Tag: family law

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 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 the how to protect yourself; divorce procedure; the discovery process; what to expect regarding alimony, child support and property division; valuations issues; how long the divorce with 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 at that point 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. And 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.

 

HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE IN CONNECTICUT

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.

HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE IN CONNECTICUT

Typically families and couples rely on a single health insurance coverage plan, either through the spouse’s employer or privately, to maintain coverage for the entire family. Once a Judgment of Divorce is entered, the non-subscribing spouse is no longer eligible for coverage under the former spouse’s policy.

CAN YOU REMOVE YOUR SPOUSE FROM HEALTH INSURANCE DURING DIVORCE?

No. First, health insurance regulations do not allow the removal of a covered beneficiary from a policy except during specific periods, but Connecticut Family Law also prohibits removal during the pendency of a divorce action. Doing so is a violation of orders that go into effect at the inception of a divorce case and may result in court-ordered penalties and remedial action.

WHAT IS COBRA AND IS ITS COVERAGE AUTOMATIC?

COBRA is the acronym for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, the federal law that allows a spouse who loses coverage due to divorce to continue coverage under the same plan for thirty-six months. The spouse who elects COBRA coverage must take steps with the policy plan administrator and pay for the continued coverage individually. It is advisable to comparison shop before divorce is final to determine whether COBRA coverage is the right option because it is temporary and can be costly. Information on available options is available at www.accesshealthct.com.

WHICH SPOUSE IS OBLIGATED TO PROVIDE HEALTHCARE COVERAGE FOR THE CHILDREN?

The State of Connecticut requires parents to provide health insurance for minor children according to their respective abilities until the later of child/ren reaching the age of 18 or graduating high school but no later than the age of 19. In a divorce, it is typical for the spouse whose coverage is in effect at the time of divorce to agree to continue doing so for so long as it remains available through an employer at a reasonable cost. If it is no longer available to that spouse at a reasonable cost, then the other spouse typically agrees do so if available through an employer at a reasonable cost. If it is not available to either spouse, then both may agree to share the cost of private coverage or apply for HUSKY coverage. Many divorcing parents, agree for health insurance to extend to age 26, the maximum allowable age limit in Connecticut, or until the child is able to secure health insurance through his/her own employer, spouse or domestic partner.

HOW ARE UNREIMBURSED AND UNINSURED MEDICAL EXPENSES PAID AFTER DIVORCE?

Divorced spouses are responsible for his/her own unreimbursed and uninsured medical expenses, including dental, vision and prescriptions. For as long as either parent is responsible for a child’s health insurance, unreimbursed and uninsured medical expenses are paid in proportion to each parent’s percentage share of combined net income but the parties may also to pay according to a different percentage that is negotiated.

ARE FORMER SPOUSES ELIGIBLE FOR MEDICARE BENEFITS?

Medicare is a national health insurance program that provides health insurance for individuals and their spouses who are 65 years and older and who have paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years. After a divorce, one may still be eligible for Medicare based on the former spouse’s work history. In order to qualify using a former spouse’s employment history, one must be unmarried and at least 62 years old, the marriage with the former spouse must have lasted for at least ten years, and the benefit from one’s own employment history is less than that of the former spouse.

The attorneys at the firm of BRODER & ORLAND LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut, are very experienced in all facets of divorce including issues that involve healthcare coverage for the parties and their children.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

 A divorce is generally one of the most emotional events you can go through. It is also typically the largest and most impactful financial event of your life. If you are thinking about hiring a divorce attorney in Connecticut, one of the first things you should do after obtaining names of a divorce attorney and/or firm, is to Google them. It may sound basic, but you will be able to read the various Google reviews about these attorneys and/or firms and you will quickly be able to vet them based on the experiences of their past clients.

