Tag: child support

CAN I GET DIVORCED ONLINE WITHOUT GOING TO COURT IN CONNECTICUT?

This Week’s Blog by Westport divorce lawyer Jaime S. Dursht

CAN I GET DIVORCED ONLINE WITHOUT GOING TO COURT IN CONNECTICUT?

Yes, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch has announced that uncontested divorces will be permitted remotely, without the requirement of physical presence in court. This is significant given the current status of court closures because it means that if you have reached agreement with your spouse on the terms of your divorce, you will be able to proceed to judgment on the papers.

Are Divorce Separation Agreements Negotiated Remotely in Connecticut?

The majority of divorce settlements are negotiated remotely with the exchange of settlement correspondence followed by drafts of the divorce agreements (called Separation Agreements). If negotiation reaches impasse, there are alternate dispute resolution options that are available on a virtual basis. Proceedings that were held in conference rooms two months ago are now taking place over conference calls and virtual meeting space. Professional mediators are conducting sessions using Zoom for example, and attorneys continue to move their cases forward utilizing remote applications and tools that are no less effective from home computers.

What are the Uncontested Divorce Requirements in Connecticut?

The Judicial Branch filing system has been paperless since 2015 when it required the electronic filing of nearly all legal documents and pleadings that would otherwise have been filed in person at the courthouse clerks’ offices. To proceed with an uncontested divorce, a fully executed Separation Agreement and sworn Financial Affidavits must be e-filed with the court, and if applicable, Child Support Guidelines, an Affidavit Concerning Children, and Advisement of Rights. Until recently, the parties and counsel were required to personally appear before a judge for an uncontested hearing for approval and entry of the Separation Agreement as final orders of the court.

What is the Procedure for a Final Online Divorce in Connecticut?

The Judicial Branch has now made it possible to meet the legal requirements of an uncontested divorce online by requiring Affidavits to be filed (Affidavit in Support of Entry of Divorce Judgment, Plaintiff or Defendant) in lieu of in-person testimony, and a Request for Approval of Final Agreement Without Court Appearance.

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce. Our attorneys are extremely knowledgeable and prepared to conduct remote and/or virtual negotiation and settlements as well as final online uncontested divorce.

HOW DOES THE CARES ACT IMPACT MY CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

On March 27, 2020 the Congress passed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security “CARES” Act. This Act is intended to provide emergency economic relief to individuals, families and businesses who are impacted by the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. How does the CARES Act impact your Connecticut Divorce?

How are Economic Impact Payments Treated in my Connecticut Divorce?

The CARES Act provides for Economic Impact Payments to be made to many American households based on Adjusted Gross Income (“AGI”) as reported on 2018 and 2019 Federal income tax returns. Eligibility is based on thresholds, for example, if you filed individually and had AGI less than $99,000, filed individually as head of household with AGI of less than $136,500, or filed jointly with AGI less than $198,000, you may be entitled to payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
If you are going through a divorce in Connecticut and you, your spouse and/or your children are entitled to economic impact payments, the payments constitute a marital asset for purposes of dividing property, the same way that a tax refund would be.

If I am already divorced, who will receive the Economic Impact Payments on behalf of my children?

Whether or not your child is entitled to an impact payment depends on the financial information of the parent who claimed the child on a 2019 tax return. If neither parent filed a 2019 tax return, the payment will be based upon the parent who claimed the child in 2018. Payments are automatically made into the account or mailed to the address designated by the tax filer on his or her return.

How do I know if my Spouse Received Funds from the Paycheck Protection Program?

The paycheck protection program was established under the CARES Act and is intended to provide small businesses with up to eight weeks of payroll and other costs (such as rent, mortgage interest and utilities). If you are going through a divorce in Connecticut and your spouse owns a business, it probably worthwhile to formally request any and all documents and applications submitted to or received from the paycheck protection program (or any other Federal, State or Municipal relief, for that matter). This will not only inform you as to whether or not your spouse has received funds, but it will also provide you with documentation of the payroll and other financial information of the business in the months and years leading up to the divorce.

Will my alimony reconciliation be postponed due to the tax deadline extensions?

