Tag: Post Judgment

Can I Appeal My Connecticut Family Law Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

The Judge Issued a Decision in My Connecticut Family Law Case: Can I Appeal?

In Connecticut, you have the right to appeal a final judgment entered by a trial court.  Common final judgments subject to appeal in family law cases are final judgments from orders dissolving the marriage, including permanent orders regarding alimony, child support, and custody, and orders regarding the division of assets.  Post-judgment decisions, such as those regarding the modification of alimony, child support, and custody, are also appealable.

When Must I File My Appeal?

The deadline for filing an appeal is no later than twenty days after the court issues notice of its decision.  It is not advisable to wait until the last day to appeal, as missing the deadline, even inadvertently, can be fatal to your appeal.  Therefore, you should seek the advice of an appellate practitioner who does family law appellate work immediately after receiving a decision from the trial court.

My Ex-Spouse is Filing an Appeal: Do I Need to Do Anything?

If you are not the person appealing the decision, you need to ensure that your rights are protected during the pendency of the appeal.  You should consult with an appellate lawyer in order to understand the basis for your former spouse’s appeal, any potential weaknesses in the judge’s decision that make the decision vulnerable to being overturned on appeal, and what your best arguments in defense are.

In What Court is an Appeal Decided?

Most appeals are heard by the Connecticut Appellate Court.  Rarely, a case will be reviewed by the Connecticut Supreme Court without being heard first by the Appellate Court.  Direct review of a trial court decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court can sometimes occur when there is an issue that has never been decided by Connecticut Appellate Court or the Connecticut Supreme Court, when there is conflicting law on a particular subject matter, or when there is a matter of public importance worthy of decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Will the Appeal be Similar to the Trial?

The appellate process is very different from the trial process.  There is no new evidence or new testimony at the Appellate Court.  Each party submits thorough briefs outlining the facts of the case and the legal arguments in support of his or her positions.  The briefs are based on the record, consisting of the testimony from the trial court proceedings and any exhibits submitted to the trial court.  The appellant, i.e., the person taking the appeal, submits his or her brief first.  After the appellee submits his or her brief, the appellant has the opportunity to file a Reply Brief.  After all of the briefs are submitted, the Appellate Court will schedule a date for oral argument before a panel of Appellate judges.  At the Appellate Court, the panel typically consists of three judges.  At the Supreme Court, the panel consists of seven justices.   A party may attend oral argument, but is not required to do so.  After oral argument, the Appellate Court (or Supreme Court, as the case may be) will issue its Decision in writing.  The Decision is usually released several months after oral argument takes place.

How Long Will My Connecticut Appeal Take?

The appellate process in Connecticut can take several months, at least.  Some appeals can last over one year.

Can My Case Be Settled While an Appeal is Pending?

Your case can be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. Experienced litigators will explore potential avenues for settlement, if possible, in order to avoid the expense and time of an appeal.  In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due.  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.  Whether you and your ex-spouse reach a settlement through the Preargument Conference or on your own, you can prepare a settlement agreement and the appeal can be withdrawn once the settlement is approved by the trial court.

Broder & Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating 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.

What is an Educational Support Order?

This Week’s Blog by Nicole M. DiGiose

Does the Court have the Authority to Order a Party to Contribute to a Child’s College Expenses? 

Yes.  Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(a), the Court has jurisdiction to enter an order requiring one or both parents to provide support for a child to attend an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for the purpose of attaining a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other appropriate vocational instruction for a total of four full academic years.  

Are there any Prerequisites for the Court to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Yes.  The Court may not enter an educational support order unless the Court finds, as a matter of fact, that it is more likely than not that the parents would have provided support for a child’s higher education or private occupational school, had the family remained intact.  

What does the Court Consider in Determining Whether to Enter an Educational Support Order?