Once you perform your online due diligence, you will want to prepare for your initial consultation. Every case is different, and every attorney is different, so you want to have a list of questions prepared to make sure you and your potential attorney will be the right match. To help you with that process, below is a list of sample questions you may want to consider asking:

  1. How long have you been practicing family law?
  2. How long have you been practicing family law in Connecticut?
  3. What percentage of your practice is devoted to the field of family law?
  4. Do you handle cases involving domestic abuse?
  5. Do you represent a greater number of Husbands or Wives?
  6. Will anyone else in your office be working on my case? Why would there be multiple people working on my case?
  7. What is your availability to talk and email?
  8. What would your colleagues say about you?
  9. What do you think the Judges say about you?
  10. Do you know my spouse’s attorney? When is the last time you had a case with him or her? What was the result?
  11. Do you mediate cases?
  12. Do you practice collaborative law?
  13. Do you litigate cases?
  14. Are there any options to resolve my case between mediation and litigation?
  15. How often are you in court?
  16. When was the last time you had a trial?
  17. Why did the case go to trial and not settle?
  18. How long does a divorce case take?
  19. How many cases are your currently working on?
  20. Do you handle appeals?
  21. What is your hourly rate? What are the rates for other professionals in your office?
  22. What is the amount of your retainer? Do you issue monthly bills?

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. We understand the importance of an initial consultation for both the prospective client and lawyer. We take the time to answer all of your questions and to set out in detail the divorce process so you leave our office well informed.

What Happens at a Preargument Conference in a Connecticut Family Law Appeal?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

What is a Preargument Conference?

In most appeals of civil cases in Connecticut, including family law and divorce cases, a Preargument Conference is required prior to the appeal progressing to the briefing and oral argument stages. The Preargument Conference is a confidential settlement opportunity that takes place with an experienced judge who will meet with counsel for both parties and attempt to help the parties reach a settlement in lieu of continuing with the appeal. Because an appeal can be a long, expensive process that usually follows an already extensive period of litigation, the Preargument Conference is an opportunity to avoid continuing litigation in favor of the finality of a settlement.

The Preargument Conference can also provide an opportunity to narrow the issues presented for appeal if the case cannot be globally settled. In discussing the pending appellate issues with the judge at the Preargument Conference, he or she can provide helpful insight into the likelihood of success on appeal. If it is appropriate for the case to be transferred to the Connecticut Supreme Court, the Preargument Conference judge has the authority to recommend that as well.

When is the Preargument Conference Scheduled?

In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due; so, if the case settles, the conference avoids the parties having to incur significant legal fees for the research and drafting of the brief. Within a few months of an appeal being filed, counsel for the parties will typically receive a notice or letter notifying them of the assigned time and place for the Preargument Conference.

Where does a Preargument Conference Take Place?

The Preargument Conference usually takes place at a different courthouse from the courthouse where your case was tried. On the day of the Preargument Conference, the assigned judge meets with counsel in chambers. It is rare, though not unheard of, for the judge to meet with the parties.

Do I Have to Attend the Preargument Conference?

The short answer to this question is: Yes. According to Connecticut Practice Book Section 63-10, which governs Preargument Conferences: “Unless other arrangements have been approved in advance by the conference judge, parties shall be present at the conference site and available for consultation.” The primary reason that parties must be present for Preargument Conferences is so that they can actively participate in any settlement negotiations and authorize their counsel to enter into a settlement of the case. If a case settles during a Preargument Conference, the Preargument Conference judge has the authority to enter an agreement into the record that day, and the parties must be present in Court in such an event.

Who Attends the Preargument Conference?

Parties and their appellate counsel must attend the Preargument Conference as a rule (see above). At Broder & Orland LLC, we find it is useful for trial counsel, if different from appellate counsel, to attend as well, as he or she can sometimes provide helpful input regarding the case and potential avenues for settlement. If there are any other professionals or advisors, financial or otherwise, who can aid in settling the case, it may be helpful for them to attend or be available by telephone to discuss any settlement offers.

What Should I Do to Prepare for a Preargument Conference?

It is helpful to meet or speak with your trial and appellate counsel prior to a Preargument Conference to discuss any settlement offer that you authorize to be made at or before the conference, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both sides’ cases. If you are the appellant (i.e., the person taking the appeal), you should decide before the Preargument Conference what, if any, settlement you would consider in order to withdraw your appeal. As with any settlement negotiation, you should determine your “best case” scenario as well as your bottom line.

