Posts tagged with "children"

Growing Awareness Surrounding Bullying of Students with Disabilities in Fairfield County

If you have any questions regarding bullying of students with disabilities, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Bullying has gained the attention of the media over recent years, but despite the focused spotlight, bullying is rampant in our society.  Among the easiest targets are children with special needs.  They are, on average, at a greater risk to be bullied than their non-disabled counterparts.  This is in part because special education children make easy targets. It is often harder for children with disabilities to recognize which behaviors are socially appropriate and those that are not.

Many organizations are stepping up to the challenge of educating the community and parents on the complex issues surrounding bullying of students with disabilities. The Stratford Special Education Teacher and Parent Association recently held a presentation on “Bullying of Students with Disabilities.” The presentation focused on how to help schools avoid litigation stemming from the targeting of children with special education needs. The hope is to set up systems in schools that address bullying before it becomes a problem.  Interestingly, the presentation also focused on teaching parents how to work with the school system to effectively develop plans to prevent harassment of their children.  It is important that parents work with school administrators to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that encourages students to learn, develop self-advocacy, and social and life skills necessary to reduce disability related harassment.

In addition to parents and school administrators working together to reduce and bring awareness to bullying and its drastic effects, it is also important to be familiar with the laws that protect children with disabilities.  At Maya Murphy, P.C., we have experience dealing with Education Law, harassment or bullying, Special Education Law, and discrimination.

By Leigh H. Ryan, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding bullying of students with disabilities, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Connecticut School Districts and Bullying: What Can Parents Do?

I was greeted this morning with a very unfortunate email.  The email concerned bullying in Westport Schools and included a heart wrenching video of an 8th grade girl claiming to be a victim of bullying in Westport schools. (http://patch.com/A-gcKG) It is just not enough to feel sorry for this victim of bullying, we need to question the effectiveness of the current law and policies in place to avoid the tragic consequences that other towns have dealt with because their students were victims of bullying.

I previously blogged about the revisions to Connecticut’s law against bullying in 2008.  Under Connecticut General Statute section 10-222d, the law requires “any overt acts by a student or group of students directed against another student with the intent to ridicule, harass, humiliate or intimidate the other student while on school grounds, at a school sponsored activity or on a school bus, which acts are committed more than once against any student during the school year.” In addition to definitional changes, the statute requires:

  1.  teachers and other staff members who witness acts of bullying to make written notification to school administrators;
  2. prohibits disciplinary actions based solely on the basis of an anonymous report of bullying;
  3. requires prevention strategies as well as interventions strategies;
  4. requires that parents of a student who commits verified acts of bullying or against whom such bullying occurred be notified by each school and be invited to attend at least one meeting;
  5. requires school to annually report the number of verified acts of bullying to the State Department of Education (DOE);
  6. no later than February 1, 2009, boards must submit the bullying policies to the DOE;
  7. no later than July 1, 2009, boards must include their bullying policy in their school district’s publications of rules, procedures and standards of conduct for school and in all of its student handbooks, and
  8.  effective July 1, 2009, boards must now provide in-service training for its teacher and administrators on prevention of bullying.

Westport responded to the requirements of this statute with a comprehensive bullying policy which can be found on the school district’s website under the tab for parents, and then selecting policies.  Here is the direct link to the policy: (http://www2.westport.k12.ct.us/media/policies/prohibition_against_bullying_5131.911_revised_8.25.2008.pdf)

Armed with Connecticut’s law and Westport’s policy, what should we do as parents, community members, and professionals?  I do not profess to have the answers but at a minimum, we should discuss this with our children, question the school administrators, guidance staff and teachers. Together we should challenge ourselves to make a difference using the channels available to us.  There are ways that we can help to effectuate change before it is too late.  If you know of a child affected by bullying, please act on their behalf.  Not every student will post a video to tell you this is happening. If the school is not addressing the bullying in a meaningful way to eradicate the conduct, legal redress is available and the courts will readily intervene.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by telephone in the Firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at SMaya@Mayalaw.com. Attorney Maya is a partner at Maya Murphy, P.C. Her practice is limited to Education Law and Trusts and Estates.

What Parents Need to Know About Special Education Law

The state and federal governments enacted various regulations to protect a student with disabilities and to ensure that he or she obtains a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Parents play a key role in the success of any special education program implemented for their children. Given the complexity of special education law, it is important to understand the significant responsibility a parent has in the special education system.