Pursuant to General Statutes Section 46b-56c(c), in determining whether to enter an educational support order, the Court shall consider all relevant circumstances, including: (1) the parents’ income, assets and other obligations, including obligations to other dependents; (2) the child’s need for support to attend an institution of higher education or private occupational school considering the child’s assets and the child’s ability to earn income; (3) the availability of financial aid from other sources, including grants and loans; (4) the reasonableness of the higher education to be funded considering the child’s academic record and the financial resources available; (5) the child’s preparation for, aptitude for and commitment to higher education; and (6) evidence, if any, of the institution of higher education or private occupational school the child would attend. 

What Expenses Qualify as “Educational Expenses?”

An educational support order may include support for any necessary educational expenses, including room, board, dues, tuition, fees, registration and application costs, books, and medical insurance.  

What is the Maximum Amount of an Educational Support Order?

An educational support order may not exceed the amount charged by the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state student at the time the child matriculates.  The “UConn cap” applies to the entire educational support order for both parents.

Could Parties Agree to Alternate Arrangements regarding Educational Support Orders?

Yes.  The “UConn cap” may be exceeded by the parties by agreement.

When can the Court enter an Educational Support Order?

The Court may enter an educational support order at the time of a decree of dissolution, legal separation, or annulment.  The Court may reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date.  This is usually done in cases of young children.  If the Court does not reserve jurisdiction to enter an educational support order at a later date, then no educational support order may be entered thereafter.  If the Court does reserve jurisdiction, a party may petition the Court to enter an educational support order at a later date.  

When do Educational Support Orders Terminate? 

An educational support order must terminate no later than a child’s attaining age twenty-three.

Could an Educational Support Order be entered for a Child’s Graduate School Expenses?

No, the Court does not have jurisdiction to enter an educational support order for a child’s graduate or postgraduate education beyond a bachelor’s degree.  However, parties may agree to be responsible for and share these expenses.

At Broder & Orland LLC we have extensive experience in addressing disputes related to a child’s post-secondary educational support throughout Fairfield County and Connecticut, whether the issue arises incident to a dissolution of marriage action or post-judgment.

Reopening Divorce Judgments on the Basis of Fraud

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot

  • A divorce judgment may be “reopened” on the basis of fraud, and potentially set aside, if it is discovered after the judgment was issued that a party made intentional material misrepresentations to the Court.
  • Proof of fraud alone is insufficient to have a judgment reopened; a party seeking to reopen a judgment must also prove that the outcome of a new trial, untainted by the fraud, would likely be different.

As experienced family law and divorce attorneys with offices in Greenwich and Westport, Connecticut, we frequently represent clients who are concerned that their spouse is concealing or secreting assets or income. While such suspicions often turn out to be unfounded or imagined, there are indeed cases where such concealment is discovered during the divorce process (typically during the course of financial discovery), and can therefore can be addressed prior to judgment (whether such judgment is in the form of a judicial decision issued after a trial, or a negotiated agreement).  But what if the concealment of assets or income is not discovered until after a divorce judgment has been rendered? While such a post-judgment discovery of fraud presents a far trickier problem to resolve, it is a problem that can, in certain limited circumstances, be remedied.

If a party can prove in Court that a judgment was in fact based upon fraud or intentional material misrepresentations, Connecticut Courts do have the discretion to reopen such a judgment and set it aside.  That said, the legal threshold that must be met in order for a Court to reopen a judgment is quite high.  Specifically, Connecticut’s Supreme Court has established the following minimum criteria which must be met by a moving party before any motion to reopen a judgment may be granted: (1) there must be clear proof of perjury or fraud; (2) there must have been no unreasonable delay by the injured party after the fraud was discovered; and (3) there must be a substantial likelihood that the result of a new trial would be different.  See Billington v. Billington, 220 Conn. 212 (1991).

Collectively, these criteria present a high hurdle to overcome.  The mere suspicion of fraud, even if the reasonably based, is insufficient for a Court to reopen a judgment.  Rather, there must be clear proof of the fraud and, perhaps even more notably, the fraud must rise to a level sufficient enough for the moving party to prove that the outcome of a new trial — one untainted by the fraud — would likely be different.

