Tag: Parenting

What Provisions Should Be Included in a Parenting Plan?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is a document, usually in the form of an agreement, that addresses child-related issues, such as legal custody and a parental access schedule. In the absence of an agreed-upon Parenting Plan, a Court will determine a Parenting Plan that it believes is in the child(ren)’s best interests.

 When does a Parenting Plan need to be Submitted to the Court?

 A proposed Parenting Plan must be submitted to the Court on or before the Case Management Date, which is approximately ninety days after filing an action for dissolution of marriage. If parenting issues are disputed at the time of the Case Management Date, the parties are required to appear in Court and may be ordered to meet with a Family Relations counselor.

 What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody is the power to make decisions for a minor child(ren). Such decisions include the child(ren)’s health, education, religion, and welfare. Legal custody may be shared jointly, awarded to one parent only after good faith consultation with the other parent, or awarded solely to one parent without good faith consultation. A Parenting Plan must set forth how legal custody is shared and typically includes a definition of legal custody.

What is a Parenting Coordinator?

A Parenting Coordinator, or “P.C.,” is an individual who may be engaged by parents to help them communicate better, make decisions on behalf of their child(ren), and resolve disputes. P.C.s are generally mental health professionals or social workers. P.C.s are not judges and cannot make binding decisions—they can, however, make recommendations. Often, parents will elect to include a provision about a P.C. in their Parenting Plan. These provisions typically require both parents to meet with a P.C. in an attempt to resolve any parenting dispute before submitting the matter to a Court.

 What is a Regular Parental Access Schedule?

A regular parental access schedule sets forth when each parent will parent the child(ren) during non-holiday and vacation time. It is the day-to-day schedule. A regular parental access schedule is not “one size fits all” and will vary from family to family.

 What is a Holiday and Vacation Schedule?

 A holiday and vacation schedule sets forth all holidays that are celebrated by a family and delineates how they are shared. Parents often elect to alternate holidays such that one parent has parenting time in even-numbered years and the other parent has parenting time in odd-numbered years. Parents may also elect to assign a specific holiday to one parent in every year. A holiday and vacation schedule also addresses summer vacation. Parents will typically select a number of weeks, consecutive or non-consecutive, that each parent will have during the summer.

 What Other Provisions Should be Included?

 Parenting Plans almost always contain non-disparagement language. They should also address notice provisions with respect to travel, as well as provisions related to the attendance of medical appointments, school conferences, extracurricular activities, and the introduction of new significant others.

 What is a Right of First Refusal?

Some parents elect to include a Right of First Refusal in their Parenting Plan. If a parent is unavailable to parent the child(ren) for a certain number of hours on his or her parenting time, he or she must give the other parent the option of parenting the child(ren) before he or she engages a childcare provider. If the non-scheduled parent is also unavailable, then the scheduled parent is typically responsible for the cost of any necessary childcare. The number of hours will vary from family to family. Four to six waking hours are common.

 What if my Spouse has issues with Drugs or Alcohol?

 Drug and alcohol testing may be included in a Parenting Plan. If one or both parents are struggling with substance abuse, he or she may be required to submit to drug or alcohol testing. A testing protocol, including the frequency of tests, will be delineated in the Parenting Plan. Said protocol will also include consequences in the case of a missed or positive test. If the parent struggling with substance abuse issues is able to achieve a certain level of sobriety, his or her parenting time may be expanded upon his or her reaching certain milestones.

Can Parenting Plans be Modified?

 Yes. Parenting Plans may be modified if there has been a material change of circumstances which alters a Court’s finding of the best interests of the child(ren) or a finding that the original order sought to be modified was not based upon the best interests of the child(ren).

At Broder & Orland LLC, we understand the sensitive nature of parenting issues in a divorce or custody dispute in Connecticut. Our skilled attorneys will guide you through the process of crafting a Parenting Plan that is consistent with your minor child(ren)’s best interests.