If you are the appellee (i.e., the person defending against the appeal), you may question why, as the person who is not appealing the final judgment in your case, you should consider settling. There are many reasons why an appellee could or should consider settling the case, such as: 1) having the finality of a settled judgment; 2) avoiding the time, expense, and uncertainty of further litigation; and 3) avoiding a reversal of the judgment in your case if that is a real possibility. The appellee should consider in advance of a Preargument Conference any concessions he or she would be willing to make in order for the appeal to be withdrawn.

What Happens to the Appeal if the Case is Settled at the Preargument Conference?

Any global settlement at the Preargument Conference should include a statement that the appeal will be withdrawn with prejudice upon acceptance of the settlement agreement by the trial court.

What Happens after the Preargument Conference if the Case Does Not Settle?

Even if you do not settle the case at the Preargument Conference, your case can still be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. If the case is not settled that the Preargument Conference, the appellant must begin preparation of his or her brief, as the deadline for submission usually falls within approximately 45 days of the Preargument Conference. The Preargument Conference judge does have the authority to extend the time for the filing of the appellant’s brief in the event that the appellate counsel needs more time or in the event that the parties request additional time to attempt to settle the case.

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, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.

Why Taking Divorce Advice From Friends Can Be Dangerous

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy.

Why Taking Divorce Advice From Friends Can Be Dangerous

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

Unrealistic Expectations

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

Not All Divorces Are Created Equal

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

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

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

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

Should a Financial Forensic Evaluator be Retained in My Divorce Case ?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

Should a Financial Forensic Evaluator be Retained in My Divorce Case ?

What is a financial forensic evaluator?

A financial forensic evaluator is typically an individual with certain certifications and qualifications who is educated and trained to analyze financial information in your divorce case. This may include, for example, an analysis of income, or valuation of various assets such as privately held businesses, equity awards, private equity and hedge fund interests, and other alternative investments.

When should a financial forensic evaluator become involved in my divorce case?

Usually a financial forensic evaluator should be retained as soon as counsel recognizes that there may be valuation issues in your divorce case. The evaluator can assist in fashioning pertinent discovery requests and responses. Occasionally there are circumstances where one party will wait to see the other party’s analysis and valuation. A seasoned divorce attorney will be able to guide you through these strategic situations.

Can the parties hire one neutral financial forensic evaluator?

This is possible. In some divorce cases the party will agree on one neutral financial forensic evaluator and further agree to be bound by the conclusions of that expert. In other cases, parties may agree to start with a neutral but retain the right to hire his or her own evaluator, should he/she disagree with the neutral’s evaluation.

What types of documents will the financial forensic evaluator want?

In the case of an income analysis, the forensic financial evaluator may want to review tax returns, pay stubs, year-end pay statements, statements from credit card and bank/brokerage accounts, and employment contracts. With regard to business assets, the financial forensic evaluator will want to look at such items as Profit and Loss Statements, Balance Sheets, General Ledgers, Partnership Agreements, Operating Agreements, corporate/partnership tax returns, K-1s, and business accounts. In the case of alternative investments, it will be important to review documents such as Operating Agreements, investor correspondence and Private Placement Memoranda. And for equity awards such as stock options, RSUs, and Phantom Equity awards, items such as vesting schedules, agreements, and plan documents will require review.

Can I expect the financial forensic evaluator to prepare a report?

Whether a report is to be prepared is up to the party hiring the financial forensic evaluator. Again, experienced divorce counsel will be able to guide you on this aspect of litigation.

Will the financial forensic evaluator testify at my divorce trial?

Typically yes, unless there is an agreement that his or her valuation is stipulated to by the other party or the parties work out a compromise valuation. In order to testify as an expert, a party must formally disclose that expert in advance in accordance with Connecticut Practice Book Rules.

Can the financial forensic evaluator assist my divorce case in other ways?

Absolutely! And most commonly with discovery, depositions, analyzing the opposing party’s valuation, Proposed Orders for the Court, and trial preparation. Ideally he/she will assist in settlement negotiations and a resolution of your divorce case without the need for a trial.

At Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, Connecticut we have extensive experience working with financial forensic evaluators in all facets of divorce litigation.