Accordingly, even in instances where a genuine post-judgment fraud has been discovered, an aggrieved party should give careful consideration to his or her likelihood of success prior to investing resources in post-judgment litigation.

At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience handling all aspects of complex post-judgment issues, including both prosecuting and defending motions to reopen judgments on the basis of fraud.

The Connecticut Divorce: What is Family Relations?

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

  • Family Relations offers a wide variety of services to help resolve parenting, custody, and financial disputes in divorce and post-judgment actions.
  • Depending on the service recommended, you can expect to meet with a Family Relations Counselor for an hour or for an extended period of time over the course of many months.

What is Family Relations Relative to a Connecticut Divorce?

Family Relations or family services is a free service offered by the Judicial Branch to assist the Court and individuals in resolving parenting, custodial, alimony, child support, and property issues.  The Family Relations Counselor assigned to your matter is typically a trained social worker or attorney.

What Services Does Family Relations Offer in a Connecticut Divorce?

Pursuant to Court Form JD-FM211 below is a list and brief explanation of the specific services:

  1. What type of alternative dispute resolution services?
  • Pre-trial Settlement Negotiations – In all Judicial Districts, Family Relations Counselors conduct pre-trial and final judgment settlement conferences with attorneys and parents in conjunction with their attendance at Family Short Calendar and other Family Civil Court dockets.
  • Mediation – Family Relations Counselors mediate custody and access disputes for up to three 2-hour sessions. These efforts are geared toward assisting parents in resolving differences in a self-determining, non-coercive, and confidential manner.
  • Conflict Resolution Conference – This is a confidential, directive process utilizing negotiation and mediation techniques to resolve the primary issues of custody and access. Parents and attorneys participate in the conferences and information from professional sources may be included. The Family Relations Counselor may offer recommendations to the parents at the conclusion of the process if the parties are unable to resolve their dispute. These recommendations are not provided to the Court.
  1. What type of Case Management Services?
  • General Case Management – A Family Relations Counselor will be assigned distinct responsibilities to assist parties in resolving their parenting issues with a report back to the Court. Some components include gathering specific information regarding the family, monitoring compliance with court orders, facilitating settlement conferences to develop parenting plans, conducting home visits, or completing other court-ordered tasks.
  • Intensive Case Management – This service offers parents in the early stages of post judgment court involvement the opportunity to enhance collaboration between the parents and formulate mutual decisions regarding the well-being/care of their children. The role of the Family Relations Counselor is to work with the parents as needed to reduce conflict, offer skills for enhanced communication, reinforce positive parenting, and report progress to the Court.
  1. What type of evaluative services?
  • Issue-Focused Evaluation – This is a non-confidential process of assessing a limited issue impacting a family and/or parenting plan. The goal of an Issue-Focused Evaluation is to explore the defined parenting dispute, gather information regarding only this issue and provide a recommendation to the parents and the Court. This evaluation format is limited in scope, involvement, and duration.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation – This is an in-depth, non-confidential assessment of the family system by the Family Relations Counselor. The information gathered by the counselor, the assessment of the family, and the resulting recommended parenting plan is shared with the parents and attorneys. This recommendation may be used to form the basis of an agreement. At the conclusion of the process, a report with recommendations is filed with the Court.
  1. What type of education services?
  • Parent Education Program (PEP) – Family Services contracts with community and private agencies throughout the state to provide this program. The PEP is a six-hour statutorily mandated, psycho-educational course for separating and divorcing parents that provides information about the impact of family restructuring on children.

What Can I Expect at my Family Relations Meeting in a Connecticut Divorce?

Typically, there are two ways to end up in Family Relations.  First, prior to having an evidentiary hearing on a Motion, you and/or your lawyer must first meet with Family Relations to try and settle the issues.  Your lawyer will present an argument and provide basic backup documents, if requested, and the Family Relations Counselor will try and mediate a resolution and/or provide recommendations.  This meeting could feel rushed as it typically lasts only between 20 and 40 minutes.

