Friday, April 12, 2013

DIVORCE: Process - What You Should Know

The divorce process can seem daunting.  It is recommended that a person who is considering divorce or a person faced with divorce be informed and, in most cases, represented and advised by an attorney.  In the following post from our four-part blog series about Divorce, Attorney James T. Flaherty provides information about the process of divorce.


In our representation of a client in a divorce matter, once we have determined what you want in regard to a settlement, and once we are reasonably certain that we have the financial and other information we need regarding your spouse, we will attempt to negotiate a settlement with your spouse's attorney.  We will, of course, not agree to anything that you do not approve.  We will also strongly advise you against any agreement that we do not feel to be in your best interests.


Dissolution of marriage cases can be set down for a final hearing on any one of three lists.  Cases where the parties have reached a settlement go on the uncontested list and the hearing consists of reporting the agreement to the court for approval.  Cases where the parties dispute custody of the children or grounds for the dissolution are set down on the contested list.  Cases where custody is not an issue but the parties dispute the division of their assets or the amount of alimony or support are heard on the limited contested list.
Contested and limited contested hearings will usually be preceded by a negotiating session.  A family relations officer may meet with the parties individually and jointly, with and/or without their attorneys, to attempt to reach a settlement.  If the parties settle, their agreement will be submitted to the court for approval.  If the parties cannot settle, the court will set a trial date, which may be several weeks or months later, depending on the estimated length of the trial and the availability of court time.
The court considers the following in determining the division of the parties' assets:  the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income, the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value in their respective estates.


Under Connecticut law, a dissolution of marriage may invalidate certain portions of any will or trust you may have.  To protect yourself and the interests of your loved ones, it is important that you have a Will drawn up after the divorce.
The dissolution of your marriage, however, will not affect the beneficiary of any life insurance policies you may have.  If you wish to make any changes on your life insurance policies, I suggest that you contact your agent.  Please remember that the automatic orders of the court prohibit any change of beneficiary during the pendency of the action.


As attorneys, we make every effort to keep our client advised regarding his or her matter by sending copies of most correspondence and pleadings either received or sent out by our office.  A client need not appear in Court unless notified by email, telephone or letter from our office.  If a client should be served with a subpoena, he or she should immediately call our office and notify us.  A client should not hesitate to call our office if there is a question about his or her case.

When a spouse fails to follow a court order, whether it relates to alimony, support, or visitation, there is a mechanism called "contempt" to which we may turn.  By this process the court is directed to the need for enforcement and may enter such compelling orders as are needed, including monetary fines and, in some instances, incarceration.  Should a client’s spouse not follow a Court order, the client should bring this to the attention of his or her attorney immediately.


Either party may come back to court after the final judgment has been entered and request an increase or decrease in alimony so long as there has been no stipulation by the parties that such modification is not to be allowed.  The party seeking the change must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the time of the dissolution. The court maintains continuing jurisdiction over child support until the child’s eighteenth birthday or the child’s graduation from high school, but no later than the child’s nineteenth birthday. 
Custody of the children may be modified at any time after the Judgment if there is a substantial change of circumstances affecting the best interests of the children.  The final Judgment of the court regarding property awards are not, in the absence of fraud, modifiable.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article about the Divorce Process. Please continue to read our series of articles about Divorce, which includes "Basics", "Money", and "Parenting".  The purpose of the Flaherty Legal Group blog is to provide useful information about divorce and family law in Connecticut.  