Top 10 Songs About Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Eric J. Broder

In a recent “water-cooler” office conversation, my office was discussing a number of songs that have been written about divorce. After an entertaining discussion, and in no particular order, here are a few of the more well-known songs and key lyrics, which certainly warrant a listen if you are going through the process. Warning: if you watch some of these videos on YouTube, make sure you have tissues nearby.

“We Just Disagree” by Dave Mason

So let’s leave it alone, ‘cause we can’t see eye to eye

There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys

There’s only you and me and we just disagree

“Divorce Separation Blues” by The Avett Brothers

I’ve got the tough education

No celebration

Bad communication

Worse interpretation

Love deprivation

Pain allocation

Soul devastation

Cold desolation

Life complication

Resuscitation

Divorce separation blues

“D-I-V-O-R-C-E” by Tammy Wynette

And he thinks C-U-S-T-O-D-Y spells fun or play

“Broken Home” by Papa Roach

Can’t seem to fight these feelings

Caught in the middle of this

My wounds are not healing

Stuck in between my parents

Broken home! Broken home!

“Stay Together For The Kids” by Blink 182

Their anger hurts my ears

Been running strong for seven years

Rather than fix the problems

They never solve them

It makes no sense at all

I see them everyday

We get along, so why can’t they

“The Winner Takes it All” by Abba

The judges will decide

The likes of me abide

Spectators of the show

Always staying low

“Highway 20 Ride” by the Zac Brown Band

A day might come and you’ll realize that if you could see through my eyes

There was no other way to work it out

And a part of you might hate me

But son please don’t mistake me for a man that didn’t care at all

“Broken Home” by Five Seconds of Summer

I’m here alone inside of this broken home

Who’s right, who’s wrong

Who really cares?

The fault, the blame, the pain’s still there

I’m here alone inside of this broken home, this broken home.

“Every Other Weekend” Reba McEntire

Let’s go see dad

Same time in the same spot

Corner of the same old parking lot

Half the hugs and kisses there are always sad

We trade a couple words and looks

And kids again

Every other weekend

“Doesn’t Anybody Stay together Anymore” by Phil Collins

Well one says white and the other one black

It’s the same old story…Doesn’t anybody stay together anymore?

The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are experienced in handling divorce issues with understanding and sensitivity. We strive to meet all of our client’s individual needs.

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.

What is the Parenting Education Program?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

  • It is a mandatory course for any parent going through divorce with minor children.
  • The purpose is to educate parents about the impact of divorce on children.
  • The course duration is six hours and can be completed in two 3-hour sessions or three 2-hour sessions.
  • It is not necessary for parents to attend together.
  • The cost of the program is $150 per parent.

The State of Connecticut requires any party to a divorce to participate in the Parenting Education Program whenever a minor child is involved.  As set forth in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-69b, the course must be an approved program and the topics will include the developmental stages of children, the adjustment of children to parental separation, dispute resolution and conflict management, guidelines for visitation, stress reduction in children and cooperative parenting.  The legislative history of the statute makes it clear that the purpose of the program is to protect children of divorce.

The time frame for completing the course is within the first sixty days of the return date or the filing of the action, which is mandated by the Automatic Orders that go into effect at the initiation of a marital dissolution and/or custody action.  Practice Book § 25-5(5). Your attorney should provide you with the course information and instructions, but it is up to you to locate, register for, and attend the program.  In Fairfield County, there are several approved providers including agencies in Norwalk, Greenwich, Westport, Bridgeport, and Stamford, and there are weekend options to attend as well as weekdays.  Upon completion, a certification is filed with the court.

