by the mediator. The coach and review counsel are often the same person. This adds another layer to the process and additional cost. There is also the potential that review counsel’s opinions may de-rail the process at the end of mediation. It is important for parties to stress to their review counsel that they are not looking to re-write the proposed Separation Agreement, but rather looking for any potential minefields.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, we are experienced in all forms of divorce mediation. We act as mediators for parties who have or do not have counsel, and attend mediation with our clients in many of the cases we litigate.

Divorce in Connecticut: The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

What is a Guardian Ad Litem in a Connecticut Divorce Case?

In the event that the parties cannot reach a resolution on parenting or custodial matters, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is often appointed by the Court, either directly by the Judge or after agreement between the parties and counsel. The primary function of a GAL is to promote and protect the child(ren)’s best interests throughout the divorce case.

Who qualifies to be a Guardian Ad Litem?

To qualify, a GAL must be an attorney in good standing who is licensed to practice law in the state of Connecticut, or a mental health professional in good standing who is licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in the areas of clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, psychology, or psychiatry.

Further, pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book Section 25-62 there is a training program which must be completed in order for a person to qualify as a GAL.

What is the Role of the Guardian Ad Litem?

The primary role of a GAL is to determine what is in the best interests of the child(ren) with respect to custody and/or a parenting plan. The GAL will investigate all relative facts and claims, meet with the parties, the child(ren), and any relevant third parties such as teachers, childcare providers, coaches, and/or medical professionals/therapists treating the child(ren) and the parties.

The GAL will participate in court hearings and possibly testify. If the matter goes to trial, the GAL will make recommendations to the court as to how the outstanding child(ren) related issues should be decided. In my opinion, the primary function of a GAL, in addition to the above, is to strongly encourage the resolution of disputes between the parties. 

Who Pays for the Guardian Ad Litem?

The GAL is paid for by the parties. The court will review the financial affidavits to determine the percentage each party will contribute to the GAL’s fees. If the parties cannot afford a GAL’s rate there is a sliding scale that the court can apply thereby limiting the hourly rate of the GAL.

What is the Difference Between a Guardian Ad Litem and an Attorney For the Minor Child (AMC)?

The basic difference is that a GAL represents the child(ren)’s best interests and, while the AMC supports the best interest of the child(ren), he or she primarily represents the child(ren)’s legal interests.  Generally speaking, a GAL is appointed for younger children, while an AMC is appointed for older children.

Another notable difference between a GAL and an AMC is that a GAL may testify as a witness at a hearing or trial and an AMC may not.

Can a Guardian Ad Litem be Removed from a Case?

While it is an extremely rare occurrence, it is possible for a GAL to be removed from a case. In order to do so, a party must file a motion with the court to seek the GAL’s removal and prove that the GAL is not acting in the best interests of the child(ren) and has a prejudice and/or bias against one of the parties.

At Broder & Orland LLC we carefully analyze and make all efforts to choose the most appropriate GAL for our client as well as his/her child(ren). Our hope and expectation is that a GAL will be able to work with the parties and their counsel directly to achieve a settlement which first and foremost benefits the child(ren).