Tag: divorce

WHAT DOES DISSIPATION OF MARITAL ASSETS MEAN IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht., a Westport and Greenwich lawyer at Broder & Orland LLC.

WHAT DOES DISSIPATION OF MARITAL ASSETS MEAN IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

One spouse’s reckless, out-of-control and wasteful spending may be a dissipation of assets resulting in the other spouse receiving a credit in the final allocation of the marital estate. Connecticut courts have the statutory authority under Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81 to consider a spouse’s dissipation of marital assets when determining the nature and value of property to be assigned to each spouse. Finan v. Finan, 949 A.2d 468 (2008). Not all types of spending qualify as a dissipation of marital assets. For example, the sudden repayment of a large loan to parents without the knowledge of the other spouse may or may not be a dissipation of marital assets, depending on the circumstances.

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF A DISSIPATION OF ASSETS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

Not all forms of excessive spending are a dissipation of marital assets. “[A]t a minimum, dissipation in the marital dissolution context requires financial misconduct involving marital assets, such as intentional waste or a selfish financial impropriety, coupled with a purpose unrelated to the marriage.” Gersham v. Gersham, 286 Conn. 341, 346 (2008). Gambling, spending on a paramour, concealment or transfer of an asset to another for little or no consideration are traditional examples of the type of financial misconduct required to obtain a credit. “Even a sharp disagreement between spouses over the wisdom of an expenditure, without more, does not render that expenditure a dissipation of marital assets. … The test is whether the asset was actually wasted or misused.” Id.

DOES THE MISCONDUCT HAVE TO OCCUR DURING THE PENDENCY OF A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

There is a timing requirement for the spending to have occurred, although not limited to the pendency of the divorce case. Just because the expenditures occurred prior to filing the action does not take it out of consideration. “[I]n order for a transaction to constitute dissipation of marital assets for the purposes of equitable distribution … it must occur either (1) in contemplation of divorce or separation; or (2) while the marriage is in serious jeopardy or is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” Finan v. Finan, 949 A.2d 468 (2008). Thus, financial misconduct that occurred pre-separation may properly be considered as long as the marriage was undergoing irretrievable breakdown.

HOW DOES A PARTY ASSERT A CLAIM OF DISSIPATION OF ASSETS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

In addition to claiming a credit for the dissipation of assets in the final allocation of the marital estate pursuant to C.G.S. 46b-81, a party may also assert a claim of dissipation during the pendency of the action as a violation of Automatic Orders pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 25-5. Although the particular misconduct may not be financially remedied with a credit until the end of the divorce action, filing a motion for contempt during the action may serve to preserve the claim and effectively enjoin the conduct.   See, for example, Greenan v. Greenan where a spouse violated automatic orders when he “mortgaged assets, took out loans and converted assets, all the while exercising little restraint over his spending and acting with a sense of entitlement.” Greenan v. Greenan, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk, Docket No. FST FA-09-4015784-S (August 30, 2012, Calmar, J.) Similarly, see the Court’s orders in Barr v. Barr: “In view of the defendant’s dissipation of more than $109,000 in marital assets in violation of the automatic orders, the court finds that such a remedial punishment is appropriate. Accordingly, the defendant shall pay $50,200 (representing 50 percent of $109,000 …) to the plaintiff from his equitable distribution share of the marital assets upon entry of the dissolution decree.” Barr v. Barr, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk, Docket No. FST FA13-4025428-S (May 28, 2015, Heller, J.).

BRODER & ORLAND LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in divorce and family law. Our attorneys are extremely knowledgeable about financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce and are very experienced with seeking the appropriate relief for, as well as defending a claim of, a dissipation of marital assets.

Connecticut Divorce Location

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Where can I file my Connecticut Divorce?

Generally, the town where you reside in Connecticut will dictate in which Judicial District you will file your divorce case. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 51-345, if either you or your spouse are residents of Connecticut, you must file the case in the Judicial District where either you or your spouse resides, except, if your or your spouse resides in the town of:

  1. Manchester, East Windsor, South Windsor or Enfield, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of Tolland.
  2. Plymouth, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of New Britain or the judicial district of Waterbury.
  3. Bethany, Milford, West Haven or Woodbridge, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of New Haven or the judicial district of Ansonia-Milford at Milford.
  4. Southbury, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Ansonia-Milford at Milford or the judicial district of Waterbury.
  5. Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport or Wilton, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk or the judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport.
  6. Watertown or Woodbury, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Waterbury or the judicial district of Litchfield at Torrington.
  7. Avon, Canton, Farmington or Simsbury, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of New Britain.
  8. Newington, Rocky Hill or Wethersfield, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of New Britain.
  9. Cromwell, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Hartford or the judicial district of Middlesex at Middletown.
  10. New Milford you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Danbury or the judicial district of Litchfield at Torrington.
  11. Windham or Ashford, you have the option to file the case in either the judicial district of Windham or the judicial district of Tolland.

