Tag: stamford

Are Communications With My Therapist or Marriage Counselor Admissible in Court?

This Week’s Blog by Lauren M. Healy

  • There are statutes in Connecticut that protect communications between individuals and certain treatment providers
  • The communications between a psychiatrist and patient as well as a psychologist and patient may be privileged if the communications occurred during diagnosis or treatment
  • Communications with a marriage or family therapist are privileged as long as the counselor has met certain certification qualifications

Divorce litigants in Fairfield County, Connecticut often ask whether or not statements made during therapy are subject to disclosure during divorce proceedings. Sometimes, people are afraid of saying something in marriage counseling or therapy that may “hurt” their divorce case. Most of the time, this concern is unnecessary. The laws of the state of Connecticut recognize that there are certain communications between individuals which should remain private and confidential. In fact, there are statutes in Connecticut which specifically provide criteria for determining whether communications with psychologists, psychiatrists, and marriage or family therapists are privileged. Whether or not communications are privileged really depends on the circumstances of the therapy as well as the qualifications of the therapist. For this reason, it can be helpful for potential clients to understand the nuances of the privilege in advance of engaging a marriage counselor or therapist.

Psychologist/Patient Privilege

Connecticut General Statutes §52-146(c) details exactly what is considered a privileged communication between psychologist and patient. Generally speaking, for a communication between psychologist and patient to be considered as privileged, it must have occurred during consultation for purposes of diagnosis and treatment. This means that if you have a casual conversation with friend who is a psychologist, for example, you should not expect that communication to be privileged. The statute further requires that the psychologist be licensed to practice pursuant to state law.

Psychiatrist/Patient Privilege

Similar to the psychologist-patient privilege, the privilege between a psychiatrist and patient extends to any written or oral communications, or records, related to the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. The relevant statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. §52-142(c)(a), defines a psychiatrist as someone who licensed to practice medicine and spends a substantial portion of his or her time devoted to the practice of psychiatry.

Marriage and Family Therapist

It would be very difficult to make any progress in marriage therapy if each party was afraid that his or her words could ultimately be used against that party. Accordingly, there is a statute in Connecticut that specifically addresses those communications that are made in marriage counseling or in family therapy. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. S52-146p, communications (written or oral) with a marriage or family therapist are considered privileged as long as the therapist is certified by the Connecticut Department of Health Services as a Marital and Family Therapist.

Waiving the Statutory Privilege

Generally, in order for privileged communications to be admissible in Court, there must be consent of the patient. In family or marriage therapy, which includes more than one person in treatment, communications remain confidential unless all of the parties to the therapy consent to the therapist disclosing communications. However, the statutes provide some exceptions to the requirement for consent, in limited circumstances. One example is if a party has introduced his or her psychological condition as an element of his or her claim, such as in a custody dispute, the communications may be disclosed without consent.

At Broder & Orland LLC we are experienced in divorce cases that involve psychologists, psychiatrists and marriage counselors and have litigated issues regarding privileged communications in courts throughout the state, including Stamford, Bridgeport, and Danbury.

Common Myths With Respect to Alimony in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Myth #1: Alimony is awarded for half the length of the marriage
  • Myth #2: Lifetime alimony means that the alimony payor must pay alimony for the rest of his or her life
  • Myth #3: My spouse works full-time; therefore, I do not have to pay alimony

There is No Law in Connecticut Stating that Alimony is Awarded for Half the Length of the Marriage

At Broder & Orland LLC, we hear many of the “myths” about alimony that our Fairfield County divorce clients learn, oftentimes through their social circles or the Internet.  It is important for us to dispel these myths so that our clients have the correct information before making decisions about alimony in their cases.  In some cases, people are pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that the myths about alimony are not true.

One of the most common myths divorce attorneys hear from clients from Greenwich to Fairfield is that the term of alimony is half of the length of the marriage.  It is important for clients to realize that there is no law in Connecticut that says that alimony should be awarded for half of the length of the marriage, or for any other length of time, for that matter.  Judges in Connecticut have discretion under our law to award alimony for the length of time that they deem appropriate based on the facts of the case and the statutory factors set forth in General Statutes Section 46b-82, including the ages of the parties, the parties’ amount and sources of income, their health, their employability, and the assets awarded to them pursuant to the divorce, amongst other factors.  The length of the parties’ marriage is one of the factors that judges can consider in determining the duration of the alimony term, but it is not the deciding factor.

In some cases, half the length of the marriage is the appropriate duration of alimony because of the specific facts of the particular case.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are no “rules” as to what the duration of alimony must be.  Fairfield County divorce attorneys advise clients as to what the reasonable ranges are for the duration of alimony in a particular case based on their experience in the field and review of trends in Connecticut case law.