Hartford, CT
There are 13 judicial districts courts for family matters in Connecticut.
The Superior Courthouse in Hartford is Located at 90 Washington Street.
Attorney James T. Flaherty practices Divorce and Family Law with Pamela Magnano and Sandi Girolamo at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT.
Attorney James T. Flaherty
Attorney James T. Flaherty practices Divorce and Family Law with Attorney Pamela M. Magnano and 
Attorney Sandi B. Girolamo at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT

DIVORCE: Money - What You Should Know

A major concern to parties involved in a divorce is money. How are marital assets such as property, savings and investment accounts divided and allocated? What costs are incurred in the course of gettting divorced? What about alimony and child support? How do these questions get answered?
If you are represented by Flaherty Legal Group in your divorce, you will be asked to provide a financial history of your marriage. This information will be needed by your attorney so that he or she knows the appropriate facts necessary to represent you.  The facts you provide will be used by the court to base its orders for the awarding of property and, if requested, alimony and support. The information requested will include:
- The present amount and sources of your income and that of your spouse.
- A complete chronological history of how you and your spouse contributed to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of the assets listed on your financial affidavit (see below). This history should include:
            - The sources of all cash used to purchase all assets, including stocks, bonds and all real estate owned during the marriage.
            - The amounts and signatories of all mortgage(s).
            - Whether loans were secured from family or friends; and
            - How investments and other types of assets were acquired. Include also a description of the assets, if any, that you or your spouse had on the date of your marriage. 
- You will be asked to describe:
            - The opportunity that you and your spouse each will have to acquire property or other assets in the future.
            - The lifestyle of you and your spouse during your marriage, concentrating in particular on the several years prior to the filing of the action for a dissolution of your marriage.  You will be asked to indicate the type of furnishings in your home, the frequency and type of vacations you took, meals out and other types of entertainment, country clubs joined, and so on.
            - The amount each spouse earned during the past five years.  This will include any and all benefits, including pension, bonuses, health and life insurance, stock options, automobile and/or travel provided by employers, credit union, and so on.
            - Who managed the finances and how any debt was incurred.
            - If you have any children, you will be asked to describe any special needs they have, including educational, medical, and so on.  You will describe your child-care if both spouses are working and your opinion of whether it is desirable for the custodial parent to be employed. 


At the time of the final hearing, and at any other time in which there is a court hearing regarding orders, the parties must submit to the court financial statements sworn to and signed under oath.
At the beginning of your case, we give you a financial affidavit form and ask you to complete it.  We will also ask you to supply us with any pay stubs, copies of income tax returns, and any other financial documentation you may have.  We will then go over your figures with you so that we may have an accurate financial affidavit in your file.  Whenever we are to go to court on financial matters, we will contact you to update your financial affidavit.
Your spouse's attorney will have the opportunity to cross‑examine you about your financial affidavit.  He may subpoena your employment, banking and other financial records and compare this information with what you have stated on the affidavit.
Note that the line immediately above your signature on the financial affidavit states:  "I hereby certify that the foregoing statement is accurate to the best of my knowledge and that I can, if requested submit documentation for all assets, liabilities, and expenses listed above."


The court has the power to order one spouse to make payments to the other.  Alimony is paid to maintain the other spouse and can be paid in one lump sum or periodically.  Child support is paid periodically to the spouse who has custody of the children to maintain the children. 
The court also has the authority to order Post Majority Support for children after they have reached the age of majority under Connecticut General Statutes 46b-56c.
There are important federal income tax considerations involved in regard to these payments.  The spouse making alimony or unallocated alimony and support payments may deduct these from taxable income, while the recipient of alimony or unallocated alimony and support must declare these payments as income. Child support is not deductible by the payor nor taxable to the recipient.