If you reside in a town where you are eligible to file your divorce case in more than one Judicial District, there may be a benefit to you to file in one Judicial District versus the other depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Prior to filing your divorce action, you should always discuss your filing options with your attorney.

Can you file for divorce online in Connecticut?

The short answer is yes. In 2015 Connecticut transitioned from paper files to electronic files for divorce cases filed after October 15, 2015. Thus, if you or your attorney is registered for E-services on the Connecticut Judicial Website, you can file your divorce action online, after your spouse is served by a Marshal, without appearing at the Courthouse to file your case.

At Broder & Orland LLC, the largest matrimonial and family law firm in Connecticut with offices in Westport and Greenwich, we carefully consider with our clients the most advantageous place to file their divorce when there is an option under the statute

What is a Motion for Reargument and What Effect Does It Have on My Connecticut Family Law Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray, a Westport and Greenwich attorney at Broder & Orland LLC.

What is a Motion for Reargument?

Under Practice Book Rules 11-11 and 11-12, a party who has litigated a case (or aspect of a case), including a family law case, may file a Motion for Reargument. A Motion for Reargument may be filed after the issuance of a final decision in a family law case, but also may be filed following receipt of an order resulting from most contested proceedings during a family law case, such as a pendente lite order. “[T]he purpose of a reargument is…to demonstrate to the court that there is some decision or some principle of law which would have a controlling effect, and which has been overlooked, or that there has been a misapprehension of facts…It also may be used to address alleged inconsistencies in the trial court’s memorandum of decision as well as claims of law that the [movant] claimed were not addressed by the court.” Opoku v. Grant, 63 Conn. App. 686, 692 (2001). A Motion for Reargument must be filed within twenty days of the issuance of a decision or order, unless you obtain permission from the trial court for an extension of time within which to file.

Why File a Motion for Reargument After a Case Has Been Litigated?

As Opuku indicates, if, after receiving a decision in a Connecticut family law case, it appears that the trial court has overlooked controlling law, or misconstrued the factual evidence before the trial court, you and your lawyer may decide to file a Motion for Reargument. The Motion for Reargument can bring these claims before the trial court, allowing the trial court to reconsider its prior decision and possibly correct the errors you allege. Filing a Motion for Reargument is a way to bring these issues to a trial court such that an appeal of the trial court’s decision or order may be avoided.

Is a Motion for Reargument an Opportunity to Relitigate the Case?

No. A Motion for Reargument does not allow you to raise new claims to the trial court, nor does it allow you to present the same arguments to the trial court in an attempt to convince the judge to overrule his or her decision or order. A properly filed Motion for Reargument points out factual inaccuracies in the trial court’s decision or order and/or raises applicable law that the trial court ignored in the decision or order. The Motion for Reargument is not an opportunity to relitigate your case. If you or your counsel presented your best arguments during the litigation and the trial judge disagreed, a Motion for Reargument will not be an appropriate vehicle. In such a situation, you may be best served by simply filing an appeal if the decision is a final judgment for appeal purposes.

If a Motion for Reargument is Filed in My Connecticut Family Law Case, What Effect Does It Have?

If a Motion for Reargument is filed pursuant to Practice Book Section 11-11, it tolls the time period within which an appeal must be filed. Practice Book Section 11-11 applies to judgments that are final for appeal purposes. Practice Book Section 11-12, on the other hand, applies to judgments that are not final for appeal purposes. If your intention is to file a Motion for Reargument regarding a final judgment for appeal purposes so that the appeal period is tolled, it is critical that you title your Motion for Reargument an “11-11 Motion” and note that it is an 11-11 Motion on the bottom of the first page of the Motion before filing it with the Court. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your ability to appeal your case if you so choose. If you file a Motion for Reargument pursuant to Practice Book Section 11-11, the trial court judge could alter his or her decision if he or she grants the motion. Therefore, the appeal period is extended, as a party may decide that an appeal is not needed following the decision on the Motion for Reargument.

What Happens After a Motion for Reargument is Filed?

