Tag: fairfield county

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.

How Do I Stop or Slow Down My Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

There are instances where one spouse decides to file for divorce while the other spouse strongly desires to salvage the marriage. Sometimes the legal process is well under way when one or both parties suddenly decide to explore the possibility of reconciliation. Divorce clients throughout Fairfield County in towns from Greenwich to New Canaan to Weston find themselves in these situations, and are surprised to learn that the law provides a way for divorcing spouses to stop the process without losing the benefit of what they have already invested time and money in.

  • Gen. Stat. § 46b-53 allows a party to request conciliation within the first ninety days of the commencement of an action, which is automatically granted.
  • Gen. Stat. § 46b-10 allows a party to initiate conciliation at any time during the pendency of a case which is permitted with the approval of the Court.
  • The Automatic Orders that go into effect at the commencement of an action pursuant to Practice Book § 25-5 are not affected by the reconciliation period and remain in place.

In the first instance, the process involves the submission of a request to the clerk within the first ninety days following the filing of a complaint.  The clerk “shall forthwith enter an order to meet a conciliator. …” C.G.S. 46b-53(1). The conciliator may be a mutually agreed upon clergyman, physician, domestic relations officer or marriage counselor, and all communications during the consultations are absolutely privileged. C.G.S. 46b-53(c). Within the ninety day period or within 30 days of the request, whichever is later, the parties must attend two mandatory consultations with the conciliator.  The purpose is to determine the possibility of reconciliation or “of resolving the emotional problems which might lead to continuing conflicts following the dissolution of the marriage.” C.G.S. § 46b-53(b). Failure of either party to attend the consultations, except for good cause, results in no further action being taken on the complaint for six months following the return date. Id.

The second situation involves the filing of a motion at any time prior to judgment but requires the Court’s permission to halt the process for the purpose of attempting reconciliation.  The legal effect of reconciliation status is a stay of the proceedings, discovery deadlines and other mandatory Court obligations without prejudice, and either party may move to have the case restored to the docket.

The Automatic Orders that are issued to both parties upon the signing and service of the complaint pursuant to Practice Book §25-5 “remain in place during the pendency of the action unless terminated, modified, or amended by further order of the Court upon motion of either of the parties” and are therefore not disturbed by the reconciliation process.

Of course, it is always possible to end a case altogether by filing a withdrawal of the action.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-80 provides that a party may withdraw an action as of right after the commencement of an action but prior to the commencement of a hearing on the merits.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable in both the substantive family law and the applicable procedural rules to customize the legal approach that best serves an individual client’s needs, and which, occasionally, results in no divorce at all.

Do I Have to Go to Court?

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

  • Public Act 17-47 excuses parties from having to go to Court to have a temporary agreement approved by the Judge
  • Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-66 requires the Judge to inquire into the financial resources and actual needs of the spouses and their respective fitness to have physical custody of or rights of visitation with any minor child, in order to determine whether the agreement of the spouses is fair and equitable under all the circumstances
  • An Affidavit in Lieu Appearing may be appropriate in some circumstances and if appropriate, obviates the need to go to Court
  • You run the risk of sanctions, incarceration, and/or an adverse ruling against you, if you fail to appear at Court for a contested matter

At Broder & Orland LLC, our clients often ask us if they have to go to Court.  The answer is usually, “It depends.”  If the matter is uncontested – i.e. a signed written agreement, then you may not have to appear at Court. If the matter is contested – i.e. a trial or a hearing, you must appear at Court, and failure to do so could result in sanctions, incarceration and/or an adverse ruling against you.

If you and your (ex) spouse reach a temporary agreement on a pending issue, you no longer have to appear at Court to have your agreement approved by the Judge.  On October 1, 2017, our Legislature enacted Public Act 17-47 and as a result, the Judicial Branch created Form JD-FM-263.  The form states:

If you have reached a temporary agreement on any pending motions and you would like to have your agreement approved without coming to court, submit this form along with a signed, written agreement, current appearances for each party if they are not already on file, and any required supporting documents to the clerk. If the agreement contains a child support order and either party or a child is receiving IV-D services, you must have the Assistant Attorney General sign off on your agreement. This process is not for continuances, temporary restraining orders or Family Support Magistrate matters. For an agreement on a continuance, use the Motion of for Continuance (form JD-CV-21). For an agreement on a temporary restraining order, you must come to court on the hearing date.

Thus, if you follow the provisions of the Form, you and your (ex) spouse no longer have to appear at Court to have your temporary agreement, whether it relates to custody, alimony, child support, or discovery approved by the Judge.