Referral to Special Education and Related Services

This is the first step in the process to determine a child’s eligibility for special education and related services. Parents should be aware that you have the right to request such a referral.  The referral must be in writing.  School officials also have the ability to make a referral.  However, a parent is often in a better position to suspect any disabilities, and can make an early referral to special education services through Connecticut’s Birth to Three program, prior to enrollment in school.

Planning and Placement Team (PPT)

The PPT reviews all referrals to special education. As a parent of a child, you have the right to be actively involved in the PPT, and are, in fact, a valued asset of the PPT.   A PPT generally consists of the parent(s), one of the child’s educators, a special education teacher, a representative of the school district, a pupil services personnel, and the child (depending on age).   As a parent, you have the right to include other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding your child.  As a valued member of the PPT, the school district must try to schedule meetings at a mutually agreeable time and place for you and must notify you, in writing, at least five (5) school days prior to holding the meeting.

Evaluations, Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE), and Reevaluations

The evaluation is the study used to determine a child’s specific learning strengths and needs, and ultimately determine whether your child is eligible for special education services. As an active participant, a parent can assist the PPT in designing the evaluation.  That is why sharing with the PPT all important information concerning your child’s skills, abilities, observations, and needs can be extremely beneficial to the process.  If you disagree with the evaluation conducted by the school district, you have a right to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE).  Such an IEE can be obtained at the school district’s expense, unless the school district can prove its evaluation is appropriate or that the IEE does not meet the school district’s criteria. If the school district believes that its evaluation was appropriate, it must initiate a due process hearing (or pay for the IEE).  In either event, you have a right to an IEE. However, if the school district’s evaluation is found appropriate, the parent will have to bear the cost of the IEE.  Reevaluation must be performed at least once every three (3) years, or sooner if conditions warrant. At the reevaluation, the educational needs of your child will be assessed, along with present levels of academic and related development needs of your child to determine whether your child continues to need special education and related services and whether your child’s IEP needs to be modified.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP is a written plan that describes in detail your child’s special education program created by the PPT. Given the IEP is designed specifically for your child, it is vital that as a parent you exercise your right to be actively involved in the PPT meetings.  The IEP is designed to identify your child’s current levels of education and functional performance and any modifications or accommodations your child needs to participate in the general education curriculum. A child with a disability must, to the maximum extent possible, be educated with his/her nondisabled peers.  This is called the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). By law, you are entitled to receive a copy of your child’s IEP within five (5) school days after the PPT meeting was held to develop or revise the same.

Informed Consent

Prior to evaluating a child for the first time, a school district must obtain the parent’s written informed consent.  Informed consent means that a parent has been given all the information needed to make a knowledgeable decision. Written informed consent must also be obtained prior to the initial placement into special education, before a child is placed into private placement, and before a child is reevaluated.  As a parent, you can refuse to give your consent and you can withdraw consent once it has been given.  Giving consent for an initial evaluation does not mean that consent was given to place a child into special education or for any other purposes.  A school district must obtain separate written informed consent for each.

Placement

To the maximum extent possible, your child must be educated with his/her nondisabled peers in a general education classroom.  Removal from the school that your child would attend had he/she not had a disability, should only occur when the nature or the severity of the disability is such that educating your child in that setting cannot be achieved satisfactorily.  If this is the case with your child, the PPT must find an appropriate educational placement as close as possible to your home, at the cost of the school district.  While you can place your child in private placement on your own, there is no guarantee of full or partial reimbursement from the school district and that will ultimately depend on the findings by a hearing officer.

Disciplinary Procedures

The school district’s code of conduct applies to all children, with or without a disability. Prior to any suspension or removal, your child has the right to an informal hearing conducted by a school administrator. If it is determined by the PPT that the behavior was caused or related to your child’s disability, then your child may not be removed from the current education placement (except in the case of weapons, drugs, or infliction of serious bodily harm).  It is the PPT’s obligation to conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan.

Access to Records

If your child has not reached the age of majority, as a parent you have a right to inspect and review his/her school records. The request must be in writing. The school district must allow you to review the records within ten (10) school days from your request or within three (3) school days if you need the information for a PPT meeting.  Connecticut law provides that you are entitled one free copy of your child’s records, and the school district has up to five (5) school days to provide you with that copy.