Once a Motion for Reargument is filed, the trial court judge who heard the case can either deny the Motion outright without a hearing, or grant the Motion for Reargument. The trial judge’s granting or denying of the Motion is typically done fairly quickly after filing. If the Motion for Reargument is granted, typically the trial court will then schedule a hearing date for reargument, at which time both parties can present their arguments as to why relief should or should not be granted. Following reargument, the trial court judge then will issue a decision on the Motion for Reargument, wherein the relief may or may not be granted. Sometimes, a trial court judge will grant the Motion for Reargument and hold a hearing, but ultimately will not change his or her decision or order following the reargument hearing. The trial judge has 120 days in order to make a decision following argument, but most judges will issue a decision much sooner than that. Once the trial court judge issues the decision regarding the Motion for Reargument, either side has twenty days following the date of reargument decision within which to file an appeal of the original decision or order, again, so long as the Motion for Reargument was framed as a Practice Book 11-11 Motion.

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 and/or have questions regarding whether a Motion for Reargument should be filed in your case following the issuance of a decision or order, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

How To Divorce Discreetly

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland, a Westport and Greenwich attorney at Broder & Orland LLC.

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!

 

 

How are Same-Sex Divorces Handled in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.

How are Same-Sex Divorces Handled in Connecticut?

Same-sex divorce in Connecticut is governed by the same Family Law statutes as heterosexual divorce, however, there are particular issues that should be analyzed at the outset of the process to ensure a successful outcome. Connecticut legally recognized same-sex marriage in 2008, and since then there have been additional changes in both Federal and State law that have affected the application of Family Law in Connecticut. For example, in 2016, the Internal Revenue Service issued a ruling re-defining terms such as “spouse,” “husband and wife” and “marriage” to include individuals married to a person of the same sex if the individuals are lawfully married under state law. Because the divorce process involves asset division and transfers that are exempt from taxation if pursuant to divorce, applicability is particularly important because it is based on recognition of one’s legal marital status.

How is Jurisdiction of Same-Sex Divorce Determined in Connecticut?

Connecticut not only recognizes same-sex marriage, but will automatically merge civil unions that were entered into prior to the marriage (Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-38qq). Connecticut will also recognize an out-of-state relationship as marriage if the jurisdiction of origin provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage recognized in Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-28a). This means that if an individual meets the residency requirements of living in Connecticut for at least 12 months prior to the filing of a divorce action, parties to a formal relationship originating in another state may divorce in Connecticut so long as the relationship criteria are met.

How are Custody and Parenting Plans in Same-Sex Divorce Handled in Connecticut?

An initial step for parties with children in any divorce is to determine the parenting arrangements. In same-sex divorce, custody and parenting plans can be established once the child(ren)’s legal parents are identified. This is because Connecticut statutes providing for parental rights and obligations of both custody and support extend and apply to legally recognized parents. For same-sex couples that may include confirming the existence of a surrogacy agreement, legal adoption and co-adoption, and spousal consent under the alternative reproductive technology law. A parent who is not legally recognized as such may assert custodial rights, but only through a third-party custody proceeding.   In Connecticut, there is a marital presumption that a child born to a married woman is presumed to be the child of both individuals in the marriage. When Connecticut recognized same-sex marriages in 2008, the presumption extended to children born to individuals in same-sex marriages.

Once parentage is established, the same statutory criteria apply with respect to determining parenting plans in accordance with best interests of the children (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56) and with respect to the calculation and enforcement of child support (Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-37).

What are Factors to Consider for Alimony and Asset Division in a Connecticut Same-Sex Divorce?

In Connecticut, one of the statutory factors that is considered in both the calculation of alimony and the equitable division of assets is “the length of the marriage.” (Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81 and 82). Since Connecticut legally recognizes same-sex marriages, it would seem to be a straightforward determination, however, some couples have been together far longer than Connecticut has recognized that legal relationship and want to include that time. Connecticut does not recognize cohabitation or common-law marriage, but Connecticut civil unions are automatically merged into marriages by operation of statute (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38rr(a)), and Connecticut will recognize legal relationships entered into outside of Connecticut as marriage as long as that relationship conferred similar legal rights and obligations benefits of marriage in the state of origin making it possible to include it in the length of the marriage.

What are Federal Tax Considerations for Same-Sex Divorce in Connecticut?

The Internal Revenue Service redefined its marital status terms in 2016 to include individuals married to another person of the same sex if the couple is lawfully married under state law. IRS Revenue Ruling 2013-17 specifically excludes domestic partnerships, civil unions and other formal relationships that are not recognized as marriage under state law. This is important for individuals in same-sex marriages and by extension, divorce, because not all individuals will be able to claim alimony payments as non-taxable income for example or characterize lump sum alimony as a non-taxable property distribution incident to divorce.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce. Our attorneys are experienced with the unique issues faced by individuals in a same-sex divorce, and understand the evolving law with respect to both parenting and financial planning to achieve the desired results moving forward.