Second, if you and your spouse have disputes relative to custody or parenting time, your matter will most likely be referred to Family Relations for an intake screen.   At the intake the Family Relations Counselor will ask you a series of questions to identify the level of conflict and complexity of issues. The screening includes questions about: (a) current court orders, (b) past and present parenting concerns including substance abuse and family violence, and (c) the level of conflict.  This screen helps Family Relations determine if mediation, conflict resolution conference, issue focused evaluation, or a comprehensive evaluation is the appropriate service to help resolve the conflict(s).  Once the appropriate service is determined, an appointment will be scheduled (it may be a joint meeting or an individual meeting) and you will be asked to discuss your concerns about the children and answer concerns that the other parent may raise.  Depending on the service, you may be asked to sign release and/or consent forms to permit the Family Relations Counselor to communicate with doctors, therapists, teachers, and other relevant individuals.  Additionally, the Family Relations Counselor may conduct a visit with you and your children at your home.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce.  We have significant experience with Family Relations and understand the nuances of the process.  Our experience enables us to effectively guide our clients through the process by educating them on what to expect and to prepare them in presenting their concerns and issues in an organized and cogent fashion.

The Evolution of Cohabitation

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

Although the term “cohabitation” is not statutorily defined or even mentioned in the statute itself, it is a well-known concept in Connecticut Family Law referring to grounds to have alimony payments reduced, suspended or terminated following divorce.

  • Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-86(b) authorizes the court to reduce, suspend or terminate alimony payments based on proof that 1) the alimony recipient is living with another person; and that 2) the living arrangement has caused an alteration of the alimony recipient’s financial needs.
  • “Living with another person” does not necessarily mean residing together under the same roof—it can still be found where the alimony recipient and significant other have separate residences.
  • The “alteration” of financial needs must be quantified, however, the amount does not have to be significant, and according to recent case law, can also be shown by cost savings that result from the living arrangement.
  • The evidentiary burden of proof for modification is lower for cohabitation claims requiring only a “change in circumstances” rather than the “substantial change in circumstances” that is required based on other grounds for modification under General Statutes § 46b-86(a).

The Rationale Behind the Statute

The statute was enacted “to correct the injustice of making a party pay alimony when his or her ex-spouse is living with a person of the opposite sex, without marrying, to prevent the loss of support.”  (H.B. No. 6174, 1977 Sess. Statement of Purpose).  The statute was clearly meant to address the situation of alimony recipients taking steps to avoid the loss of spousal support.  Consistent with this principle, in cases where the initial component of living together is disputed, Connecticut courts will look beyond whether the alimony recipient and significant other maintain separate residences and consider facts that support whether the relationship is marriage-like.

“Living With Another Person”

In many cohabitation cases, there is a concession of living together, and the focus shifts to whether the living arrangement so affects the financial circumstances of the alimony recipient as to justify a modification of alimony.  However, in cases where living together is challenged, the fact that separate residences are maintained will not necessarily stave off a finding of cohabitation.  For example, in Boreen v. Boreen, Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford, Docket No. FA084015215S (October 31, 2017; Shay, J.), cohabitation was found where a couple resided together under the same roof 50% of the time, ate many of their meals together and frequently traveled together even though both maintained separate housing. The court noted that “the statute does not specify that the parties must live together under the same roof twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the court to make a finding that they are living with another person.”  The court found cohabitation based on the couple’s long-time, committed and monogamous relationship that came with a financial benefit for the alimony recipient.

Financial Benefit

The statute requires not only a finding of living with another, but that the living arrangement alters the financial needs of the alimony recipient.  This must be shown in dollar amounts, but does not have to be significant in order to be sufficient.  For example, courts have deemed the evidence sufficient where a party was receiving $100 a week from a cohabitant, D’Ascanio v. D’Ascanio, 237 Conn. 481 (1996); where a party received $400 a month for rent from a cohabitant, Duhl v. Duhl, 7 Conn.App. 92 (1986); and where a party received $30 a week from a cohabitant who also performed handyman chores, Lupien v. Lupien, 192 Conn. 443 (1984).  Recently, the Connecticut Appellate Court reversed a trial court for not considering a party’s savings in rent that resulted from the alimony recipient moving in with her boyfriend.  Murphy v. Murphy, 181 Conn.App. 716 (2018).