In settlements, duration of alimony can be negotiated to achieve a client’s particular goal.  Sometimes, a client may be willing to receive a lower amount of alimony than what may be typical based on the facts of the case in exchange for receiving alimony over a longer period of time.  Others prefer a higher amount of alimony over a shorter period of time than the norm.

Lifetime Alimony is not as Daunting as it Sounds

In long term marriages, particularly where one spouse did not work or received significantly less income during the marriage, the breadwinner spouse will hear that he or she has exposure for paying “lifetime alimony.”  Not surprisingly, this is often an unwelcome proposition for the breadwinner spouse.  At Broder and Orland LLC, we have clients ask us whether that means that they must pay alimony until they die.  They also want to know whether lifetime alimony means that they cannot stop working.

Lifetime alimony in Connecticut means that the alimony payor must continue pay alimony for so long he or she is working and earning income.  Unlike defined alimony terms that end on a specific date, lifetime alimony is written in Court decisions or settlement agreements as ending “upon either party’s death or the alimony recipient’s remarriage.”  What this language means is that, if the alimony payor continues working until age seventy-five and earns income from that employment, he or she will still have an obligation to pay alimony.

Lifetime alimony does not, however, prevent a person from retiring at a reasonable retirement age, usually no earlier than age sixty-five, though every case is different.  Reasonable retirement age can be dependent on the industry in which the alimony payor works or his or her profession.  Once the alimony payor is ready to retire, assuming that he or she is retiring at a “normal” retirement age, he or she has the right to file a Motion to modify his or her alimony obligation, requesting that alimony should cease on the basis of retirement.  Unlike defined alimony terms, lifetime alimony awards put the onus on the alimony payor to go back to Court to request modification of the alimony award on the basis of retirement.  Lifetime alimony does not mean, however, that the alimony payor cannot retire.

Alimony is Sometimes Awarded to a Spouse Who Works Outside of the Home

Some people living in Greenwich and Stamford may be surprised to learn that sometimes alimony is warranted in cases where both parties are gainfully employed outside of the home.  In certain situations, typically where there is a marked income disparity between the parties, the spouse who earns more income will have to pay alimony to the other spouse for a period of time.  The amount of alimony in these types of cases is usually less than what the alimony payor would have had to pay had the other spouse not worked outside of the home.

Contact a Top Fairfield County Divorce Attorney to Discuss Connecticut Alimony Law

There is no substitute for seeking the advice of an experienced attorney with respect to what the law is in Connecticut regarding alimony.  At Broder & Orland LLC, we can dispel any myths people may have heard regarding the amount of alimony typically awarded or the length of time for which it is awarded.

 

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.

WHY PARTIES NEED REVIEW COUNSEL DURING MEDIATION

Mediation is a process whereby parties who are looking to resolve their divorce or post judgment issues meet with a neutral third party (the Mediator) in an effort to settle the case. The parties’ agreement is then memorialized by the Mediator.

In Mediation, the parties (not a Judge and not the Mediator) determine how the case settles. While the Mediator may provide neutral guidance to both parties, the Mediator does not take sides and does not advocate for either party. In fact, in Connecticut, Mediators are not even necessarily attorneys! Since most parties to a divorce action are not attorneys themselves, how are they to navigate the complexities of a divorce, including making major financial and parenting decisions, without someone on their side? This is why it is critical for parties to hire their own Review Counsel to assist them during mediation.

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IN WHICH COURTHOUSE DO I FILE MY DIVORCE CASE AND WHO WILL BE THE JUDGE IF MY CASE GOES TO TRIAL?

Where do I file for divorce?

The Connecticut Statutes have specific provisions that govern which courthouse you are to file for divorce. It is dependent upon where either the Plaintiff or the Defendant resides. Specifically, in Fairfield County:

a.) If either party resides in the town of Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport, or Wilton, the divorce action can be filed in the Stamford courthouse.

b.) If either party resides in towns such as Fairfield, Easton, Trumbull, Shelton, Bridgeport, or Monroe, the divorce action shall be filed in the Bridgeport courthouse.

If the parties have already separated and, for example, the Husband lives in Greenwich and the Wife lives in Fairfield, wherever the action is first filed is the courthouse that will handle the case.

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PREPARING FOR DIVORCE

For most people, deciding to get divorced is not a snap decision. It often comes after many years of pain and turmoil in a marriage. Therefore, there should be sufficient time to prepare for divorce as it is critical to ensuring that the process goes as efficiently as possible.