DO GRANDPARENTS HAVE A LEGAL RIGHT TO VISITATION WITH A GRANDCHILD

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot. 

Do Grandparents Have any Legal Visitation Rights

In Connecticut, grandparents do not have any inherent or “automatic” legal rights with respect to access to or visitation with a grandchild. That said, pursuant to governing Connecticut statutes, a grandparent (and, in fact, any third-party), has the right to petition the court for visitation rights with respect to a minor child.

Under What Circumstances Will Connecticut Courts Grant Visitation Rights to a Non-Parent?

Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §46b-59, any person may submit a verified petition to the Superior Court for the right of visitation with any minor child. In order to succeed on such a petition, the person seeking visitation rights with a minor child must prove, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that: (i) a “parent-like relationship” exists between the petitioning party and the minor child; and (ii) that denial of visitation would cause “real and significant harm.” See C.G.S. §46b-59.

How Do Courts Assess Whether a “Parent-Like Relationship” Exists Between a Minor Child and a Non-Parent?

In assessing whether a “parent-like relationship” exists between a non-parent and a minor child, courts may consider (but are not limited to considering), the following factors:

  1. The existence and length of a relationship between the person and the minor child;
  2. The length of time that the relationship between the person and the minor child has been disrupted;
  3. The specific parent-like activities of the person seeking visitation toward the minor child;
  4. Any evidence that the person seeking visitation has unreasonably undermined the authority and discretion of the custodial parent;
  5. The significant absence of a parent from the life of a minor child;
  6. The death of one of the minor child’s parents;
  7. The physical separation of the parents of the minor child;
  8. The fitness of the person seeking visitation; and
  9. The fitness of the custodial parent.

 Is the “Parent-Like Relationship” Standard Any Different for Grandparents?

Notably, the answer to this question is “yes.” In addition to the factors enumerated above, Connecticut’s governing statute sets forth one additional consideration for assessing whether a “parent-like relationship” exists between a non-parent and a minor child that is applicable only to grandparents. Specifically, Connecticut General Statutes §46b-59(d) provides that in determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between a grandparent and a minor child, the Superior Court may consider “the history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship between the grandparent and the minor child.”

 How Do Courts Determine Whether Denial of Visitation Would Cause Real and Significant Harm?

While there is no definitive answer to this question, in situations where a petitioning party is able to establish the existence of a “parent-like relationship,” Courts typically find that the requisite harm standard is met were visitation to be denied due to the negative effects that severing such a relationship would have on a child. Stated somewhat differently, the requisite harm will generally be established where a third party who has acted as parent to the child is abruptly cut out of the child’s life.

What Will Visitation Look Like if a Non-Parent Petition is Successful?

If the Court grants visitation rights to a non-parent, the governing statute directs courts to set forth the terms and conditions of the visitation including, but not limited to, the schedule of visitation, time and place or places in which the visitation can occur, whether overnight visitation will be allowed and any other terms and conditions that the court determines are in the best interest of the minor child. Notably, in determining the best interest of the minor child, Courts are also directed by statute to consider the wishes of the minor child if such minor child is “of sufficient age and capable of forming an intelligent opinion.” See C.G.S. §46b-59(f).

Although rare, cases involving grandparent (or non-parent) visitation rights are often 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 such matters and are poised to help clients achieve favorable results when such issues arise.

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.

 

What is the Difference between a Family Services Evaluation and a Private Custody Evaluation in a Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

I Have a Contested Custody Case: What are My Options for a Custody Evaluation?

In some divorce cases in Connecticut where legal or physical custody is at issue, or where there is a significant custody-related dispute, such as a dispute regarding a parent’s relocation with the children, a custody evaluation can take place. A custody evaluation is performed by a neutral mental health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker, who is trained to perform custody evaluations in litigated custody cases. The purpose of the custody evaluation is to cull information about the parties and their children that has bearing on the particular custody dispute, to interpret that information for the Court, and, typically, to make recommendations regarding the dispute. A custody evaluation does not take place in every custody case in Connecticut; however, if the parties or the Court decide that a custody evaluation is necessary, there are options for the type of custody evaluation that can take place. Two types of custody evaluations in Connecticut are evaluations that take place through the Family Services Unit and evaluations that are performed privately by forensic psychologists.

Who Decides Whether a Custody Evaluation Will Occur?

