Tag: Greenwich Divorce

Connecticut Divorce Location

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Where can I file my Connecticut Divorce?

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

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

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

Can you file for divorce online in Connecticut?

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

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

How are Same-Sex Divorces Handled in Connecticut?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.

How are Same-Sex Divorces Handled in Connecticut?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I LOVE MY WIFE BUT MY MARRIAGE IS OVER. NOW WHAT?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

What should I do if I am thinking about divorce?

You should do some soul searching if you haven’t already. Reflect on what is happening in your relationship and whether there is any hope of repairing it. Seek marriage counseling or couples therapy to get support or assistance in working though conflicts. The decision whether or not to divorce may become clearer as you go through that process.

How can I understand what it means to get divorced?

There are many books and articles about divorce. Also, you likely have many friends and relatives who have been divorced and are happy to share their experiences (or nightmares!) with you. But the best source for the real facts is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney who will give you accurate information. This will include how to protect yourself; the divorce procedure; the discovery process; what to expect regarding alimony, child support and property division; valuation issues; how long the divorce will take; and what it will cost.

What if I don’t want my spouse to know I’m consulting with a divorce attorney?

Good question. Once you consult with a divorce attorney a privilege exists which prohibits that attorney from disclosing to anyone, particularly your spouse, any discussion about legal advice. Furthermore, an experienced divorce attorney will be discreet and never disclose to your spouse  that you have consulted with him or her.

Should I surprise my wife with service or give her a head’s up in advance?

Once you have decided to proceed with your divorce and unless there is some reason to believe putting your wife on notice that she will be served with divorce papers will result in an untoward consequence, it is more reasonable to let her know you will be serving her. This can be achieved by the marshal arranging with her a place and time, or if she will have an attorney, by serving that attorney. Never, ever have a marshal serve her in front of the kids or when they are home.

How do I break this to the kids?

In most families where divorce is on the horizon, fighting, bickering and unbecoming behavior have been evident even to the youngest kids. Even if there has been little outward animosity, kids can sense tension. Also, most kids are tuned into divorce through their friends, neighbors or relatives. It probably won’t be a huge shock to them that mom and dad are getting divorced. However, they are likely to be sad and sometimes, angry. Be proactive about alerting teachers, clergy, and professional providers that a divorce is imminent so your kids can receive the support and sensitivity they need. Always watch for signs that your kids are experiencing negative effects, such as health issues, deteriorating school performance, and relationship difficulties. Talk to your spouse about arranging counseling or therapy for your kids, if necessary.

The decision to divorce is one of the toughest ones you will make in your lifetime. And especially so if you still love your wife, as is sometimes the case. At Broder & Orland LLC, our divorce attorneys are sensitive to the emotions that go hand in hand with a divorce as we dispense experienced legal advice. We will virtually hold your hand through the process, while protecting you and advocating on your behalf to the utmost extent. We are available to arrange a discreet consultation with you in our Westport or Greenwich office, whichever is more convenient for you.

 

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.

“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.

A Secret from a Seasoned Divorce Attorney…

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland.

What Might I Not Learn from my Friends About Divorce?

The dirty little secret in divorce cases is that the parameters of the likely outcome are relatively narrow. Connecticut is not a community property state where martial assets are automatically divided equally. However, the division of assets in most Connecticut settlements or Court awards will hover around 50%-50%, with some possible variation, such as 55%-45% or 60%-40%.

Likewise, child support is set by a formula contained in the Child Support Guidelines, which allow for some fairly standard deviations, and alimony typically is within a range that any reputable divorce attorney can estimate.

When it comes to children, most Parenting Plans are fairly routine and provide for a schedule that reflects the availability of each party to parent the children, unless a parent has some overriding behavioral issues including physical or emotional abuse, or substance or alcohol abuse.

 How Can I Learn More About the Parameters of a Likely Outcome in my Divorce?

When analyzing the asset division in your case, ask your attorney to provide you with a spreadsheet that will reflect the allocations of 50%-50%, 55%-45%, and 60%-40%. In many cases, the difference will not be substantial, relative to the size of the marital estate. In some cases, that difference will be neutralized by the fees and costs you will pay to pursue what you feel is a more favorable division. Have your attorney do a cost/benefit analysis.

