Tag: fairfield county

Connecticut Divorce Differences

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.

Connecticut Divorce Differences

Is Property Division in a Connecticut Divorce Different from Other States?

It is commonly assumed by people who are contemplating divorce that particular types of assets will be considered separate and will not included in the marital estate, and thus not shared with one’s spouse.  Divorce laws differ from state to state, and Connecticut’s approach to property division happens to be unlike that of the majority of states that do characterize certain property as separate from the outset of a divorce.

What is the Court’s Approach to Dividing Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

In Connecticut, a three-step analysis is applied by courts to equitably divide property.  First, the asset is classified to determine whether it is property within the meaning of Connecticut General Statutes 46b-81. Second, the value of the asset is considered, and what the appropriate valuation method is.  Third, the equitable distribution of the property is decided.

Although this system of property division is referred to as an “equitable distribution” scheme, as it is in many other states, there is a significant difference in that Connecticut does not “limit, either by timing or method of acquisition or by source of funds” the property that is characterized as marital and subject to the court’s power to divide.  Krafick v. Krafick, 234 Conn. 783, 792, 663 A.2d 365 (1995).

Thus, property is not automatically classified as separate, regardless of when the property was acquired, whose name it is titled in, or the method of acquisition.  Below are common examples.

Are Premarital Assets Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

Property acquired prior to the marriage will not automatically be characterized as separate.  If you owned a house, an art collection, or your own business before you married your spouse,  these assets will not be set aside as nonmarital property, they will be considered part of the marital estate.  Depending on the overall marital estate, a court may or may not award the premarital property to the original owner.

Are Retirement Accounts Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

The 401(K), the IRA, pension, restricted stock units, or any other type of employment related benefit that you acquired before your marriage will be included in the marital estate regardless of sole legal ownership.  Depending on the sufficiency of the collective assets to meet the needs of the parties, a court may allocate solely titled retirement assets to the titled owner to reduce the number of account divisions especially if transaction fees are involved. However, it is very common to divide all retirement accounts 50/50.

Are Inherited Assets Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

Inheritances, whether real property or stock accounts, are not designated as separate property in Connecticut as they may be in many other states.  Inherited assets are included in the marital estate in Connecticut.  There may be equitable reasons to allocate one’s inheritance to the titled owner, but not until the entire marital estate and statutory factors of Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81 are considered.

Are Future Inheritances Considered Part of the Marital Estate in a Connecticut Divorce?

Anticipated future inheritances expected from people who are alive are not considered property within the meaning of C.G.S. 46b-81.  Courts cases addressing this issue have determined that the marital estate does not include interests that are unvested or merely expected.

When Are Assets Valued in a Connecticut Divorce?

Unlike other states, in Connecticut, assets are valued on or as close as possible to the date of dissolution rather than the date the action was filed.  This is based on the principle that financial awards and orders should be based on the current financial circumstances of the parties.

How are Assets Equitably Divided in a Connecticut Divorce?

Connecticut courts have wide discretion to allocate marital assets to either spouse so long as   statutory criteria is considered.  “When deciding to whom to assign property to, the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the … dissolution of the marriage … the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81.

The court is not required to give equal weight to each factor, nor is the court required to provide its reasoning as to which factor may have influenced its decision in making an equitable division.  Caffe v. Caffe, 240 Conn. 79 (1997). The courts have also refused to adopt a presumption of equal division.  Rivnak v. Rivnak, 99 Conn. App. 326 (2007).  Thus, each divorce is determined on a case-by-case basis according to its facts and it is important not to draw conclusions based on broad information derived from sources that are not specific to Connecticut.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce.  Our attorneys are very experienced with the financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce, and understand the importance of accurately identifying assets and methods of valuation to optimize financial circumstances moving forward.

  

“Double Dipping” Considerations in a Divorce When a Business Interest is at Issue

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot.

“Double Dipping” Considerations in a Divorce When a Business Interest is at Issue

In some divorce cases, a business (or an interest in a business) that is owned by one spouse, and from which he or she receives income, also constitutes an asset to which a value must be ascribed so that the asset can be distributed between the parties in some manner as part of an overall division of property. In instances where both the value of a business interest must be divided, and an award of alimony in favor of the non-titled spouse might also be appropriate, the concept of “double dipping” must be carefully considered in order to avoid potential inequities that could otherwise result when resolving the two separate, but sometimes interrelated issues, of property distribution and spousal support.

