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Considering Fault in a “No-Fault” Jurisdiction

During an initial telephone call or divorce consultation, prospective clients often ask whether Connecticut is in fact a no-fault jurisdiction.  People typically equate that concept with the idea that marital property will automatically be divided equally, with each party receiving fifty percent.  Although Connecticut is indeed a no-fault jurisdiction, one should not presume that, regardless of the circumstances giving rise to the dissolution, each party will necessarily receive fifty percent of the marital estate.

The Grounds for a Marriage Dissolution

To be sure, there are several recognized grounds for a dissolution of marriage, many of which constitute the common understanding of “fault.” As set forth in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40, a Court may consider causes such as:

  1. adultery
  2. fraudulent contract;
  3. willful desertion;
  4. habitual intemperance; and
  5. intolerable cruelty.

If proven, a finding of fault may impact orders regarding property division and/or financial awards.

Dissolving a Marriage in Connecticut

Connecticut is often referred to as a no-fault jurisdiction because a Court may dissolve a marriage simply because it has broken down irretrievably.  Although this provision allows couples to get divorced without proving fault on the part of either party, it does not mean the causes for the breakdown of the marriage, if there are any, are always irrelevant.  It simply means that a Court is not required to find fault before it dissolves a marriage.  Posada v. Posada, 179 Conn. 568 (1980).  This allows parties to obtain a divorce without exposing their private affairs in a public forum.

Importantly, even if a Court specifies that a dissolution is predicated on an “irretrievable breakdown” in the relationship, it is not precluded from considering causes when entering orders regarding property division and/or when making financial awards. Sweet v. Sweet, 190 Conn. 657 (1983).   Indeed, under C.G.S.A. §46b-81, the Court must consider the causes for the dissolution of marriage in fashioning orders regarding property division, and under C.G.S.A. §46b-82, must consider the causes for the dissolution in fashioning alimony orders.

As each matrimonial case presents its own unique circumstances, it is very important to understand the parameters of the factors set forth above, and the degree to which Courts will consider fault in a particular case.  It is also important to understand how to present such circumstances in an effective and meaningful way.  Should you have any questions regarding your own case, please do not hesitate to contact our office.  If you have questions regarding fault and no-fault jurisdictions, or any family law matter contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Adoptive Children and Communications with their Biological Parents

One of the adoptive parents’ principal concerns is the role of the biological parents. Is it possible for the biological parents to change their minds about the adoption? Can the biological parents communicate with the adopted child? Can the adopted child ever find out information about his/her biological parent(s)? All these questions can be nerve-racking for individuals who wish to adopt.

Revoking Consent to Adoption

The reality is that in all states, the biological parents have a period of time in which they can revoke their consent to the adoption. In Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-719 allows for a birth parent to file a petition to set aside an order voluntarily terminating parental rights at any time before the entry of the final adoption decree. However, a biological parent’s ability to revoke may be terminated in cases of abandonment, failure to support the child, or abuse and neglect. Once the court issues a final decree of adoption, a birth parent’s consent becomes final and irrevocable.

After a final adoption decree, it is possible for the adoptive child and biological parents to communicate. The extent of that communication can be negotiated prior to the final adoption decree. In some cases, biological parents and intended adoptive parents enter into what is known as a Cooperative Post-Adoption Agreement.  This is a written agreement between either or both birth parents and an intended adoptive parent(s) regarding communication or contact contact either or both birth parents and the adopted child. It is in the Cooperative Post-Adoption Agreement that the extent of involvement of the birth parents can be defined.

Non-Identifying Information 

In the case of Cooperative Post-Adoption Agreements, the identity of the biological parents is known.  However, generally, adoption records are sealed and only non-identifying information is provided to the adoptive parents or adopted child (if he/she is an adult) upon request. This non-identifying information includes:

(1) age of biological parents in years at the birth; (2) heritage of the biological parent or parents; (3) education stated in the number of years of school completed; (4) general physical appearance of the biological parent(s); (5) talents, hobbies and special interests of the biological parent or parents; (6) existence of any other child or children born to either biological parent of the adopted or adoptable person; (7) reasons for placing the child for adoption or for biological parental rights being terminated; (8) religion of biological parent or parents; (9) field of occupation of biological parent or parents in general terms; (10) health history of biological parent or parents and blood relatives; (11) manner in which plans for the adopted or adoptable person’s future were made by biological parent or parents; (12) relationship between the biological parents; (13) any psychological, psychiatric or social evaluations; and (14) any other relevant non-identifying information.