If you and your (ex) spouse settle your divorce, generally you must appear at Court, however there are ways to avoid going to Court.  Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-66 states in pertinent part:

…in any case under this chapter where the parties have submitted to the court a final agreement concerning the custody, care, education, visitation, maintenance or support of any of their children or concerning alimony or the disposition of property, the court shall inquire into the financial resources and actual needs of the spouses and their respective fitness to have physical custody of or rights of visitation with any minor child, in order to determine whether the agreement of the spouses is fair and equitable under all the circumstances.

Typically the Court’s inquiry is done by having the attorneys or the Judge canvass you and your (ex) spouse.  The canvass consists of you and your (ex) spouse being questioned about the agreement so that the Judge can determine that: (a) the agreement is fair and equitable, (b) that the agreement in the best interest of the child(ren), and (c) you and your (ex) spouse understand the terms of the agreement.

However, if you or your (ex) spouse are unavailable to appear at Court, an Affidavit in Lieu of Appearing could be submitted. The Affidavit typically consists of affirmative statements that you would swear to under oath. The statements would mirror the questions that you would be asked by your Attorney or the Judge in Court.  This way, the Judge would be able to satisfy the requirements of Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-66.

If your matter is contested, it means that you are scheduled for either a hearing or trial.  In contested matters, you must appear at Court, otherwise you could be sanctioned, incarcerated, or simply have the matter decided without your input.  It is never a good idea to fail to appear at Court if your matter is contested.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, concentrates specifically on 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.

Child Support & Children’s Expenses

This Week’s Blog by Amanda K. Rieben

Many clients come to our office from towns in Fairfield County wondering which children’s expenses they will be required to contribute toward as part of their child support obligation. While the Court may order both parents to contribute toward certain children’s expenses, there are some children’s expenses which parents are statutorily required to contribute toward, whereas there are other children’s expenses which are entirely discretionary.

The Court has the authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84, to establish a schedule and an amount of child support to be awarded, including a percentage contribution by the parents toward certain children’s expenses.  Specifically, Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84, provides that “subsequent to the annulment or dissolution of any marriage or the entry of a decree of legal separation or divorce, the parents of a minor child of the marriage, shall maintain the child according to their respective abilities, if the child is in need of maintenance.” In determining whether a child is in need of maintenance and, if in need, the respective abilities of the parents to provide such maintenance, the court shall consider the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, estate, vocational skills and employability of each of the parents and of the child.  The Court shall also consider each parent’s earning capacity and the child’s education status.

While the Court’s authority to award child support is governed by Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84, the schedule and amount of child support to be awarded are determined by the Child Support Guidelines in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-215(a). The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines include a worksheet and instructions for determining the amount of weekly child support owed by the parents up to a combined net weekly income of $4,000.  In addition to a weekly amount of child support, parents are also obligated to contribute a certain percentage toward unreimbursed medical expenses, as well as child care. Parents are also obligated pursuant to statute to provide health insurance for any child whom the Court deems is in need of maintenance.  However, parents are not statutorily required to contribute toward many children’s expenses, such as sports and/or music activities, sports equipment, musical instruments, camps, tutoring, SAT prep courses, or driving classes.  Additionally, parents are not statutorily required to contribute toward certain educational expenses like private school tuition (other than college in certain circumstances) and uniforms.

Although, a parent is not statutorily required to contribute toward the aforementioned child related expenses, the Court has the discretion to order for either or both parents to make financial contributions toward these expenses. In making a determination as to whether such an order is appropriate, the Court will consider the §46b-84 statutory factors discussed above.  The Court will also consider several other factors which may include how long the child has been engaged in the activity and/or enrolled in the school, whether one or both of the parents as a child was ever enrolled in the school and/or activity, the emotional impact on the child, the child’s best interests, and the financial impact on the parents. If a Court ultimately determines that the parents shall contribute toward a child related expense, the percentage is often consistent with the percentages the parents are required to contribute toward unreimbursed medical and child care expenses pursuant to the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines.  However, this is not always the case. In some instances a Court may direct one parent to be solely responsible or responsible for a disproportionate share of a child related expense, depending whose decision it was to continue to enroll the child in that extracurricular activity and/or school.

At Broder & Orland LLC we recognize the financial constraints that a pending divorce can pose on both parents, and the effects that this can in turn have on their children. We understand the multitude of factors considered by a Court in establishing a child support order, and we are adept at helping and advising our clients how to financially plan for their children’s future.