Change in Circumstances

Once it is shown that an alimony recipient is living with another person within the meaning of the statute, and that there is a measurable financial benefit to the alimony recipient, the threshold change in circumstances is met and the court then engages in the analysis of consideration of the General Statutes § 46b-82 factors.  The required change in circumstances is lower pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86(b) than the “substantial” change in circumstances required pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-86(a).

In 2013, General Statutes § 46b-86(b) was amended to include the language, “In the event that a final judgment incorporates a provision of an agreement in which the parties agree to circumstances, other than as provided in this subsection, under which alimony will be modified, including suspension, reduction, or termination of alimony, the court shall enforce the provision of such agreement and enter orders in accordance therewith.”  This means that parties may negotiate and agree to their own terms of what constitutes cohabitation and the court will enforce their agreement.  Therefore, carefully considered drafting of the Separation Agreement is critical, and knowledge of the foregoing essential if cohabitation is a future possibility for either party.

With offices in Westport and Greenwich, the attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC are extremely knowledgeable in the issues that arise following divorce such as alimony modification based on cohabitation, as well as how to avoid potential issues by careful and comprehensive drafting of Separation Agreements.

How Does My Motion Get Heard by a Judge?

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie

  • The short calendar is a date when motions are scheduled to be heard.
  • Non-emergency motions get filed with the clerk and then scheduled on the short calendar.
  • Once a motion is scheduled on the short calendar, you have to mark it ready in order to proceed.

What Types of Motions Get Scheduled on the Short Calendar?

Any non-emergency motion gets scheduled for at least the first time on the short calendar.  Emergency, or ex-parte motions, are temporarily decided on the papers without a hearing, and then get scheduled for a hearing within fourteen days of the temporary orders being entered.  Examples of non-emergency motions are as follows: alimony, child support, discovery, modification, contempt, compel, custody, and parenting time.  At the Stamford Courthouse, the short calendar occurs on Mondays and at the Bridgeport Courthouse, the short calendar occurs on Thursdays.  The exception is if a court holiday falls on the short calendar date. Other courts throughout the state have different short calendar dates.

What is a Ready Marking?

After a motion is filed with the clerk, or e-filed in cases filed after October 2015, the motion gets published to the short calendar.  Currently, at the Stamford Courthouse it typically takes approximately four weeks from a time a motion is filed until the short calendar date is assigned.  The typical time at the Bridgeport Courthouse is approximately two weeks.  Just because a motion is published on the short calendar, it is not automatically heard on the short calendar date.  To proceed on the short calendar date, the motion must be marked ready.  To mark a motion ready, you must call the clerk or do so electronically.  Once a motion is marked ready, the other party must be notified.  The marking period is typically the week before the short calendar date.  If the motion is not marked ready, then it cannot be heard at the short calendar.  To have a motion heard that is not marked ready, it must be reclaimed and it is then published to a subsequent short calendar and then marked ready.  Typically, a motion cannot be reclaimed more than three months after it was filed.

What Happens at the Short Calendar?

On the short calendar date the motions are assigned to a specific judge and all parties must report to that Judge’s courtroom.  There, the Judge will typically proceed with a calendar call in which every case is briefly addressed to determine what business, if any, will be addressed that day.  For example the attorneys could report any one of the following to the Judge: the motions will be continued by agreement, the motions will be marked off, an agreement was reached, the parties should proceed to family relations for mediation, or short legal argument is required.  Prior to having an evidentiary hearing, the parties and counsel must first try to resolve factual issue(s) at family relations.  If family relations is unsuccessful, then the motion is eligible for a hearing.  If a motion will take less than hour and if the court has time, it will be heard that day.  If the motion will take longer than an hour, the matter will typically not be heard that date and will be scheduled for a date certain in the future, which unfortunately is often many months in the future.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law, and divorce. We are typically present at each short calendar and our vast experience with the short calendar procedures enables us to efficiently navigate our clients through the process in order to get their motion(s) heard as quickly as possible under the circumstances.