Learning the Identity of Biological Parents

In the event that the adoptive parents or adopted adult child wishes to learn the identity of the biological parents, written consent must first be obtained from the person whose identity is being request. Therefore, the identity of the birth parents (if not already known) will remain unknown unless the birth parent(s) consents.

Given the significant impact that contact with biological parents can have on the adopted child, it is important to have an attorney who is well versed in adoption law.

By: Leigh Ryan, Esq.

Connecticut telephone number: (203) 221-3100; New York telephone number: (212) 682-5700; Firm url: www. Mayalaw.com; E-mail: JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

Connecticut Supreme Court Holds Support Awards Based on Earning Capacity Must Specify Its Dollar Amount

In a Connecticut Supreme Court decision, Tanzman v. Meurer, the Court held that when a trial court has based an alimony or child support award on a party’s earning capacity, the court must determine the specific dollar amount of the party’s earning capacity.[1] The Court overruled a previous Appellate Court decision, Chyung v. Chyung,[2] which held that a court issuing a lump-sum alimony award based on earning capacity was not required to specifically state the dollar amount.

Case Details

The plaintiff, Jonathan M. Tanzman, appealed from the judgment of the Superior Court, Judicial District of Fairfield, denying his postjudgment motion to modify his unallocated alimony and child support obligations to the defendant, Margaret E. Meurer.[3] After the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s denial the plaintiff’s motion, the Supreme Court granted his appeal. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a trial court issuing a financial support order based on a party’s earning capacity must determine the specific dollar amount of the party’s earning capacity.

The relevant facts and procedural history as summarized by the Appellate Court show on October 6, 2006, in connection with its judgment of dissolution of the parties’ marriage, the trial court entered an order requiring the plaintiff to pay the defendant $16,000 per month in unallocated alimony and child support for a period of fourteen years. The court found that the plaintiff had an earning capacity far exceeding his then current income, but did not specify the amount of the earning capacity.

While the court determined that the plaintiff had earned a yearly average of $988,064.43 in his career as a day trader over the previous seven years, due to changes in the day trading industry he was unable to find another job in the same field and consequently was earning much less. Nevertheless, the trial court concluded that, “Although the changes in the market and the industry have proven a challenge to the plaintiff’s continued financial success, the court does not believe that he has made satisfactory efforts [toward] gaining new employment.”[4]

Motion to Modify Support Order

On January 9, 2008, the plaintiff filed a motion to modify the support order in which he represented that he had obtained employment at an annual salary of $100,000.  He contended that, because his current income was “a fraction of the earning capacity previously attributed to him by the trial court,” there had been a substantial change in circumstances justifying a modification of the award.[5] The plaintiff filed a motion for articulation of the original support order, asking the trial court to articulate the specific earning capacity that it had attributed to him at that time. The trial court denied the motion for articulation.

After a hearing, the trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for modification of the support order.  The court stated that, at the time of the original support order, it “was not persuaded that there was a serious commitment and effort to maximize [the plaintiff’s] earning capability and the court’s position has not changed.” Again, while the court did not specify the amount of the plaintiff’s estimated earning capacity, it found that the plaintiff’s income had not been reduced significantly since the date of the original support order, and accordingly, concluded that the plaintiff had not clearly shown a substantial change in circumstances justifying a modification of the award.

The plaintiff then filed a motion for clarification of the court’s decision in which he requested the court to clarify whether it had considered “any amount of ‘earning capacity’” in connection with the motion for modification and, if so, “what amount did it consider?” The trial court denied the motion for clarification.