Experienced divorce attorneys in Westport, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and Stamford, often are asked by a potential client in an initial meeting, “What should I be doing before filing for divorce to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible?” The answer is multifaceted and often depends on the particular facts of the case but below are certain general steps that each divorce litigant should address prior to an action commencing:

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DIVIDING QUALIFIED RETIREMENT PLANS IN A DIVORCE VIA QDRO

For many divorcing couples in Connecticut, retirement assets — such as 401k plans, pension plans or IRA accounts — represent a substantial portion of the marital estate. This tends to be especially true in marriages of long duration. Accordingly, it is not surprising that many of our clients express concerns about whether they will be entitled to share in retirement assets that are titled in their spouse’s name and, if so, what this will look like. Just like assets such as bank accounts, real estate, cars or jewelry, retirement assets are a form of property that can be divided at the time of a divorce. In fact, the division of retirement assets is often a critical component of a divorce settlement or divorce decree.

As an initial matter, it is important to understand that many different kinds of retirement assets exist, and that they are all divisible in a divorce in one form or another. The focus of this article, however, is on employer-sponsored “qualified” retirement plans, which are retirement plans that are afforded special favorable tax treatment because they satisfy certain federal requirements. Common examples of qualified retirement plans that may comprise part of a marital estate are 401(k) plans or pension plans. Fortunately, for divorcing couples, there is a mechanism called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (commonly referred to as a “QDRO”), pursuant to which qualified retirement plans may be divided between divorcing spouses (whether at a 50/50 allocation, or otherwise) without these funds losing their favorable tax treatment and without application of any early withdrawal penalties. In short, a QDRO is a judicial order that assigns to the non-titled spouse (referred to as the “Alternate Payee”) the right to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable to the titled spouse (referred to as the “Participant”) under a qualified retirement plan.

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CHILD SUPPORT PART I: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

“How can I ensure the financial well-being of my children?” is one of the most frequent questions posed to divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport. Divorce is a difficult time for families and all parents want to know that their children will be taken care of both during the pendency of the litigation and long after the final papers are signed. Obtaining support for minor children is therefore one of the most significant issues in a divorce or separation proceeding, and Connecticut courts take the matter very seriously.

Child support cases can sometimes become difficult, depending on the particular circumstances of a given case. This multi-part series will discuss some of the major issues and considerations associated with child support in Connecticut.

Child support stems from a parent’s statutory and common law duty to support his or her minor children. Support payments are meant to cover a broad range of expenses for the minor child, including but not limited to basic necessities such as shelter, food and clothing. Under most circumstances a parent has a duty to support his or her minor child until that child is emancipated or reaches the age of eighteen; in the case where a child does not graduate high school by the age of eighteen, child support payments typically continue until the earlier of the child’s graduation from high school or the child’s nineteenth birthday. Child support is typically paid from one parent to the other parent on a monthly or weekly basis. Payments can be made via cash, check, direct deposit or through a wage withholding order on the payor’s earnings.

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RELOCATING WITH A MINOR CHILD: “MUST I STAY OR CAN I GO”?

One of the thorniest issues that can arise between divorced parents occurs when one parent wishes to relocate with a minor child after child custody orders have been entered as part of a divorce judgment. Perhaps the parent wishing to relocate has landed her dream job in a far-away city or wants to move closer to family. Perhaps he is remarrying and wishes to live with his soon-to-be new spouse who resides elsewhere with her own children.

The reality is that a Connecticut parent wishing to relocate with a minor child after entry of custody orders (whether to another state or even a significant distance within Connecticut) has substantial and challenging legal hurdles to overcome if the other parent opposes the move. In such circumstances, the parent wishing to relocate must obtain approval from a Court, and Connecticut statutory law sets forth a particular analysis that Courts must employ when considering a relocation Motion.

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WHAT DIVORCE PROCESS IS RIGHT FOR ME? PART I – MEDIATION

Divorce touches almost every family in our state. According to statistics published by the Judicial Branch from the time period of July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, nearly 33,000 family cases were added to the already crowded docket. Just as no two marriages are the same, no two divorces are the same either. If you are a person living in Greenwich, Westport, Stamford, Darien, or New Canaan contemplating divorce, you have several options to choose from. Generally, the options fall into four main categories: (1) Mediation, (2) Collaborative, (3) Litigation, and (4) Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”). At Broder & Orland LLC, we counsel individuals as to the positives and negatives of each category. This four (4) part series will discuss some of those points, starting with mediation.

MEDIATION

In strict mediation, the divorcing couple works with a neutral mediator whose job is to help facilitate and/or broker a comprehensive agreement on all issues related to the divorce including legal custody, physical custody, alimony, child support, housing, division of bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, and the division of personal property.

Theoretically, this is the most idealistic of the main categories because it involves the couple working together to resolve their issues outside of the courtroom in an expeditious manner at a minimal cost. However, in application, mediation often does not follow the idealistic path. Generally, for a mediation to be successful, each spouse needs to (a) fully trust one another, (b) be on equal footing with regard to knowledge of his/her finances, and (c) be invested in truly wanting to get divorced.

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