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.

NEGOTIATIONS AND AGREEMENTS

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.

FINAL HEARING

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.

WILLS AND LIFE INSURANCE

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.

KEEPING YOU INFORMED

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.
  
ENFORCING COURT ORDERS

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.

MODIFICATION OF FINAL ORDERS

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

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