Motion to Review

The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s denial of the motion for modification to the Appellate Court and filed a motion to review.  The Appellate Court ordered the trial court, regarding the October, 6 2008 support decision, “to state whether the court made a finding of the plaintiff’s current earning capacity and, if so, the specific dollar amount and the factual basis for that finding.”[6] 

In response, the trial court issued an articulation in which it stated that it had not made a specific finding of the plaintiff’s earning capacity in connection with its October 6, 2008 decision denying the motion for modification. Instead, it stated that “at the time of trial the plaintiff had not made efforts to maximize his earning capability and based on the evidence presented at the modification hearing including his financial affidavits the court’s position was essentially the same.”[7]

The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, denying the motion for modification.  The Appellate Court reasoned that, because the trial court’s “evaluation of the plaintiff’s earning capacity, as a foundation for its award and denial of the plaintiff’s motion for modification, remained unchanged throughout the underlying proceedings,” and because “the plaintiff has failed to provide us with any statute, case law or rule of practice that require[d] the trial court to specify an exact earning capacity when calculating an alimony and child support award”; “the trial court’s failure to specify an amount did not require reversal.”[8]

The Supreme Court’s Decision

On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff who argued that the Appellate Court improperly determined that the trial court is not required to determine the specific amount of a party’s earning capacity when that factor provides the basis for a support award.  The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court’s denial of his motion for modification and remanded to the trial court for a new hearing at which the court must determine the plaintiff’s earning capacity.[9]

In its opinion the Supreme Court articulated the law relevant to its decision. § 46b–86(a) provides that a final order for alimony may be modified by the trial court upon a showing of a substantial change in the circumstances of either party.  Under that statutory provision, the party seeking the modification bears the burden of demonstrating that such a change has occurred.”[10]

The trial court may under appropriate circumstances in a marital dissolution proceeding base financial awards, pursuant to General Statutes §§ 46b–82 (a) and 46b–86, on the earning capacity of the parties rather than on actual earned income.[11] Earning capacity is not an amount which a person can theoretically earn, confined to actual income, but rather “it is an amount which a person can realistically be expected to earn considering such things as his vocational skills, employability, age and health.”[12]  “When determining earning capacity, it … is especially appropriate for the court to consider whether [a person] has willfully restricted his [or her] earning capacity to avoid support obligations.”[13]

A Similar Case: Chyung vs. Chyung

The Supreme Court recognized that the Appellate Court relied on its previous decision in Chyung v. Chyung, to support its conclusion that, when a trial court relies on a party’s earning capacity to determine the amount of a financial award, the court is not required to specify the particular dollar amount of the party’s earning capacity. In Chyung, the trial court awarded the plaintiff a lump sum alimony payment of $350,000 based in part on the parties’ earning capacities.[14] 

The plaintiff appealed from the judgment, claiming that “the court’s failure to identify the defendant’s precise earning capacity resulted in an award that was based on speculation and conjecture.” The Appellate Court rejected the plaintiff’s claim, stating that she had “failed to provide us with any statute, case law or rule of practice that requires the trial court to specify an exact earning capacity.”[15] Unlike the present case, the plaintiff in Chyung had failed to file a motion for articulation of the court’s decision, rendering her claim unreviewable.

The Supreme Court overruled the holding of Chyung, except to the extent that the trial court had determined the specific amount of the defendant’s earning capacity in the support award but it has merely failed to articulate that amount in its support order, that failure does not automatically require reversal. Also, to the extent that it held that, when a party has failed to seek clarification as to whether the trial court failed to determine the specific amount of earning capacity or whether it merely failed to articulate the specific amount in its support order, a claim that the trial court improperly failed to determine a specific amount of earning capacity is unreviewable for lack of an adequate record.[16]

The Ultimate Decision

In the case at bar, the plaintiff did seek an articulation of the trial court’s determination of his earning capacity in its determination of the original support order and its decision to deny his motion to modify.

In reversing the Appellate Court the Court stated, “As the present case shows, the failure to specify the dollar amount of the earning capacity leaves the relevant party in doubt as to what is expected from him or her, and makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, both for a reviewing court to determine the reasonableness of the financial award and for the trial court in a subsequent proceeding on a motion for modification to determine whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances.”[17]

Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded, “when a trial court has based a financial award pursuant to § 46b–82 or § 46b-86 on a party’s earning capacity, the court must determine the specific dollar amount of the party’s earning capacity.”

Because the trial court could not reasonably have concluded that there had been no substantial change in the plaintiff’s earning capacity between the time of the original financial award and the motion for modification without ever having determined the plaintiff’s specific earning capacity, the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the motion for modification.  The Supreme Court determined the appropriate remedy was to reverse the judgment of the trial court denying the plaintiff’s motion for modification and order a new hearing on the issue of his earning capacity.[18]

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 or email Attorney Joseph C. Maya at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

[1] Tanzman v. Meurer, 18812, 2013 WL 3288091 (Conn. July 9, 2013)

[2] Chyung v. Chyung, 86 Conn.App. 665, 862 A.2d 374 (2004)

[3] Tanzman v. Meurer, 128 Conn.App. 405, 406, 16 A.3d 1265 (2011).