With regard to child support, have your attorney run the Child Support Guidelines with probable scenarios. Again, you may see that the comparison is not all that significant.

Alimony can be a little trickier, especially since the enactment of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which essentially eliminates the federal deduction for divorces after December 31, 2018. The rule of thumb and conventions previously employed to arrive at a reasonable alimony award are different now, but with sufficient data your attorney should be able to easily guide you as to a probable range.

Ask your attorney for input on your Parenting Plan. He or she should be able to advise you on a reasonable schedule and provide you with context as to what a Court would likely order.

How Can I Turn this Advice into an Advantage in my Divorce?

The real question is: why make divorce a war? Understandably, most people who are getting divorced harbor ill feelings about their spouse for various reasons. But being vengeful or vindictive likely will not significantly affect the bottom line. It will only ramp up emotions and drive up costs.

It is most important that you find an experienced divorce attorney who can educate you about the likely outcome. It will save you anguish, time, and money. And then hope that your spouse does the same!

At Broder & Orland LLC, we make a point of educating our divorce clients early on about the parameters of the likely outcome of their case. We draw on years of experience to provide context for settlements and trials. We also share documentation with our clients which quantify possible scenarios and comparisons so they can make well-informed decisions about their case.

What are the Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in a Connecticut Divorce?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

What are the Top Five Mistakes to Avoid in a Connecticut Divorce?

The divorce process is fraught with emotion which can lead to making mistakes with long-term effects.  Each divorce is different, however, here are some common mistakes we divorce attorneys see.

Is it a Disadvantage not to Understand Your Financial Situation?

Yes.  It is important at the outset of the divorce process to have an understanding of your personal and household expenses, liabilities, income and what assets there are to divide.  This will help in setting reasonable expectations as to the outcome and will help in planning for financial security moving forward, which is the ultimate goal.  Take the time to gather information, review your bank and credit card statements, and if you are not financially literate, take steps to educate yourself with the basics.

Is it Better to Settle Early in the Process?

Not necessarily.   Divorce is a highly emotional time, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by acrimony and the desire to give in just to end the emotional trauma.  This could be a costly mistake, however, because depending on the assets involved, it may be well worth taking the time to discover and fully vet out the values of business interests, trusts, stock options and pension benefits which you may be entitled to share.

Is it Worth Arguing the Details?

Often the expense of the argument can exceed the value of what it is you are trying to achieve in the first place.  Try not to get caught up in minor wins and losses of the negotiation process when it comes to the smaller details of, for instance, the method of payment of co-pays at the pediatrician’s office or the percentage point split of reimbursement for extracurricular activities.   It may feel like an emotional triumph in the short term, but may not be worth the expense in the overall cost of the divorce.

Should I Seek the Advice of Family and Friends?

It is not a good idea to rely on the advice of family and friends regarding your own divorce however well-meaning it is intended to be.  Just because your friend got the house and lump sum alimony in her divorce does not mean that you will or even should.  Every divorce is different, and one person’s experience does not readily translate into another’s.

Is it Better to Act First and Ask Later?

No.  It is always better to check with your attorney before taking action, especially if you are in an angry or depressed frame of mind.  Acting on impulse, for example cutting your spouse off from credit card use or denying access to marital funds to limit spending, can have adverse legal consequences.  Not only do these particular actions risk a contempt finding by a court, but may end up costing you more just to rectify it in the end.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, practice solely in matrimonial and family law, and have significant experience in counseling and developing an appropriate strategy to optimize the desired financial result.

What is a Discovery Special Master (DSM)?

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

  • The Court may appoint a DSM in your divorce case to resolve discovery disputes.
  • Discovery may include production of documents, written responses to questions, and/or Deposition testimony.
  • Utilizing a DSM often saves the parties time and money, as opposed to having the Court decide discovery disputes.
  • Typically the DSM is paid from marital funds during the divorce litigation.
  • The Court retains ultimate authority with regard to discovery disputes.