The IRS, in conjunction with the CARES Act, has extended the deadline to file and pay federal income taxes from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. If your Separation Agreement provides for a reconciliation of alimony upon the filing of your ex-spouse’s tax return, and he or she is taking advantage of the extension, it will likely impact your ability to conduct a reconciliation. While you are waiting for the 2019 tax return to be filed, there may be other documents that you can request from your ex to at least start the reconciliation process, such as W-2s, year-end paystubs, 1099s and other supporting documents.

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC recommends that you seek advice from an experienced divorce attorney, as well as your tax professional and financial advisor as to how the CARES Act might affect you if you are divorced, divorcing or separated in Connecticut.

CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS AND THE DISCLOSURE OF SENSITIVE BUSINESS RECORDS IN A DIVORCE

While divorce can be a difficult and stressful process under normal circumstances, it can be especially stressful and complicated for business owners, or for anyone who holds an ownership interest in a business.    Many business owners (or business interest owners) want, or are otherwise required by company policy, to keep certain records and information regarding their business confidential. However, in Connecticut, a business interest constitutes an asset that is subject to equitable distribution between divorcing parties and, as result, where a business interest is at stake in a divorce, a professional appraisal of that interest by a business valuation expert is often necessary. What happens when your spouse asks you to produce confidential or sensitive business records?

Are Confidential or Sensitive Business Records Discoverable in a Divorce?

Generally speaking, yes. In a divorce, each party has the right to seek full and complete disclosure of any and all pertinent financial records from his or her spouse. Accordingly, if you own a business or own an interest in a business, your spouse will be entitled to seek information relating to your business interest (even sensitive or otherwise confidential information ) which is relevant to any financial issues in your divorce including, for example, the value of your business interest or the amount of income that you derive from a business. While you will always maintain a right to object to any specific requests for information (on any number of available bases), at the end of the day you may be required by a judge to produce sensitive information that you or your business would otherwise wish to keep confidential.

How Can I Limit Exposure of Confidential Business Information?

A common way to limit the exposure of any sensitive and/or confidential business information that you are required to disclose to your spouse in a divorce is to execute a Confidentiality Agreement, also referred to as a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

What is a Confidentiality Agreement?

A Confidentiality Agreement is a legal contract between parties establishing a confidential relationship between a person or company who is required to disclose sensitive information, and the person(s) to whom such information will be disclosed. In the context of a divorce, a Confidentiality Agreement typically precludes the non-disclosing spouse (i.e., the spouse who has requested and is receiving the confidential information) from disseminating the confidential information he or she receives pursuant to the Agreement to any third parties, typically with the exception of his or her attorney or any relevant experts that he or she has retained. Depending on the nature of the business and/or the information at issue, the disclosing party may also ask a court to seal the court record to prevent any information offered into evidence at a judicial proceeding from becoming public.

What Should be Included in a Confidentiality Agreement?

While Confidentiality Agreements should not be approached with a “one size fits all,” mentality, any such Agreement should, at a minimum: (1) define with specificity the type of information that will be protected by the Agreement; (2) delineate clearly the person(s) or institution(s) to whom any confidential information disclosed pursuant to the Agreement may be disseminated; (3) set forth with specificity the purposes for which confidential information may be utilized; (4) set forth with specificity what measures any parties to whom confidential information is disseminated must take to ensure that confidentiality is maintained (including rules about how confidential materials must be stored and/or maintained and how and when they must be destroyed); and (5) setting forth remedies that the disclosing party may seek against the non-disclosing party if the Confidentiality Agreement is breached.

At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, we are extremely experienced and adept at drafting and negotiating Confidentiality Agreements in order to help our clients protect against the dissemination of confidential or otherwise sensitive business information.

You Lost Your Job Because of COVID-19—What Happens to Your Alimony and/or Child Support Obligation?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray and Nicole M. DiGiose, Westport and Greenwich lawyers at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting measures to stem its spread have caused record unemployment numbers in the United States. While the full economic impact is not yet known, people who live and work in New York City and Fairfield County, two of the harder hit places in the tri-state area, have already begun to feel the effects with respect to job loss and loss of income. For those who have an alimony and/or child support obligation pursuant to a Connecticut Divorce Judgment, the natural question after losing a job, whether due to COVID-19 or otherwise, is: what impact will the job loss or reduction of income have on my obligation to pay alimony and/or child support?

Can I Modify My Alimony and/or Child Support Obligation if I Become Unemployed Because of COVID-19?

Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(a) provides that alimony and/or child support obligations may be modified. Alimony may 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.