Many times, the parties and their counsel in a contested custody case will agree that a custody evaluation should take place. Typically, experienced counsel will agree as to the type of custody evaluation that is appropriate given the particular facts and circumstances of the case. If there is an agreement as to both the decision to have a custody evaluation and the type of custody evaluation, the parties and their counsel will prepare a Stipulation setting forth the scope of the evaluation and will present the Stipulation for approval by the Court.

If there is no agreement that a custody evaluation should take place, or, if there is no agreement as to the type of custody evaluation that is appropriate for the case, one or both parties can file a Motion requesting that the Court order a custody evaluation. If a Motion is filed, the Court will hear argument from both parties as to why a custody evaluation should or should not take place and the type of evaluation that is appropriate. The judge will then decide whether to order a custody evaluation, and, if ordered, the type of custody evaluation. If a private custody evaluation is ordered, the Court will enter orders as to how the evaluator will be paid.

What is a Family Services Evaluation?

The Family Services Unit is an arm of the Connecticut Judicial Branch system that assists the Court in the resolution of disputes in family law cases, including custody cases. They have offices in each courthouse. The Family Services Unit provides several different services to the Court system, including Issue-Focused Evaluations and Comprehensive Evaluations in contested custody cases. An Issue-Focused Evaluation involves the evaluation of a limited disputed issue, and so the information-gathering is usually tailored to that issue. These evaluations typically take the least amount of time to perform because they have a limited scope. A Comprehensive Evaluation is more appropriate when broad custody and/or parenting plan issues are in dispute.

Family Relations Counselors, who work in the Family Services Unit, are trained in mediating custody disputes and in performing custody evaluations. If a case is referred to Family Services for an evaluation, whether by agreement of the parties or by a judge, a Family Relations Counselor will be assigned to perform the evaluation.

A Family Services Evaluation will typically include meetings with both parties, whether jointly or individually, meetings with the children, and home visits. Both parties usually will sign releases so that the Family Relations Counselor can speak with collateral sources, such as the children’s teachers, doctors, and mental health professionals. The Family Relations Counselor may also speak with the parties’ mental health professionals and doctors as well.

How Does a Private Custody Evaluation Differ from a Family Services Evaluation?

In a private custody evaluation, a forensic psychologist performs the custody evaluation, as opposed to the Family Services Unit. One of the biggest differences between a private custody evaluation and a Family Services Evaluation is cost, as the Family Services Evaluation is performed at no cost to the parties, whereas the private custody evaluation must be paid for by the parties. The private custody evaluator will perform many, if not all, of the same tasks as a Family Relations Counselor, as described above, but the private custody evaluator will often perform psychological testing on the parties and the children. After performing these tests, the forensic psychologist will analyze the results, particularly with respect to how the results inform any recommendations as to custody. For a variety of reasons, including the psychological testing, private custody evaluations usually take longer to complete than Family Services Evaluations. Some parties opt for a private custody study, however, because they think that the psychological testing will provide valuable information regarding their case.

Will a Written Report be Prepared in Both Types of Custody Evaluations?

Yes. The written reports prepared in a custody evaluation should set forth in detail the findings of the custody evaluator, the days and times he or she met or spoke with the parties, the children, and collateral sources, and will include his or her recommendations. In a private custody evaluation, interpretation of psychological testing results will be included.

Are the Recommendations in the Custody Evaluation Binding?

Regardless of what type of custody evaluation takes place in your case, the results are not binding on either party. That said, the recommendations in a custody evaluation are given great weight by a Court in deciding custody disputes. It is typical in a custody trial that the custody evaluator testifies in Court and that his or her report is entered into evidence. While a judge has discretion in custody cases and does not have to agree with the custody evaluator, the custody evaluator’s analysis will be presented to the Court for consideration.

Should I Have a Family Services Evaluation or a Private Custody Evaluation?

There is no “one size fits all” approach to custody evaluations, as the facts of each particular case are different. The decision as to whether a custody evaluation should take place, and what type of evaluation is appropriate, is a decision that should only be made after careful consultation with your family law attorney. There are many different factors to consider, including cost and time.

At Broder & Orland LLC, our attorneys have significant experience with custody cases and can provide you with advice regarding the type of custody evaluation best suited for your particular situation. It is important to know your options and discuss the pros and cons of each type of custody evaluation prior to making a decision, as custody evaluations carry great weight in either the settlement of or the trial of custody disputes.

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 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 how to protect yourself; the divorce procedure; the discovery process; what to expect regarding alimony, child support and property division; valuation issues; how long the divorce will 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  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. 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.