In representing you, Flaherty Legal Group offers you our skill and our time.  After entering into a representation agreement with our firm, much of what we do for you is not done in your presence and you have a right to know how our fees are determined. All legal services are charged at an hourly rate, including research, court appearances, phone conferences, office conferences, court appearances and the like.  Because it is impossible to know in advance how much time will be required for the resolution of your situation, we cannot charge a fixed fee.  To some degree you will be able to affect the legal fee charged because the complexities of the issues involved in your case together with your ability to resolve issues with your spouse will directly impact the ultimate total fee. You should note also that time spent on the telephone is billed at our hourly rate.
Our office requires that you pay a retainer, which is a fee paid in advance and credited toward legal services rendered. Should the final fee be less than the retainer, we return the difference to you. If the retainer does not cover the full fee, you will be billed for the difference. Bills are sent monthly and you are asked to keep current on these monthly bills. Separate costs expended by our office on your behalf, such as filing fees and service fees, will be billed to you. Sizeable fees will be discussed with you before being incurred and you should feel free to ask about your expenses at any time. This is further explained in the Representation Agreement you receive during the initial consultation. Monthly statements will be sent to you so that you are aware of the status of your account. 

Thank you for reading this installment of our informational blog series about divorce. In addition to this article about the financial aspects of divorce, other sections include: Basics, “Parenting, and The Process.

Attorney James T. Flaherty practices Divorce and Family Law with Pamela Magnano and Sandi Girolamo at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT.
Attorney James Flaherty

Attorney James T. Flaherty practices Divorce and Family Law with Attorney Pamela M. Magnano and 

DIVORCE: Parenting - What You Should Know

We continue our four-part blog series on Divorce with this post about Parenting.  Needless to say, there is much more that goes into the divorce process when the best interests of children are involved.  The following is but a small offering of information.  To acquire a better understanding of the laws, process and implications of divorce on your children and the role you play as a parent, you should consult with a Family Law Attorney.


Effective January 1, 1994, the court must order the parties in family cases in which a minor child is involved to attend a parenting Education Program.  Effective October 1, 1997, you are required to attend this program within (60) days of your return date.  Click to see a Brochure from the Court which explains the program and provides a list of locations where you may attend these classes.  An Order Certificate will need to be completed by the Service Provider.  You will need to be aware of your return date and plan your participation in this program accordingly.  


Cases that involve disputes over custody of children are the most difficult for the client to live through and for the attorney to try.  The court usually will assign a family relations officer and sometimes an attorney for the minor child to investigate the case and to offer recommendations.  There may also be reports submitted by psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers, either ordered by the court or hired by the parties.
The court, based on what it believes to be the best interest of the child, will usually enter orders of sole custody or joint custody with the children's principal residence with one of the parties. The non‑custodial parent is usually granted rights of visitation that, depending on the circumstances, may be either specific or general. 

Please read further into our four-part blog series on Divorce.  Other articles cover information pertaining to Divorce Basics, Money, and the Process.  

Attorney James Flaherty of Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT practices divorce and family law, including custody and child support.
Attorney James Flaherty
Attorney James T. Flaherty practices Divorce & Family Law at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, Connecticut. For information about Guardian Ad Litem services, you can contact Attorney Sandi Girolamo and Attorney Pam Magnano.