[4] Id.

[5] Id at 408.

[6] Id. at 410.

[7] Id.

[8] Tanzman v. Meurer, 128 Conn.App.405, 412, 413 (2011).

[9] Tanzman v. Meurer, 18812, 2013 WL 3288091 (Conn. July 9, 2013)

[10] Simms v. Simms, 283 Conn. 494, 502, 927 A.2d 894 (2007).

[11] Lucy v. Lucy, 183 Conn. 230, 234, 439 A.2d 302 (1981).

[12] Weinstein v. Weinstein, 280 Conn. 764, 772, 911 A.2d 1077 (2007).

[13] Bleuer v. Bleuer, 59 Conn.App. 167, 170, 755 A.2d 946 (2000).

[14] Chyung v. Chyung, 86 Conn.App. 665, 675 (2004).

[15] Id. at 676.

[16] Tanzman v. Meurer, 18812, 2013 WL 3288091 (Conn. July 9, 2013)

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

Adoption: The Gift of a Nurturing Home

As children, many of us dreamt about having a family of our own, about our significant other, marriage, a house and children. But as we grow older, we realize that dreams do not always materialize in the way we thought they would. Families are no longer expected to be comprised of a mother, a father and 2.3 children. Just as the definition of family has changed, so have the requirements for adoption. Many adoption agencies and courts no longer discriminate based upon marital status, age, religion or race.  They have recognized that these differences do not affect a potential parent’s ability to be a good parent.

Along with the recognition that each potential parent is different, comes the fact that each child in search of a home is different. Many of the children available for adoption are in foster care and are there because their biological parents could not care for them. As a result, many suffer from physical, emotional and mental challenges.

Currently, there are 129,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted. More than two-thirds of children in foster care are aged 6 or older, and more than half are minorities. In Connecticut, over 4,000 children are in the care of the State Department of Children and Families due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.  And, they are all searching for one thing: A loving and supportive home environment.

Positive Effects of Adoption on a Child

Adopting a child can have significantly positive effects on that child’s life.  Studies have shown that adopted children score higher than their middle-class counterparts on indicators of school performance, social competency, optimism and volunteerism. The 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents indicated that adopted children were more likely to read every day as a young child, more likely to be sung to or told stories, more likely to participate in extracurricular activities and have above-average performances in reading, language arts, and math, than that of the children of the general population.

Adopting a baby or child can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life and one of the most amazing gifts to a child. However, the process can be complicated and involve various federal and state laws. It is important to have a Connecticut adoption lawyer to represent you in the adoption process.

By: Leigh Ryan, Esq.

Connecticut telephone number: (203) 221-3100; New York telephone number: (212) 682-5700; Firm url: www. Mayalaw.com; E-mail: JMaya@Mayalaw.com

Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

Trending Now: Husbands Receiving Alimony

There is a new trend in divorce, men receiving alimony. Although it may come as a shock to some, times are changing and more men are receiving alimony then ever. Why? Well, the gender wage gap is declining more than ever, and many women are now earning higher wages than their male spouses. A recent article by TIME shed some light on this truly interesting new approach to alimony, the article is quoted in it’s entirety in the following:

It’s said that justice is blind, and that is becoming more apparent in the area of divorces and alimony. In the past, most husbands earned more than their wives. However, there are a growing number of marriages in which the wife is the breadwinner. As this trend changes, the face of spousal support is also changing. Now, it is not uncommon for a woman to wind up paying support to her ex-husband.

Considerations in Determining Alimony Payments

This change comes as a surprise to many women who are not accustomed to men receiving alimony payments. The thought of paying alimony to their ex-spouses angers them, but it serves as a reminder of what alimony was made for. Alimony recognizes the fact that one spouse sometimes makes sacrifices so that their partner can focus more on their career. Staying home with the children or limiting work hours can drastically lower that partner’s income potential, and alimony payments are intended to recognize that fact and ensure that both partners are protected financially.