In order to obtain a Court Order modifying alimony and/or child support, the party seeking the modification must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. 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 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. In these unprecedented times, many people are losing their jobs as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic; so, you will not be the only person making claims in a Connecticut Court that you lost your job due to COVID-19.

I Lost My Job Due to COVID-19, but I Am Receiving a Severance: Can I Still Modify?

If you receive 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 yet been a substantial change in circumstances.

When Can I File a Motion to Modify?

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.

Is My Ability to File a Motion to Modify in Court Affected by COVID-19?

Under Connecticut law, a person requesting a modification may request that the Court Order relief retroactive to the date that the Motion to Modify was personally served on the other party. The party filing the Motion to Modify must file the Motion with the Court, have a Hearing date assigned by the Court Clerk’s office, and then serve the Motion to Modify on the opposing party. The earliest date that the moving party can request for retroactivity purposes is the date of personal service on the opposing party.

As of the time of writing this article, the Courts in Connecticut are open with limited hours and are only permitting individuals to enter the building under certain circumstances, none of which include filing a Motion to Modify in person. Notwithstanding that fact, Motions may still be filed by mail or by e-filing; so, you can still file the Motion to Modify with the Court. Once you receive the assigned Hearing date from the Clerk’s office, the Motion can be served on the other party.

Because of the pandemic and resulting effects on the Connecticut Court system, the timing for receiving assigned Hearing dates on Motions to Modify that have been filed has been delayed, meaning that the date of personal service on the other party will also likely be delayed. Family lawyers in Connecticut have been seeking clarification from the Judicial Branch regarding whether temporary changes to the rules will be permitted so that there is some other standard for retroactivity, other than personal service on the opposing party, in order to address this issue. As of the time of writing this article, there has not yet been a solution presented to this problem, but the fact that there are discussions about this issue signifies that there is no harm in filing a Motion to Modify now (if appropriate to do so) and, in fact, there may be a benefit to doing so in order to preserve retroactivity.

What Documentation Should I Gather Regarding My Modification Case?

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. 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. It is not difficult to imagine that those seeking jobs as a result of job loss due to COVID-19 will have difficulty finding new employment in the current economic climate and that they will encounter increased competition for positions, which will be useful information to present to a Court as part of a Hearing on a Motion to Modify.

I Was Furloughed as a Result of COVID-19: Can I Modify Alimony and/or Child Support?

Some people living in Fairfield County are not permanently losing their employment as a result of COVID-19, but may suffer a temporary loss of employment or a reduction in income. Even if this change of financial circumstances is temporary, it may be appropriate to file a Motion to Modify in order to seek retroactive modification of alimony and/or child support for the time period during which the payor (or recipient, as the case may be) was receiving less income.

Can I Stop Paying or Reduce My Alimony and/or Child Support Payments if I Lose My Job or am Furloughed?

A Court Order remains in place unless and until it is modified by a Court or by agreement between the parties. Ceasing or reducing alimony and/or child support payments without the Court’s prior permission may be viewed by the Court as “self-help.” Additionally, a payor who ceases or reduces alimony and/or child support payments may be subject to a Motion for Contempt. If you have lost your job or have been furloughed, it is a good idea to file a Motion to Modify now in order to preserve retroactivity. While the Motion is pending, it may be possible to work out an agreement as to how alimony and/or child support payments may be modified.

Could I be Held in Contempt if I Stop Making or Reduce my Alimony and/or Child Support Payments?

In order to prove contempt, the moving party must demonstrate to the Court, by clear and convincing evidence, that there has been a willful violation of a clear and unambiguous Court Order. Divorce Agreements and Court Decisions are Court Orders. The question of whether an Order is clear and unambiguous is for the Judge to decide. Assuming the Court Order is clear and unambiguous, the Judge will next decide if the cessation or reduction of alimony and/or child support was willful. In determining willfulness, a Court could look at why you lost your employment, what other sources of funds you had available to you to pay alimony, and what your job search efforts have been.

At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, our attorneys have significant experience handling cases involving the modification of alimony and/or child support when a client has lost his or her employment. We can consult with clients to shed light on whether a potential alimony and/or child support modification case is viable. Losing your job can be one of the most stressful events in your life. Our attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC are available to discuss your options with you and can provide you with a plan going forward with respect to your alimony and/or child support obligation, which may include filing a Motion to Modify and negotiating and drafting an agreement with the other side. It is our goal to give you peace of mind during these difficult times.