 

What is Parental Alienation?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht

“Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members. It is a distinctive form of psychological abuse towards both the child and the rejected family members that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce, particularly where legal action is involved.”  Lorandos, Bernet and Sauber, Parental Alienation: The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals (Charles C. Thomas, Ed. 2013).

  • In Family Law, parental alienation is a term used to describe the dynamic of a child’s unreasonable rejection of one parent with the encouragement/tacit approval of the other parent.
  • The issue of parental alienation arises in high conflict custody cases both pre- and post-divorce when one party seeks sole legal and/or physical custody of the child(ren).
  • Connecticut Family Courts consider evidence of parental alienation in the context of making or modifying custody orders in accordance with what is in the best interests of the child pursuant to C.G.S. § 46b-56.
  • Courts may order the involvement of mental health professionals and custody evaluation experts to investigate allegations of parental alienation and make recommendations of intervention if necessary.

Generally, parental alienation is the psychological manipulation of a child by one parent to unjustifiably reject the other parent, and although it is not regulated as a punishable offense in the United States, it is considered a crime of child abuse in other countries carrying criminal penalties. In Connecticut, allegations can, and often do, arise in cases of contested custody, and there is a wide body of case law identifying the characteristics and conduct of an alienated child as well as that of an alienating parent.   For example, children who suddenly refuse to see a parent or declare hatred of a parent based on minor or unfounded complaints may be a signal of alienation.  A parent who falsely alleges physical or sexual abuse, exaggerates allegations of substance abuse or other inappropriate conduct, interferes with the other parent’s access to school records and information, restricts the other parent’s parenting time, or involves the children with details of litigation—these may be considered efforts to deliberately undermine the relationship between the child and the other parent, and the consequences can be severe. In some cases the court may order specific interventions to remedy the situation, such as therapeutic treatment for child and/or parent, or reunification therapy, or in extreme cases, the court may order a complete reversal of custody.

The statutory factor under which the court will consider evidence is C.G.S. § 46b-56(c)(6): “[T]he 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.”  See e.g., Hibbard v. Hibbard, 139 Conn. App. 10, 55 A.3d 301 (2012) (“Because the child has lived with the plaintiff since birth, the court does not take lightly the prospect of changing her primary residence at this point.  Nevertheless, the court determined that such a modification to the custody order was in the best interests of the child because the plaintiff demonstrates a real deficiency in her willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent. … The court referenced the plaintiff’s strategy of pursuing the elimination of the defendant from their daughter’s life and concluded that the result of leaving the child with the plaintiff would be the eventual loss to the child of her father.”)

Connecticut does not recognize parental alienation as a diagnosable syndrome as it was initially proposed in the 1980’s (officially discredited as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 2012). “There is insufficient evidence that the description offered of parental alienation syndrome has any scientific basis.  There is no credible evidence that this syndrome has been the subject of any scientific studies published with approval in peer-reviewed scientific literature.” Snyder v. Cedar, Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven, NNH CV010454296, February 16, 2006 (Pittman, J.).  However, courts have made factual findings that a parent has engaged in parental alienation. See Ruggiero v. Ruggiero, 76 Conn. App. 338, 349, 819 A.2d 864 (2003) (“Following the presentation of evidence, the court stated:  [I]t’s my finding that [the plaintiff] has been guilty of parental of alienation in two ways:  One of them is that he attempted to alienate the children from [the defendant] …”). Courts also note, however, that a claim of parental alienation may be an effort by one parent to gain tactical legal advantage over another parent. Mastrangelo v Mastrangelo, Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven, No. FA054012782S, February 1, 2017 (Kenefick, J.)  (“This was not a case of severe parental alienation orchestrated by the mother. The father had a significant role in creating the problems he had with his children … his continued attempt to expose [the plaintiff] for being an alienating mother is not going to endear his children to him. … [he] was a on a mission to punish [the plaintiff] to the detriment of seeing his children.”).