Due Process

A parent has the right to ask for a due process hearing as a result of the school district’s refusal to consider or find that your child has a disability, to evaluate your child, to place your child in a school program that meets his/her needs, or to provide your child with a FAPE.   A parent may bring an advocate or attorney with them to aid throughout the hearing.  A hearing officer will make a final decision within 45 days from the start of the timeline.  Generally, while a due process hearing is pending, a child’s classification, program or placement cannot be changed.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are three ways, other than a full due process hearing, to settle disputes between parents and the school district. The first is the Complaint Resolution Process, wherein a parent files a written complaint with the Bureau of Special Education, alleging the local school district has violated a state or federal requirement.  Within sixty (60) days, a written report which includes the Bureau’s findings, conclusions, corrective actions and recommendations, will be mailed to the Complainant.  The second alternative is mediation. Both parties (the parents and the school district) must agree to mediate the dispute.  At mediation, if an agreement is reached, it is placed in writing and is legally binding.  All discussions during mediation are confidential.  The last alternative is an advisory opinion. This is a non-binding opinion, issued by a hearing officer, after a brief presentation of information by both parties.  After receiving the advisory opinion, the parties can decide to settle the dispute or proceed to a full due process hearing.

By: Leigh H. Ryan, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding special education law, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

 

What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Education

One of the reasons that parents work so hard is to be able to provide a better life and a better future for their children. The bedrock of a bright future is a good education.  As a parent, it is important to understand your rights and obligations when it comes to your child’s education.

Adequate Education

As a parent, you are required to have your children enrolled in public school, unless the parent can show that the child is receiving equivalent instruction elsewhere. Under Connecticut law, the child must be “instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-184.

School Accommodations

The local school board is required to provide school accommodations to every child, age five (5) or over and under twenty-one (21), with a free appropriate public education. This includes children with special needs. The law also provides for your child’s education to take place in the district in which you live.

Absences

The State of Connecticut has strict regulations concerning a child’s absence from school. Specifically, the State declares a child who has four (4) or more unexcused absences in a month or ten (10) or more unexcused absences during the school year as a “truant.” The designation of your child as a truant results in the activation of certain policies and procedures of the school board, including but not limited to, the notification of the parents, services and referrals to community organizations offering family support, meetings with the parents and school personnel, and possible notification to the Superior Court.  Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-198a. Habitual truants could even face arrest for failure to attend school. Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-200.

Open Choice

Connecticut law has established alternatives to traditional public school education. A parent can home school their children, as long as they comply with Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-184. A parent can choose to send their child to private school, as long as that private school conforms to Connecticut’s laws. But what many parents are not aware of is that Connecticut also offers charter, magnet and vocational schools, and the “open choice” program.  Given the number of opportunities available to parents and children in Connecticut, it is important to research the various options to find the best match for you and your child.

Discipline

The school has the right to discipline your child for breaking school rules. This could mean removing your child from the classroom, giving an in-school suspension, giving an out-of-school suspension, or even expelling your child from school. Prior to any suspension or removal, your child has the right to an informal hearing conducted by a school administrator. If the school is attempting to expel your client, there will be an expulsion hearing. You have a right to an attorney during these proceedings.

Medications

The school, prior to prescribing any medication to your child, must receive a written order from  an authorized prescriber, the written authorization of the child’s parent or guardian, and the written permission of the parent allowing communication between the prescriber and the school nurse.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-212a-2(b). The law also permits school districts to allow children to self-administer prescribed emergency medications, such as asthma inhalers, if the child has a verified chronic medical condition and is capable to self-administer.

Bullying

Bullying has become a pervasive problem within schools. State and Federal laws state that the school must investigate reports of bullying. The schools are obligated to meet with the children that are being bullied and whom are doing the bullying. If the schools fail to take certain steps to protect children from bullying, the school could be subject to civil liability. Therefore, if your child is being bullied, bring it to the attention of the schools so that they can attempt to remediate the situation.

Bullying is not just peer-on-peer. Recently, in Frank v. State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Court upheld a hearing officer’s decision placing Mr. Frank’s name on the child abuse and neglect registry, for his bullying of one of his students. Consequently, as a parent you should be aware that bullying can take many forms, and can occur by teachers and other faculty members. 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3085, J.D. of New Britain, Docket No. CV-10-6005213-S (2010).

School Records

A parent has the right to see their child’s school records. A school is required to provide you with a copy of your child records within 45 days (within 10 days if your child is receiving special education services).  The school also has to provide the records free of cost if you are unable to afford the copying fees.