WHAT DOES DISSIPATION OF MARITAL ASSETS MEAN IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht., a Westport and Greenwich lawyer at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC.

 

One spouse’s reckless, out-of-control and wasteful spending may be a dissipation of assets resulting in the other spouse receiving a credit in the final allocation of the marital estate. Connecticut courts have the statutory authority under Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81 to consider a spouse’s dissipation of marital assets when determining the nature and value of property to be assigned to each spouse. Finan v. Finan, 949 A.2d 468 (2008). Not all types of spending qualify as a dissipation of marital assets. For example, the sudden repayment of a large loan to parents without the knowledge of the other spouse may or may not be a dissipation of marital assets, depending on the circumstances.

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF A DISSIPATION OF ASSETS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

Not all forms of excessive spending are a dissipation of marital assets. “[A]t a minimum, dissipation in the marital dissolution context requires financial misconduct involving marital assets, such as intentional waste or a selfish financial impropriety, coupled with a purpose unrelated to the marriage.” Gersham v. Gersham, 286 Conn. 341, 346 (2008). Gambling, spending on a paramour, concealment or transfer of an asset to another for little or no consideration are traditional examples of the type of financial misconduct required to obtain a credit. “Even a sharp disagreement between spouses over the wisdom of an expenditure, without more, does not render that expenditure a dissipation of marital assets. … The test is whether the asset was actually wasted or misused.” Id.

DOES THE MISCONDUCT HAVE TO OCCUR DURING THE PENDENCY OF A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

There is a timing requirement for the spending to have occurred, although not limited to the pendency of the divorce case. Just because the expenditures occurred prior to filing the action does not take it out of consideration. “[I]n order for a transaction to constitute dissipation of marital assets for the purposes of equitable distribution … it must occur either (1) in contemplation of divorce or separation; or (2) while the marriage is in serious jeopardy or is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.” Finan v. Finan, 949 A.2d 468 (2008). Thus, financial misconduct that occurred pre-separation may properly be considered as long as the marriage was undergoing irretrievable breakdown.

HOW DOES A PARTY ASSERT A CLAIM OF DISSIPATION OF ASSETS IN A CONNECTICUT DIVORCE?

In addition to claiming a credit for the dissipation of assets in the final allocation of the marital estate pursuant to C.G.S. 46b-81, a party may also assert a claim of dissipation during the pendency of the action as a violation of Automatic Orders pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 25-5. Although the particular misconduct may not be financially remedied with a credit until the end of the divorce action, filing a motion for contempt during the action may serve to preserve the claim and effectively enjoin the conduct.   See, for example, Greenan v. Greenan where a spouse violated automatic orders when he “mortgaged assets, took out loans and converted assets, all the while exercising little restraint over his spending and acting with a sense of entitlement.” Greenan v. Greenan, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk, Docket No. FST FA-09-4015784-S (August 30, 2012, Calmar, J.) Similarly, see the Court’s orders in Barr v. Barr: “In view of the defendant’s dissipation of more than $109,000 in marital assets in violation of the automatic orders, the court finds that such a remedial punishment is appropriate. Accordingly, the defendant shall pay $50,200 (representing 50 percent of $109,000 …) to the plaintiff from his equitable distribution share of the marital assets upon entry of the dissolution decree.” Barr v. Barr, Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford/Norwalk, Docket No. FST FA13-4025428-S (May 28, 2015, Heller, J.).

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in divorce and family law. Our attorneys are extremely knowledgeable about financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce and are very experienced with seeking the appropriate relief for, as well as defending a claim of, a dissipation of marital assets.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Why Should I Hire a Divorce Attorney in Connecticut

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

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

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

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

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

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray.

What is a Preargument Conference?

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

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

When is the Preargument Conference Scheduled?

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

Where does a Preargument Conference Take Place?

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

Do I Have to Attend the Preargument Conference?

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

Who Attends the Preargument Conference?

Parties and their appellate counsel must attend the Preargument Conference as a rule (see above). At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie 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

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 Murray & DeMattie 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.

Testifying in a Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

Do I have to testify during my Connecticut Divorce?