What is Double Dipping Generally

Generally speaking, the concept of “double-dipping” refers to a situation in which one spouse is unfairly paid twice for a single asset; once in the context of property division and a second time as part of a spousal support award.

How Can Double Dipping Occur when a Business Interest is Being Divided?

When the value of a business interest must be divided in a divorce, there are a variety of valuation methodologies that can be employed to determine the value of the interest for property distribution purposes. While an exploration into the various valuation methodologies is beyond the scope of this article, one common valuation approach that is employed in the divorce context (and stated in very simplistic terms) is for the value of the business interest to be calculated as a function of the entity’s future stream of expected income.   It is in this context that “double-dipping” issues are most likely to arise.

Specifically, double dipping concerns can arise if the same cash flows that are used to determine the overall value of a spouse’s business interest are also considered a component of that spouse’s income for purposes of calculating spousal support. Stated differently, when a business is valued based upon the entity’s expected income stream, it would constitute double dipping to both distribute the value of the business and then also base spousal support on the full amount of income the business produces.

How Can Double Dipping be Avoided

While there is a variety of ways to address double dipping concerns that may arise when a business interest is being valued and divided, one common methodology is for a “reasonable compensation” or “replacement compensation,” figure to be attributed to the business owning spouse. This figure represents the hypothetical amount that the business would pay to an unrelated person to perform the same function as the business owning spouse. Then, in determining what amount of income earned by that spouse is available for spousal support purposes, only the “reasonable compensation” amount utilized, which would necessarily be some amount less than the business owning spouse’s total earnings. Relatedly, in determining a value for the business interest, the “reasonable compensation” amount is subtracted out from the business cash flows that are used to determine the overall value of a spouse’s business interest. As a result of this process (commonly referred to as “normalizing income”), the higher the reasonable compensation figure attributed to the business-owning spouse is, the lower the value of the business will be for distribution purposes and, conversely, the lower the reasonable compensation figure attributed to the business-owning spouse is, the higher the value of the business will be for distribution purposes.

Are Forensic Experts Utilized Where Double Dipping Issues Might Arise

Yes. In cases where business valuation and/or potential double dipping issues arise, it is crucial to involve a business valuation expert with expertise in these areas. Such experts can assist clients and attorneys in wading through and understanding these often complex and thorny issues.

Cases involving distribution of business interests and double dipping concerns are often 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.

Testifying in a Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Do I have to testify during my Connecticut Divorce?

A divorce action is a civil lawsuit, so any time evidence is required to resolve a disputed issued testimony of witness is likely required.  Typically, the witnesses in a divorce action are you and your spouse, however, it is common for other fact or expert witnesses to also testify.  An example of a disputed issue which could require your testimony is what school your child should attend.  You and your spouse will likely be required to provide testimony as to why you believe a certain school is a better fit for your child and why it is in your child’s best interest to attend that school.

What is the format of testifying during my Connecticut divorce?

The two main categories of testimony are direct examination and cross examination.

Direct examination is the questioning of a witness by the party that called the witness to testify.  An example of direct examination is when your attorney calls you as a witness to testify.  Proper direct examination questions are posed in an open-ended manner.  Typically, direct examination questions begin with: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Once your attorney concludes your direct examination, your spouse’s attorney has the option to cross-exam you.  Unlike direct examination, where the questions are open-ended, proper cross examination questions are leading.  A question is considered leading if the answer is suggested in the question.  If done properly, during cross examination the attorney is essentially testifying, and the witnesses is merely confirming or denying the question posed by the attorney.

An example of a direct examination question versus a cross examination questions is as follows:

Direct – Where did you and your spouse marry?

Cross – Isn’t it true that you and your spouse were married in Greenwich, Connecticut?

Once your spouse’s attorney concludes his or her cross examination of you, your attorney will have the option to redirect you.  Redirect is the opportunity to correct or expand on the topics covered during cross examination.  Since proper cross examination often requires are simple yes or no answer, you may want the opportunity to offer more expansive testimony on the topic.  For example, on cross examination you may be asked: Isn’t it true that you were late in paying alimony, yes or no?  If the answer is “Yes”, on redirect examination your attorney may ask you: Why were you late paying alimony? You will then explain the reason why you were late paying alimony.