All child custody cases are complex. It is imperative for the professionals involved in every case to be knowledgeable and experienced in the particular dynamic at issue. Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Greenwich and Westport, are experienced in custody cases involving parental alienation.

Post-Divorce Housekeeping

This Week’s Blog by Carole T. Orland

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Lost Your Job-What Happens to Your Alimony Obligation?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(a) allows for modification of alimony under certain circumstances
  • The circumstances that resulted in your loss of employment and the terms of a severance agreement, if any, will have an impact
  • There are strategy considerations prior to filing a Motion to Modify
  • Consult with a top Fairfield County divorce attorney about your divorce decree so that you are armed with your options after losing your employment

Connecticut Law Allows Alimony Obligations to be Modified

At Broder & Orland LLC, we sometimes receive panicked phone calls from clients or former clients living in towns such as Greenwich, Stamford, and Westport who have lost their jobs.  The first question they ask is: what impact will the job loss have on their obligation to pay alimony?

Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(a), the statute that addresses modification of support awards, provides that alimony obligations can be modified “[u]nless and to the extent that the decree precludes modification.”  So, unless your divorce agreement or Court decision states that alimony is non-modifiable, you have the option of modifying your alimony obligation based on the loss of your employment.

Connecticut law provides that, in order for a person to obtain a Court Order modifying alimony, the party seeking the modification must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances.   Under Connecticut case law, in determining whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances, a Court will compare the circumstances at the time of the last Court Order of alimony with the circumstances at the time that a party seeks a modification of that Order.  Typically, a job loss in and of itself is considered to be a substantial change in circumstances.  However, the reason that you lost your job and the terms of your severance will be critical in determining the timing and success of your Motion.

The Reason for Your Job Loss and the Terms of a Severance Agreement are Significant

In deciding a Motion to Modify alimony based on job loss, a Court will look at why the alimony payor is no longer employed.  In Connecticut, there is case law that states that loss of employment resulting from a party’s “voluntary culpable conduct” will not be considered a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification of alimony.  What constitutes voluntary culpable conduct is a factual inquiry.  If you were fired for cause, such as for violating company policies or other inappropriate conduct, it likely will be a stumbling block for you to obtain a modification of your alimony obligation based on job loss.

If you were let go from your employment as part of normal layoffs, and not as a result of any of your voluntary culpable conduct, the next inquiry is whether your circumstances have changed financially as a result of your loss of employment.  Many of our clients want to file a Motion to Modify alimony immediately upon losing their jobs.  If, however, a person receives severance payments for a period of time that are the same or substantially the same as the income received when employed, the receipt of that severance income means, in the eyes of the Court, that there has not been a substantial change in circumstances yet.

When Can I File a Motion to Modify?

It is natural, then, to ask: When can a Motion to Modify Alimony be filed after a job loss?  Every situation is unique, but generally the appropriate time to file such a Motion is toward the end of the severance payment term, assuming that you have not found a job before that time or, if you have found a job, your income at your new employment is now substantially less.

If you have not found new employment and proceed with a Motion to Modify, you can expect that one of the inquiries at the hearing on your Motion will be what you have done and what you currently are doing to find employment.  A Court will want to know that you have made and are making bona fide efforts to obtain employment at or near the level of your prior employment.  If you can prove that have been doing so and have not found employment, a Court likely will look more favorably upon your Motion.  Be sure to save all of your written communications regarding your employment search, as it could become evidence at a hearing on a Motion to Modify.

Contact a Top Fairfield County Divorce Attorney after Losing Your Job

At Broder & Orland LLC, our attorneys have significant experience handling cases involving the modification of alimony when a client has lost his or her employment.  In fact, we have been involved in some of the seminal cases in Connecticut on alimony modification issues and can consult with clients to shed light on whether a potential alimony modification case is viable.  Losing your job can be one of the most stressful events in your life.  Meeting with an attorney to discuss your options can give you peace of mind and provide you with a plan going forward with respect to your alimony obligation.