DIVORCE: Basics - What You Should Know

A dissolution of marriage is almost always upsetting and delicate in nature.  Every case is different and requires individual attention.  The general information in this informational post is presented to help you understand the court process and answer some questions you may already have.  We have posted four blog articles devoted to this assistive tool we call “Divorce: What You Should Know”.  In this first article, we will provide information about the “Basics”.  Please refer to the other articles in the series: Money, Parenting, and Process.  For more information, please feel free to contact Flaherty Legal Group, LLC. 
* Connecticut statutes use the legal term "dissolution of marriage" to mean divorce.  While the two terms may be used interchangeably in informal discussions, legal documents will use "dissolution of marriage".
* The only practical effect of Connecticut's "no‑fault" dissolution of marriage law is that it is now only necessary to prove that a marriage has broken down irretrievably to obtain a divorce.  However, other causes for the breakdown of a marriage, such as intolerable cruelty, habitual intemperance, or adultery, may be brought to the court's attention and may be considered by the court in determining the award of property and alimony, if any.  (See our article titled “10 Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut” for more information about causes that may be considered by the court.)
* Commencement Of Suit:  A dissolution of marriage action is started by one party filing with the court legal papers called a "summons" and a "complaint".  The party filing is called the "plaintiff" and the other party the "defendant."  Before filing the summons and complaint with the court, the plaintiff has these papers served on (delivered to) the defendant by a sheriff.
The summons tells the defendant that he or she is being sued for dissolution of marriage.  The summons also states a "return date", or date by which the defendant must file with the court an "appearance", which is a legal paper stating the name of the defendant's attorney or whether the defendant will act as his or her own attorney ("pro se").  It is not necessary for anyone to appear in court on the return date. 
The complaint states the date and place of the marriage, the number of minor children the parties have, the reason for the dissolution, and whether either of the parties has received state support.  The complaint also states the relief sought by the plaintiff, such as alimony, child support, custody and counsel fees.
Length Of Time To Finalize:  Connecticut law provides that ninety days must pass after the return date before a dissolution action can proceed to a final hearing.  Because the courts must process a great number of dissolution cases, the earliest a case can be heard is usually about four months from the date of the sheriff's service.
There are many other factors that may delay a case, especially when the parties cannot reach a settlement and it is necessary to have the court decide the custody of minor children, the division of property, the amount of support or alimony, and other matters.  Disputed cases often can take a year or longer to finalize. 
* Temporary Orders: After the lawsuit is started, either party may ask the court for orders which, if entered, will be in effect until the dissolution hearing.  These temporary orders are often called by their Latin name, "pendente lite," which means "during the litigation".
A party must file a motion with the court stating what pendente lite orders are sought.  A hearing will then be scheduled at which the parties must appear.  The court will rule on the motion after hearing argument and perhaps testimony.
The most common pendente lite orders are for custody of the children, alimony and/or support, and exclusive possession of the home.  These orders may be modified before the final hearing.  Failure to follow these orders will make a party liable to be charged with contempt of court.
* Automatic Orders: Effective October 1, 1997, automatic orders are entered in all family cases during the pendency of the action.  These orders shall apply to both parties.  The service of these automatic orders shall be made with the service of process of a complaint for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment, custody of visitation.  The automatic orders shall be effective with regard to the plaintiff upon the signing of the complaint and with regard to the defendant upon service and shall remain in place during the pendency of the action, unless terminated, modified or amended by further order of the court  upon motion of either of the parties. 

Please continue to the other sections of this four-part informational blog series titled “Divorce: What You Should Know”.  Other sections include: Money, “Parenting, and The Process

Attorney James Flaherty of Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT practices divorce and family law and can help guide you through divorce.
Attorney James Flaherty
Attorney James T. Flaherty practices Divorce and Family Law with Attorneys Pamela Magnano and Sandi Girolamo at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ten Grounds For Divorce In Connecticut

In Connecticut, you only need to prove an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage to obtain a divorce.  In the event you wish to allege another ground, there are ten (10) grounds for divorce listed in Connecticut General Statutes §46b-40.  These ten grounds are:
1. Irretrievable breakdown of marriage;
2. Living apart due to incompatibility for a continuous period of 18 months and there is no prospect of reconciliation;
3. Adultery;
4. Fraudulent contract;
5. Willful desertion for one year;
6. Seven years’ absence;
7. Habitual intemperance;
8. Intolerable cruelty;
9. Sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year;
10. Legal confinement in a hospital or institution because of mental illness.
The court may enter a dissolution of a marriage upon a finding that any of the above has occurred.

For a general overview about divorce, please refer to our four part series of articles on the Flaherty Legal Group Blog titled "DIVORCE: Basics - Money - Process - Parenting".  

Attorney James Flaherty of Flaherty Legal Group and Attorneys Pamela Magnano and Sandi Girolamo practice divorce and family law in West Hartford, CT
Attorney Pamela Magnano practices Divorce and Family Law with Attorney James Flaherty 
and Attorney Sandi Girolamo at Flaherty Legal Group in West Hartford, CT.