Thereafter, the opposing attorney will have the option to recross examine you, but he or she can only ask questions within the scope of the redirect examination.  For example, if the redirect examination is limited to questions pertaining to alimony, you typically cannot be asked questions about custody on redirect examination.  This format of redirect and recross examination will continue back and forth until there are no further questions.

What are my basic responsibilities while testifying?

Your first and most important responsibility is to tell the truth.  You will be given an oath by the Clerk to tell the truth, and failure to tell the truth could result in perjury charges or the Judge not finding you to be credible.  In a divorce case, credibility is one of the most important aspects since often a dispute comes down to a “he said, she said” situation.

Second, you need to only answer the question that is asked.  Otherwise, you answer could be stricken as non-responsive, which will only prolong the process.  You may find yourself not wanting to answer the question posed to you by opposing counsel, but you have an obligation to answer the question, unless an objection to the question is sustained.  You also need to remember that your attorney will be able to ask you follow up questions on redirect examination to correct or expand on the question.

Third, if an objection is raised, do not answer the question until you receive instructions from the Judge.  If the Judge sustains the objection you do not have to answer the question.  If the Judge overrules the objection you must answer the question.

Finally, you do not want to fight with opposing counsel.  Opposing counsel may purposefully ask incendiary questions to get you to lose your composure in front of the Judge.  You must do you best to try and stay in control and have faith in your attorney to “fix” any issues on redirect examination.

Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event.

Three Critical Issues to Address in a Prenuptial Agreement

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot

A prenuptial agreement is a written contract entered into by two people before they are married. Its purpose is to resolve, in advance, various financial matters that will necessarily arise from the marriage in the event of divorce or death of a spouse.  Notably, prenuptial agreements offer parties on opportunity to resolve financial issues in whatever manner they choose, rather than leaving such issues to be determined by the divorce laws of a particular state.  While the contents of prenuptial agreements can vary widely, there are certain issues that are commonly addressed in such agreements, three of which are discussed herein.

Property Distribution and Asset Classification: 

Prenuptial agreements typically define which types of assets will be subject to division in the event of divorce (i.e., which assets will constitute “Marital Property”), and which types of assets will necessarily be retained by one party to the exclusion of the other (i.e., which assets will constitute “Separate Property.”)  While there are many ways to classify assets, it is common for agreements to state that any assets brought into the marriage by a particular party shall constitute that person’s Separate Property, while any assets acquired during the marriage shall constitute Marital Property.  It also common for prenuptial agreements to provide that inheritances received by a party during the marriage shall constitute that person’s Separate Property.  In addition to classifying assets as Marital or Separate Property, many prenuptial agreements expressly set forth the manner in which Marital Property will be divided between the parties in the event of divorce.  For example, Marital Property might be divided equally, “equitably” (as determined at a later time under the laws of a particular state), or in some percentage allocation other than 50/50.

Many prenuptial agreements also address the disposition of assets that are acquired during the marriage with a combination of each party’s Separate Property and/or Marital Property, often referred to as “Mixed Property.”  Often prenuptial agreements will be drafted to ensure that both parties will recoup any Separate Property contributions he or she made to the acquisition of Mixed Property.

Alimony

Generally speaking, there are three options when it comes to addressing alimony in a prenuptial agreement.  One option is for the parties to agree to mutual “alimony waivers,” meaning that each party agrees that he or she will have no right to seek alimony from the other in the event of a divorce.  A second option is for each party to retain the right to seek alimony from the other, while leaving the issue open for determination at the time of divorce.  A third option is for parties to expressly agree upon specific alimony obligations that one party shall have to the other in the event of divorce, which may could include specific provisions regarding the duration and/or the amount of such alimony.

Estate Rights

In most jurisdictions, absent a written agreement to the contrary, each party to a marriage will be guaranteed by law to receive a certain minimum share of his or her spouse’s estate (the “elective share”) upon their spouse’s death.  For example, the “elective share” in Connecticut is comprised of the lifetime use of one-third of the value of all real and personal property owned by a party at the time of his or her death, after the payment of all debts and charges against that party’s estate.  However, a spouse’s right to an “elective share” can be waived in a prenuptial agreement, and it is not uncommon to see estate rights waivers in prenuptial agreements particularly where one or both parties have children from a prior relationship.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut negotiating and drafting prenuptial agreements that align with our clients’ circumstances.

 

What is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket?