When you are going through a divorce, you cannot count on traditional gender roles. Women do not automatically receive spousal support because it is based on several other factors. The courts will review the income difference, health of both parties, whether one spouse is caring for the children and if either party is at fault in the divorce. They will also look at the length of the marriage, and those partnerships lasting more than 25 years may be awarded permanent alimony.

Whether you are trying to protect your income levels or you are going to need spousal support to help make ends meet after a divorce, it is important to understand the laws and how they affect you. A divorce attorney specializing in property distribution and family law may be able to inform you of your rights and offer you valuable legal advice to help you protect your best interests during this time.

From: TIME.com, “The De-Gendering of Divorce: Wives Pay Ex-Husbands Alimony Too”, Liza Mundy, May 16, 2013.

Are you on the road to divorce? Looking to receive alimony? Whatever your family law issue, the experienced family law attorneys at the law offices of Maya Murphy P.C. in Westport, CT can help. Call today for a free consultation at 203-221-3100.

Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

When Tug-of-War is Not a Game: Relocation After Divorce

Lawyers often find ourselves telling clients that their divorce is never truly “final” when there are children involved.  Regrettably, many of the symptoms that bring spouses to our offices in the first place –the arguing, the conflict, certain confines and restrictions – may continue to exist on some level even after the lawyers have done their jobs and a judge signs a final judgment, especially when the divorcing parents are now entrusted with the responsibility to co-parent young children, from different homes, and from new perspectives.

Nowhere is that more evident than in cases where one spouse seeks to relocate with the minor children to a new state – perhaps hundreds of miles away from his or her former spouse, and his or her former life.

Developments in the law even in the past few years have refined the processes and legal burdens for spouses seeking to take their children to another location, perhaps to be closer to extended family or a support network, nearer to a new job or opportunity, or for other economic reasons.

The Best Interests of the Child

The legal burden in Connecticut now rests squarely upon the parent seeking a relocation to prove to a court (assuming the other parent objects to the move) that the relocation of the children is for a legitimate purpose, that the relocation is reasonably related to achieving that purpose, and that the move and resulting transplantation is truly in the best interests of the minor child or children of the marriage.

In reaching its determination, a court will likely hear evidence from each parent, relevant witnesses and/or healthcare professionals or experts, and likely a court-appointed guardian to represent the child’s interests in such a proceeding.  Among other things, a court shall consider each parent’s reasons for seeking or opposing the relocation, the relationship each parent has with the subject child or children, any potential enhancement that the relocation might have on the child’s life or development, the feasibility of visitation or maintained contact between the non-relocating parent and the child notwithstanding the geographic shift, and the impact the relocation would have on the relationship between the child and the parent who might be left behind.

A Parent’s Role in a Relocation Dispute

These types of post-judgment proceedings are often painful for both litigants and are driven by facts as much as the law – facts which could and often do have nothing whatever to do with the underlying reasons for the divorce itself.  A parent involved in a post-judgment relocation dispute in Connecticut must prepare for a contentious legal battle where personal convictions, risk tolerance, and emotions can and will be tested.

We advise clients in these cases not merely to weigh their legal options, but to evaluate and assess the best interests of their children who are innocently caught in perhaps the cruelest game of tug-of-war imaginable.  We prepare our clients and assist them in structuring their case for the most favorable presentation of facts and evidence to support their legal position.  Those considering or faced with the specter of a relocation petition should retain counsel who are both well-versed in the law and attuned to the reality and repercussions that litigation brings to children’s lives – sometimes years after the ink has dried on a divorce decree.

By: Attorney H. Daniel Murphy

Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

What Has The Guardian Been Doing? GAL Disclosure in Divorce Proceedings

GALs and AMCs in Child Custody Cases

In contested child custody matters, it is common for a court to appoint a Guardian ad litem to represent the interests of minor children for that particular lawsuit or proceeding.  While Guardians ad litem (or “GAL’s”) are often attorneys, they are less frequently psychologists, social workers, or other individuals with experience representing children’s interests. The duty of a GAL is to speak on behalf of the “best interests” of the child, without necessarily being bound by a child’s expressed preferences, even when those preferences conflict with the perceived “best interests” of the child.

By contrast, a lawyer advocate for a minor child in a custody proceeding, referred to in many jurisdictions as an Attorney for the Minor Child(ren) (or AMC), is just that: a lawyer who is appointed and charged with vigilantly representing and advocating for his or her clients’ interests, including those positions which are expressed to the lawyer in the context of privileged attorney-client communications.