The school is not allowed to share your child’s school records without your written permission. While they are allowed to share your child’s records with other teachers and staff within the school system (or outside the school system in the case of an emergency), generally, your child’s records are private.

If you have any questions regarding your child’s education, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Bullying In Schools: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Children?

Bullying In Schools: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Children?

On September 22, 2010, Seth Walsh should have been skateboarding or playing baseball, listening to his new favorite song, perhaps, or talking on the phone with friends.  He should have been happy and care free.  After all, Seth was only thirteen years old, an age when children should be laughing and dreaming of the endless opportunities that lie ahead.  Instead, Seth Walsh was lying beneath a tree in his backyard unconscious, no longer breathing.  He had just hung himself.  After spending the next week on life support, with his mother looking on, Seth ultimately died.

And just days earlier on the other side of the country, Tyler Climenti, an eighteen year old student at Rutgers posted what would be his last Facebook message, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Later that night Tyler took his own life as well- throwing himself into the dark and frigid water of the Hudson River.

In September, 2010, within nineteen days, four teenagers from around the country committed suicide.  William Lucas, from Greensburg Indiana was only fifteen, Asher Brown from Houston Texas was thirteen.  Like Seth, Billy hung himself.  Asher shot himself in the head with one of his step-father’s guns.  The common link?  All four had been relentlessly tormented at school.  Shining new light on what has become a national epidemic, these cases illuminate the devastating and increasingly deadly effects of bullying.  There is some debate over whether bullying is a new phenomenon or whether children are simply reacting differently.  Whatever the case may be, one thing is clear- we must take action to protect the destruction of more innocent lives.

The Department of Education recently entered the fray, releasing a “Dear Colleague” letter in which it urged school districts to address bullying within the classroom, providing school administrators with guidance on how to end harassment.  Additionally, within the last couple of years, many states, including New York and Connecticut, have passed anti-bulling legislation.  At what point should a school district be held liable when it fails to prevent bullying?  The answer to that question is not clear-cut.  Indeed, parents face several legal challenges when they pursue a case.

For instance, in 2008, the Superior Court at New Britain held that parents of a Berlin High School student could not maintain a negligence cause of action against the school district, the administrators or the child’s coach.  In Dornfried v. Berlin Board of Education, et al, Robby Dornfried’s parents alleged that while a freshman and sophomore at the high school, and a place-kicker on the varsity football team, their son was subjected to “incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation and was the victim of threats and/or acts of violence” by his teammates.  They further alleged that school administrators, the guidance counselor, even Robby’s coach, knew of the problem, but did nothing to stop the behavior.  Robby eventually sought medical treatment and ultimately transferred to Northwest Catholic High School halfway though his sophomore year.

Analyzing whether the principal of governmental immunity barred suit, the Court recited the general rule that a municipal employee may be liable for the misperformance of ministerial acts, but has qualified immunity in the performance of governmental acts- those performed wholly for the benefit of the public and supervisory or discretionary in nature.  Agreeing with the defendants, the Court found that the supervision of school children, not only during school hours, but at extra-curricular events such as football practice or a football game is a discretionary matter.  It next addressed whether it was appropriate to apply any of the exceptions to the immunity doctrine.  Generally, there are three:

  1. Liability may be imposed for a discretionary act when the alleged conduct involved malice, wantonness or intent to injure.
  2. Liability may be imposed for a discretionary act when a statute provides for a cause of action against a municipality or municipal official for failure to enforce certain laws.
  3. Liability may be imposed when the circumstances make it apparent to the public officer that his or her failure to act would be likely to subject an identifiable person to imminent harm.

Ignoring the first two exceptions, the Court addressed whether Robby was an “identifiable person subject to imminent harm” under the law.  Citing Supreme Court precedent, Judge Trombley, found he was not, explaining the only identifiable class of foreseeable victims the courts have recognized is that of school children attending public schools during school hours.  The Court ultimately held that although participation in school sponsored athletic programs is most likely encouraged, the participation is on a purely voluntary basis and, therefore, governmental immunity barred Robby’s negligence claims.

Earlier this year the Superior Court at New Haven reached a different conclusion in a bullying case.  In Esposito v. Town of Bethany, et al, the father of an elementary school student brought suit against the Town of Bethany, the Board of Education and the Bethany Public School District alleging negligence.  The student, Christina, was allegedly teased on a regular basis and at one point another student threw a ball at the back of her head during recess.  Christina sustained severe injuries “leaving her with an acquired brain injury and severe optical dysfunction.”