This Week’s Blog by Chris DeMattie

The Connecticut Judicial Branch created a special docket in the Middlesex Judicial District to handle contested custody and visitation matters.  One judge presides over and manages the docket and per the Judicial Branch: “The goal is to handle contested cases involving children quickly and without interruption.” Cases are referred to the Regional Family Trial Docket by the presiding family judge in the local court if the referred case meets the program criteria: (a) child focused issue; (b) ready for trial; (c) family relations case study completed and not more than nine months old; and  (d) an attorney has been appointed for the children.

How does my Case end up in the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket?

Since our local family courts are overcrowded and its resources are limited, it is difficult for the Court to devote significant time to just one case.  Thus, if you and your spouse are unable to resolve the children and financial issues in your case, you meet the foregoing program criteria, and if your case will likely take more than four (4) days of trial, it will likely to be referred to the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket.  Recently, non-custody cases have also been referred to the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, if the presiding judge determines there is a compelling reason to do so, such complex financial issues which would require substantial court time.

How is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket similar to my local court?

The Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket applies the same law and procedures as your local court (e.g. Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven).

The standing Trial Management Orders still apply.

If your case is eligible for e-filing, all pleadings, motions, and notices are filed the same way.  If your case is not eligible for e-filing, all filings are sent to both your local court and the Middletown Clerk.

The Courthouse opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m.  There is typically a fifteen-minute mid morning and afternoon recess, as well as a lunch break from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

How is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket different from my local court?

First, you are assigned one Judge, and this Judge follows your case the entire time.  At your local court, generally you can be assigned a new Judge each court date, and you often do not know which Judge is assigned to your case until you appear at Court.

Second, except for rare circumstances, pendente lite motions are not heard until the time of trial.  At your local court, pendente lite motions are often heard while the case is pending and prior to trial.

Third, the timing of proceeding is much different.  At the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, since you case is assigned to one Judge, you are often the only matter scheduled on your court date.  This means that your case will often be called right at 9:30 a.m. and you will generally continue uninterrupted until approximately 4:45 p.m.  At your local court, it is rare for your case to be the only matter scheduled on your court date.  Unfortunately, too often there are multiple matters scheduled for the same date with the same Judge, and your case may not be heard.  Further, since your local court is not a special docket, there are usually multiple other matters scheduled such as status conferences, report backs, or stipulations.  Even though those matters are generally short, they still disrupt your proceeding because the Judge will delay and/or stop your hearing to address those matters.

In other words, it is rare to be interrupted at the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, while it is expected at your local court.

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 trial lawyers we have successfully tired many cases at the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket.

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.

How to Catch a Cheater

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

As technology rapidly advances, more and more of our daily activities are uploaded to our many electronic devices.  Information is becoming more permanent, and the electronic trail left behind is growing.  It is extremely difficult to keep an electronic secret, so if your spouse is cheating on you there is a good chance you will be able find out from his or her electronic devices.  In the recent past, the first places to look would be phone logs, text messages, and e-mails, but there are many more clever places to look.

What are the Best Apps to Catch a Cheating Spouse?

iPhone Notes – Most people use this application to take notes or set reminders.  However, did you know you can share your notes with another person?  When you share your notes with another person, each enabled user can edit and view the specific notes page.  So instead of sending text messages or e-mails, a cheating spouse can communicate with his or her paramour through the notes app without leaving an electronic transmission trail such as a text message or e-mail.

Screen Time – This new feature for the iPhone tracks how much time a user spends on his or her iPhone each day.  The data is further broken-down by minutes spent on each app, messages transmitted, and phone calls.  So if your spouse is spending more time than usual text messaging or if he or she is spending time using a new app, especially a new messaging app (WeChat, WhatsApp, Slack, or Messenger) it may be an indication he or she is hiding something.

Uber – Unlike texts and e-mails, absent completely deleting the Uber app, there is no way to delete the trip history.  So by accessing the Uber app you can see your spouse’s entire ride history.

Vault / KeepSafe – Vault (iPhone) and KeepSafe (Android) are apps that let you store electronic data, including photos and videos, in a password protected folder on your phone or tablet.

iCloud – Is accessed by inputting an Apple ID and password.  Per Apple, iCloud backups include nearly all data and settings stored on the device. iCloud backups do not include data stored in other cloud services, like Gmail.

Google Maps – If you access Google Maps and select “Your Timeline” you can all of the places the user has visited on any given date and time.  Like the Uber app, reviewing the “Your Timeline” can be very instructive on reconstructing a person’s day.