A divorce action is a civil lawsuit, so any time evidence is required to resolve a disputed issued testimony of witness is likely required.  Typically, the witnesses in a divorce action are you and your spouse, however, it is common for other fact or expert witnesses to also testify.  An example of a disputed issue which could require your testimony is what school your child should attend.  You and your spouse will likely be required to provide testimony as to why you believe a certain school is a better fit for your child and why it is in your child’s best interest to attend that school.

What is the format of testifying during my Connecticut divorce?

The two main categories of testimony are direct examination and cross examination.

Direct examination is the questioning of a witness by the party that called the witness to testify.  An example of direct examination is when your attorney calls you as a witness to testify.  Proper direct examination questions are posed in an open-ended manner.  Typically, direct examination questions begin with: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Once your attorney concludes your direct examination, your spouse’s attorney has the option to cross-exam you.  Unlike direct examination, where the questions are open-ended, proper cross examination questions are leading.  A question is considered leading if the answer is suggested in the question.  If done properly, during cross examination the attorney is essentially testifying, and the witnesses is merely confirming or denying the question posed by the attorney.

An example of a direct examination question versus a cross examination questions is as follows:

Direct – Where did you and your spouse marry?

Cross – Isn’t it true that you and your spouse were married in Greenwich, Connecticut?

Once your spouse’s attorney concludes his or her cross examination of you, your attorney will have the option to redirect you.  Redirect is the opportunity to correct or expand on the topics covered during cross examination.  Since proper cross examination often requires are simple yes or no answer, you may want the opportunity to offer more expansive testimony on the topic.  For example, on cross examination you may be asked: Isn’t it true that you were late in paying alimony, yes or no?  If the answer is “Yes”, on redirect examination your attorney may ask you: Why were you late paying alimony? You will then explain the reason why you were late paying alimony.

Thereafter, the opposing attorney will have the option to recross examine you, but he or she can only ask questions within the scope of the redirect examination.  For example, if the redirect examination is limited to questions pertaining to alimony, you typically cannot be asked questions about custody on redirect examination.  This format of redirect and recross examination will continue back and forth until there are no further questions.

What are my basic responsibilities while testifying?

Your first and most important responsibility is to tell the truth.  You will be given an oath by the Clerk to tell the truth, and failure to tell the truth could result in perjury charges or the Judge not finding you to be credible.  In a divorce case, credibility is one of the most important aspects since often a dispute comes down to a “he said, she said” situation.

Second, you need to only answer the question that is asked.  Otherwise, you answer could be stricken as non-responsive, which will only prolong the process.  You may find yourself not wanting to answer the question posed to you by opposing counsel, but you have an obligation to answer the question, unless an objection to the question is sustained.  You also need to remember that your attorney will be able to ask you follow up questions on redirect examination to correct or expand on the question.

Third, if an objection is raised, do not answer the question until you receive instructions from the Judge.  If the Judge sustains the objection you do not have to answer the question.  If the Judge overrules the objection you must answer the question.

Finally, you do not want to fight with opposing counsel.  Opposing counsel may purposefully ask incendiary questions to get you to lose your composure in front of the Judge.  You must do you best to try and stay in control and have faith in your attorney to “fix” any issues on redirect examination.

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event.

CAROLE T. ORLAND QUOTED IN GREENWICH MAGAZINE, JULY 2019.

No.191 SEPARATE WAYS CAROLE ORLAND

When it comes to divorce, the dirty little secret is not that one of the partners had an affair; rather, it’s that this transgression will not significantly affect the court settlement. Here in Connecticut, assets in most  divorce cases nearly always get split down the middle. As for his affair with the dog groomer? That might nudge the needle a bit, to 50/50 or maybe 60/40 percent – but beyond that? Not likely.

Child Support is mandated by state guidelines, and alimony, too, falls within a range that any reputable divorce attorney can estimate. Even Parenting Plans are predictable, reflecting the availability of each party to parent the children. While the court considers all circumstances in a divorce case, says Carole Topol Orland, attorney and cofounding member and partner of Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC in Westport and Greenwich, it doesn’t have to apply any of them to the settlement.

So why make divorce a war? Find an experienced attorney beforehand who can clue you in on the likely outcome, saving you lots of anguish, time and money.  Carole T. Orland

Read the full article, published in the July 2019 issue of the Greenwich Magazine as well as all their publications including Westport, New Canaan-Darien, Stamford and Fairfield.