The fact that a GAL – who may, in fact, be a lawyer – does not enjoy the same attorney-client privilege with the minor children he or she represents creates certain significant issues with respect to discovery and document disclosure in the context of custody litigation.

A Relevant Case

In a recent decision on an issue of first impression, a Connecticut Superior Court determined that an attorney GAL’s entire file (including correspondence, emails, and handwritten notes) be disclosed to the parties over the objection of that GAL, who asserted the protections of the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine.

The net effect of that Court’s determination is essentially to permit parents (litigants) who are understandably concerned about the position, progress, and considerable impact of a GAL’s opinion on his or her custody claim, to gain unfettered access to a GAL’s file regardless of that person’s status as an attorney.  In custody cases where a GAL may ultimately testify as a witness and opine to a court regarding a minor child’s “best interests,” a preview of that GAL’s work product and interview notes may prove invaluable.

Attorneys armed with both experience and an understanding of applicable case law can best advise our divorce clients regarding custody evaluations, GAL involvement, and overall trial strategy.

By: Attorney H. Daniel Murphy

Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

Can I Ask a Connecticut Court to Enforce or Modify a Divorce Judgment Issued in Another State?

Under Connecticut law, any party to a matrimonial action brought in another state can file a certified copy of such a “foreign” state’s divorce judgment in Connecticut Superior Court. So long as the foreign judgment is final and has not been altered, suspended or vacated, it will become a judgment of the Connecticut court and – with one important distinction noted below – will be treated in the same manner as if the divorce had been originally granted in Connecticut.

The party who files the foreign judgment in Connecticut must notify his or her former spouse by sending the relevant papers to the spouse’s last known address by registered mail or through personal service by a Connecticut State Marshal. However, the filing party may not move the Connecticut court to enforce or modify the judgment until twenty (20) days after these papers have been served. Once the twenty-day period has expired, either party can then file post-judgment motions in the Connecticut Superior Court.

CT Divorce Judgements vs. Foreign Divorce Judgements

One distinction between divorce judgments originally obtained in Connecticut and foreign judgments later filed there should be noted. With such foreign judgments, Connecticut law mandates that courts apply the substantive law of the state in which the judgment was originally obtained. Accordingly, a Connecticut court reviewing a Florida judgment in response to a request to modify its child support provisions, for example, must apply Florida law governing the modification of child support.

In such cases, there may be material differences between Connecticut law and the law of the state in which the original judgment was issued, which could affect, among other things, the relief available or the burden of proof a party must meet to obtain the requested relief. It is therefore advisable to consult with a Connecticut matrimonial attorney who also is familiar with the relevant foreign state’s family laws before filing a foreign judgment in Connecticut.

The attorneys of Maya Murphy, P.C. frequently represent clients in matters involving the enforcement or modification of foreign matrimonial judgments by Connecticut courts, and they are familiar with the family laws of other states. Please contact Ephraim J. Fink at Efink@Mayalaw.com or at (203) 221-3100 ext 109 if you need counsel.

Can A Divorce Record Be Removed from the Judicial Website in Connecticut?

Yes, a divorce record can be removed from the judicial website by the action of withdrawing a divorce with the court.  Courts look favorably when parties decide to withdraw a divorce proceeding so this should be granted in a timely manner.  Parties may also choose to file a reconciliation motion. This essentially serves to put the case on pause for a period of time, usually up to 6 months.  By putting a pause on the case, it leaves the original divorce open still, in case the reconciliation is not successful.  If you have filed either of these and the judicial website does not reflect it, it may just be that the website has not been recently updated.


If you have any questions regarding divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Can I Stipulate in My Divorce for There to Be No Unmarried Cohabitation While Our Child Is Present in Connecticut?

You may include a morality clause in your divorce decree if you so choose.  The court is generally most concerned with the best interests of the child involved in the divorce.  For this reason, a court is only likely to agree to such a clause if it is shown to be in the best interests of the child.  As my colleagues have stated, the issue may become whether the clause is enforceable once it has been violated.  Again, this will depend on what is in the best interest of the child.  If a court finds this request unreasonable and to have no impact on the child it will likely be unenforceable.


If you have any questions regarding divorce in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.