How do I Legally View my Spouse’s Electronic Devices?

The first step is generally to serve a Request for Production of Documents or Request for Inspection of an Electronic Device.  By making the Request, you put your spouse on notice as to the materials you are requesting to review and/or inspect.  Your spouse then has an obligation to produce the requested materials, which could include a forensic or mirrored copied of his or her iPhone, laptop, or tablet.  However, your spouse could assert various objections to the Request(s), and absent an agreement, the Court will determine the scope of discovery.

In addition, you may serve on your spouse and his or her cell phone provider, a “Litigation Hold Notice,” directing each to preserve several categories of electronically stored information including text messages.  Generally, cell phone providers only retain the content of text messages for three to five days depending on the provider, so it is unlikely you will be able to subpoena the content of your spouse’s past text messages.  However, if a “Litigation Hold Notice” has been served, it is likely the content, time, and location of the text message will be discovered.

Before engaging in any electronic surveillance, be advised that there are many federal and state laws related to stored electronic communications.   It is advisable to consult with an attorney to verify that you do not engage in any unlawful activities related to your spouse’s electronically stored information.

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 trial lawyers we can advise you how to legally obtain your spouse’s electronically stored information or how to protect your own.

Common Law Marriage and Cohabitation Agreements in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Andy M. Eliot

Is Common Law Marriage Recognized in Connecticut?

No.  It is a common misconception that if unmarried couples reside together for a long enough period of time in Connecticut, a “Common Law” marriage is created, from which certain legal rights (such as alimony or property distribution rights) arise.  In fact, Common Law marriage is not recognized in Connecticut and, accordingly, no legal rights or consequences are accorded to unmarried couples who may reside together in a long-term romantic relationship.

Are there any Exceptions to the General Rule that Common Law Marriage is not Recognized in Connecticut?

There is one narrow exception to this general rule.  Generally, the validity of a marriage in Connecticut is determined by the law of the state in which the relationship was created.  Accordingly, if a couple established a Common Law marriage in a state that recognizes such relationships, the Common Law marriage that was established in the other state will be recognized in Connecticut.  The law of the state in which the common law marriage was claimed to have been contracted will determine the existence and validity of such a relationship.

May Unmarried Couples Enter into Binding Legal Agreements from Which Financial Rights and Obligations Arise?

Yes.  It is not uncommon for couples who are involved in a committed relationship, but who do not wish or intend to marry, to desire that certain financial rights and obligations that might otherwise only arise by way of marriage apply to them.  While cohabitation alone does not create any contractual relationship between cohabitating parties, or impose other legal duties upon such parties, in such scenarios the parties may enter into a written agreement, commonly referred to as a “Cohabitation Agreement.”

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a contract between unmarried cohabitants which allows the parties to contract to certain financial rights and obligations arising from their relationship, notwithstanding their intention to remain unmarried.  The state of Connecticut recognizes the legal validity of such agreements.  Typically, such agreements address rights and obligations pertaining to financial support (akin to alimony), or distribution of property in the event the relationship ends.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Enforceable in the same Manner as Divorce Agreements?

NoAlthough Cohabitation Agreements are recognized in Connecticut, financial disputes between unmarried cohabitants emanating from such agreements must be resolved by means outside the statutory scheme for dissolution of marriage.  Specifically, this means that Cohabitation Agreements must be considered under general contract principles.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have experience drafting and negotiating Cohabitation Agreements for clients throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut.

Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut?

To commence a divorce action in Connecticut, the Plaintiff must plead a statutory approved ground for seeking the divorce.  You cannot simply plead: “I do not want to be married.”  If a Court finds sufficient evidence to support a finding that the ground occurred, it has jurisdiction to grant the divorce.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40(c), the only permissible grounds are as follows:

  1. The marriage has broken down irretrievably;
  2. The parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the eighteen months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect that they will be reconciled;
  3. For purposes of this statute, “adultery” means voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person other than such person’s spouse;
  4. Fraudulent contract;
  5. Willful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty;
  6. Seven years’ absence, during all of which period the absent party has not been heard from;
  7. Habitual intemperance;
  8. Intolerable cruelty;
  9. Sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year; and
  10. Legal confinement in a hospital or hospitals or other similar institution or institutions, because of mental illness, for at least an accumulated period totaling five years within the period of six years next preceding the date of the complaint.

Can I Plead More than One Ground in a Divorce? 