The statute does permit a court to waive the requirement when it deems participation unnecessary. Conn. Gen. Stats. § 46b-69b(b).  For example, in Russell v. Russell, Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford, Docket No. HHD FA165041627S (March 28, 2017; Adelman, J.), the court waived the requirement based on the high level of cooperative parenting. The statute also permits the court to waive the requirement when the parties select and attend a comparable parenting education program.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-69(c).  What is “comparable,” however, is not obvious.  For example, a similar curriculum offered as a course online was not acceptable in Recile v. Recile, Superior Court, Judicial District of Waterbury, Docket No. FA05-4008087S (March 31, 2006, Cutsumpas, JTR). The court found that an online program was not nearly as beneficial as the in-person program that is mandated in Connecticut. Citing legislative hearing research and articles from other states, the court noted that the purpose of the Connecticut program “is to make parents listen to experts explain what is happening to their children, what their children are feeling and offer techniques to lessen the trauma.”  The court concluded that an online course may very well risk the well-being of the child for the sake of convenience which it was unwilling to do.

The Connecticut Parenting Education Program requirement was challenged on constitutional grounds in 2008. Controversy arose over whether the State’s mandate rose to the level of governmental infringement on a parent’s fundamental right to raise his or her own children. Since the United States Supreme Court had  recognized that a parent’s interest in making decisions concerning the care, custody and control of his or her child is a fundamental right, Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65, 120 S.Ct. 2054 (2000), a Connecticut parent challenged whether the statutory obligation was constitutional.  The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that because the course was intended to provide information to parents regarding the effects of family restructuring on children, there was no infringement on a parent’s exercise of care, custody and control over his or her children, and therefore no violation.  Dutkiewicz v. Dutkiewicz, 289 Conn. 362, 947 A.2d 821 (2008).   In fact, the court further concluded that the State has a legitimate interest in promoting the welfare of children, noting that marital dissolution and custody actions are “likely to impact the welfare of children and simultaneously are likely to present parents with extreme emotional or psychological challenges as the family is restructured.”  Id. at 382.

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC practice exclusively in the area of divorce and custody and can provide you with information about registering for the Parenting Education Program.

The Basics of Bird Nesting

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

On occasion, clients who consult with divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Westport and other Fairfield County cities and towns, inquire about arrangements where the children stay in their home and the parents alternate moving in and out. This is commonly known as “bird nesting.” The motivation for this type of parenting plan is often financial. Parents sometimes recognize an inability to have two homes that are adequate to meet the needs of their children, especially during the pendency of a divorce. Or sometimes parents feel they are being more compassionate toward their children if they keep them full time in the home they are used to, particularly when the divorce action has just started and emotions are raw.

For these reasons, bird nesting sometimes may be a reasonable short term solution, however it is rarely ideal. Unless the family home is very expansive, privacy of each parent can be an issue. Sharing rooms, particularly the former marital bedroom, can lead to unwanted encroachment of personal space. It can also create emotional confusion for the children. Usually, a clean break although painful in the short term, is more realistic.

Certainly once a divorce is final, bird nesting is rarely practical. An alternative that works in some cases is to have both parents live in close proximity to each other. Although this means the children go back and forth, if both parents remain in the same neighborhood, the children are able to sustain their connection with what is familiar and comforting to them. Of course, this means the divorced parents must feel comfortable being in proximity to a former spouse, which often is not the case given the contentiousness that permeates many divorces. So like concentric circles, moving further out but still in the same geographic location is often the best move.

Children are generally resilient and in time most get used to two households. Often it is a relief from the tension and fighting they have observed prior to the divorce, sometimes for many years. And they may even think it is “creepy” for their parents to bird nest once the divorce is inevitable or after it occurs.

If you are considering bird nesting, it can be helpful to consult with a therapist who can meet with the parents and children, sometimes in different constellations, so that everybody can express their true feelings and concerns about such an arrangement. And it is a good idea to establish clear ground rules that ensure privacy and respect.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we are able to develop bird nesting plans that meet our clients’ needs. We are creative in our approach and thoughtful in the execution. We also assist our clients in remaining flexible when it is necessary to tweak or modify an arrangement that might work better for the family as time goes on.