In certain cases where there are disputes involving discovery, the parties may agree or the Court may appoint a Discovery Special Master. Discovery in divorce cases typically includes the production of certain documents, responses to written questions and/or testimony at a Deposition. Discovery in Connecticut is very liberal. Essentially, if the information sought is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,” it must be produced unless there is some prevailing privilege, such as that between attorney and client, to the contrary. Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 13-2. However, it is not uncommon in divorce cases to have a disagreement as to what must be produced. If the parties cannot agree they can bring the issue before the Court through Motion practice. The Court has the option of deciding the dispute or referring the matter to a DSM. With their busy dockets and frequent understaffing, Courts generally are not inclined to spend hours sorting out discovery disputes, some of which may be granular in nature. It is, therefore, more practical for the Court to assign the discovery issues to a DSM.

Who Serves as a DSM?

Any lawyer can serve as a DSM. The parties can agree on whom that person should be or in the absence of an agreement, the Court can choose the DSM.

What Protocol Does the DSM Use for Addressing Discovery Disputes?

The Court may establish a general protocol in its Order. Each DSM may handle a case differently, but generally the DSM will ask counsel to provide to him or her the discovery requests in issue along with a memorandum in support or opposition of production, along with certain documentation relevant to discovery. If there is an issue of law, the DSM may ask for legal support in the form of a memorandum or brief. Next, the DSM may either decide the dispute on the papers or confer telephonically or at an in-person conference with counsel and sometimes the parties.

Is the DSM’s Decision Binding?

The Court retains ultimate authority to determine discovery disputes.

Who Pays for the DSM?

The parties are responsible for paying the DSM. Typically, the DSM’s fees are paid out of martial funds during the litigation.

What is the Advantage of Having a DSM?

An experienced DSM can usually give more timely attention and move through the issues quicker than the Court can do, thereby saving the parties attorney’s fees and money in the long run, and preventing delays due to discovery disputes.

What Other Matters Might a DSM Address?

The DSM can address matters of Deposition scheduling for parties, witnesses and experts as well as substantive issues related to these Depositions.

At Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Greenwich and Westport, we have significant experience working with Discovery Special Masters in our divorce cases throughout Connecticut. We are adept at streamlining the discovery process to the extent possible in order to get the information we need and in producing required information to your spouse, in a timely and cost effective manner.  We recognize that the DSM can be an excellent resource in that regard.

The Best Way to Prepare for Divorce? Get Organized!

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Ask any top divorce attorney in Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Westport and beyond, what practical steps should be taken to prepare for the divorce process, and the answer will be to locate and organize your financial records.

Which Financial Records are the Most Important?

At a minimum your past 3 years of individual tax returns; past 2 years of bank statements, credit card statements and retirement accounts; the last year of pay stubs; and any life insurance and medical insurance policies.  In every marital dissolution action, this is mandatory disclosure so it helps to have it organized ahead of time.

What if I Do Not Have Access to Accounts?

Most accounts can be readily accessed online if the account is in your name or jointly with your spouse.  If you are unsure, call the financial institutions and find out how to establish online access or how best to obtain statements.  Many are surprised to learn that lack of accessibility is simply a lack of familiarity that is easily overcome.   If the account is in your spouse’s sole name, then it is his/her obligation to provide it.

Is There a Time Frame or a Due Date?

The time frame is generally within the first 30 days from when the action filed, when many attorneys formally request production.  Officially, the due date is 60 calendar days from the date of the written request.

Do I Need to Print Paper Copies?

No.  Electronic copies are preferred, but if you do have paper copies, consider scanning them to avoid the possibility of incurring a fee for law firm staff to do it.

Are There Additional Documents that will be Required?

Yes.  It is common practice for attorneys to request an exhaustive list of any kind of document relating to an interest held in any type of asset or source of income.  For example, appraisals, trusts, deferred compensation, business interests, inheritances, educational savings, safe deposit box contents, and employment contracts.

What Happens if a Party Does Not Comply?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a party to object to discovery requests, for example, on the grounds that the particular request is “overbroad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence.”  When there is disagreement over discovery, there is the possibility that court involvement will be necessary to resolve the issue.

When it comes to the discovery process, we encourage our clients to maintain an open and cooperative approach to avoid disagreements that often cause delays and end up being costly for both sides.  So if there is anything practical you can do to prepare yourself, it is to organize your files, and familiarize yourself as best you can with your financial records.

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable and experienced with the process of discovery and how to resolve the various issues that arise throughout each case.