Yes, you can plead more than one ground in a divorce.  However, except for rare circumstances, a party almost always solely pleads “the marriage has broken down irretrievably.”  This is because it requires minimal proof, i.e. one question “Has your marriage broken down irretrievably?”, whereas the other grounds may require substantial discovery, opposition, time, and resources to ultimately arrive at the same result, which is the granting of a divorce.

Is Connecticut a Fault Divorce State? 

No, Connecticut is a “no fault” divorce state.   In 1973 the Connecticut Legislature passed Public Act 73-373 which amended Connecticut General Statutes (“C.G.S.”) §46-32 (now known as §46b-40) to permit a divorce upon a finding that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  Commonly, this is known as the “no-fault” divorce statute.  In Joy v. Joy, 178 Conn. 254, 256, (1979) the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the statute was constitutional.

Can Infidelity Affect Alimony?

Yes, the cause of the breakdown of the marriage can affect alimony and property orders.  Thus, even though a Court is not required to determine if a party was a fault for the marriage ending, the Court may consider the causes of the breakdown of the marriage when making financial orders.  Courts have found substance abuse, physical abuse, dissipation of assets in contemplation of divorce, and/or infidelity to be the cause of the breakdown of the marriage and have financially compensated the spouse who did not cause the breakdown of the marriage.  Conversely, Courts have found a spouse caused the breakdown of the marriage but did not financially compensate the other spouse.  This discrepancy is due to the Court having wide discretion when applying the numerous statutory criteria to the unique facts and circumstances of each case.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law, and divorce. As experienced divorce trial lawyers we understand how to effectively present “cause of the breakdown” issues to the Court, as well as how to “value” your case for settlement purposes.

 

Post-Divorce Housekeeping

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • Post-divorce housekeeping items require your immediate attention
  • Attend to provisions relating to your Parenting Plan and financial distribution
  • Utilize your attorney, accountant, counselor and other professionals to effectuate terms
  • Keeping good records will be critical for post-divorce enforcement

So now you are divorced. But before you close the book, there is one more chapter which requires your attention. That is: Post-Divorce Housekeeping. It is critical that you take certain steps to make sure the provisions of your Separation Agreement (if your case was settled) or the Court’s Judgment of Dissolution (if your case went to trial) are effectuated. You should carefully review one more time whichever of these documents pertains to your situation with an eye toward what must be done. Divorce attorneys who practice in Westport and Greenwich will typically provide you with a checklist or a summary of follow-up items. As much as you may want to leave your divorce in the rear-view mirror, it is important to tie up all the loose ends.

Below is an example of the more common post-divorce items that require attention. It is by no means exhaustive and every case is different, so make sure to consult with your divorce attorney for the particulars of your situation:

  • Discuss any changes in your Parenting Plan with your children, utilizing the support of a counselor when appropriate.
  • Notify your children’s school and activity providers that the divorce is final and arrange for progress reports and notices to be sent to each parent.
  • Convert all joint bank and brokerage accounts to individual accounts.
  • Effectuate all money transfers.
  • Arrange for direct payments of alimony and/or child support.
  • Attend to any title transfers or refinancing of real property.
  • If real property is to be sold, enlist a broker, following the terms of your Separation Agreement or Judgment.
  • Transfer title to all vehicles as necessary.
  • Deactivate joint credit cards.
  • Attend to beneficiary changes for life insurance and retirement accounts.
  • Obtain any additional life insurance you are obligated to provide.
  • Make sure your attorney has arranged for the drafting and implementation of any QDROs which are necessary to divide certain qualified retirement plans.
  • Notify your health insurer of change in covered individuals and arrange for COBRA, if applicable.
  • Contact your accountant about changes in filing status.
  • If you are an alimony recipient, discuss with your accountant the need for quarterly estimates (discuss new tax provisions effective 1/1/19).
  • Change your Will and estate planning documents.

It is important to be organized and efficient with post-divorce items. Keep good records. If your ex-spouse fails to comply with his or her obligations, ask your attorney to follow up with written correspondence to opposing counsel. If that doesn’t work, it may be necessary to file a Motion for Contempt, which could mean a return to Court and an evidentiary hearing. Having good records will be critical in proving your case.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we are careful to advise our clients about post-divorce items, which require attention.  We understand the importance of follow-through to effectuate the terms of the Separation Agreement or Judgment of Dissolution.  In certain cases we may get involved in handling the enforcement of those terms, as well.