In response to Connecticut’s anti-bulling legislation, which became effective July, 2002, the Town of Bethany adopted a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.  The Plaintiff’s pointed to that policy arguing that the school failed to follow it and, thus, their acts were ministerial rather than discretionary in nature.  The Court framed the issue as whether, “…a detailed method of behavior was laid down for administrators and teachers for dealing with bullying depriving them of any judgment or discretion, or that, actions were dictated to deal with the problem that involved merely the execution of an established policy.”  Leaving this question unanswered, the Court ultimately erred on the side of caution, allowing the plaintiff an opportunity to present the facts at trial.

Later in its decision the Court addressed whether the “identifiable person subject to imminent harm” exception would apply if the school’s actions were in fact discretionary.  In doing so, the Court hinted at expanding its view of the doctrine in the context of school bullying.  The Court interpreted prior case law as suggesting that the only identifiable class of foreseeable victims is that of school children attending school during school hours, but went on to suggest, “[b]ut if a clearly identifiable person, child or adult, is exposed to imminent harm then the exception could apply also if that individual is exposed to imminent harm,” continuing, “an individual may be identifiable for purposes of the exception to qualified immunity if the harm occurs within a limited temporal and geographical zone, involving a temporary condition.”

In ruling in Christina’s favor, the court also noted that the appellate courts have relaxed the “identifiable person” portion of the analysis as it pertains to school children stating simply, “they are a foreseeable class to be protected.”  The Court concluded it must assume a similarly protective attitude will be applied in examining the “imminent harm” requirement stating, “bullying is condemned by state statute, children must attend schools, children are not as capable of defending themselves, they are vulnerable in the entire school area where unsupervised conduct prevails, and the bullying concept includes… a particular child subject to these acts.”

Whether a victim of bullying will be successful in bringing a claim against a school district will depend heavily on the facts and circumstances of the case as well as the theory of liability, the state in which the claims are made and the causes of action asserted.   As set forth above, in Connecticut governmental immunity may preclude recovery altogether unless the victim can demonstrate the application of an exception is appropriate.

By: Michael D. DeMeola

If you have any questions regarding bullying in schools, or any special education law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Over 200 Massachusetts Children Abused While in State Custody

State officials found evidence supporting 249 allegations of physical and sexual abuse or poor care involving children in state-monitored settings last year.

The numbers were included in the Office of the Child Advocate’s 2013 report obtained by the Boston Herald (http://bit.ly/18XtUup ).

Thirty percent of the allegations were in foster care; 29 percent were in treatment programs; 19 percent in day cares; 18 percent from schools; and 4 percent from “others.”

State child welfare officials say the total number of abuse and neglect reports in out-of-home settings has remained steady in recent years.

But Sara Bartosz, an attorney for the advocacy group Children’s Rights, points out that the number of children in foster care is down.

A Department of Children and Families spokeswoman says the state works hard to protect all children.

From Boston Herald.

Continue Reading

Parental Alienation in Custody Disputes

Every lawyer who handles divorce cases recognizes that grimace. We often see the reaction from other lawyers and people in everyday conversation when they hear we litigate divorces and custody matters. Most often, the grimace is followed by a verbal recognition of how “draining” or “difficult” the business can be.

Invariably, that reference relates not merely to the two individuals who have decided that their marriage is no longer viable; rather, the fallout often squarely lands on the children caught in the midst of a custody battle during a divorce – or sometimes, in a residential relocation petition by one parent in the years after a divorce.

Where young children are involved, divorce lawyers regrettably see a frequency of parental alienation by one party or the other, an active or passive attempt by a divorce litigant to cause the children of that union to align against his or her soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Parental Alienation Syndrome consists of thoughts and behavior that can develop in a child of separated parents wherein the custodial parent causes a child, through repeated manipulation and restriction of visitation and access to the other parent, to unjustifiably fear or have anger towards the other parent. Also referred to as “hostile aggressive parenting,” the syndrome essentially deprives a young child of his or her ability to be loved by – and show love for – both of his parents, unconditionally.

The syndrome manifests itself in our cases in many forms. As lawyers, we have seen parents who file false police or DCF reports against the other parent to force an arrest or an ejection from the marital home. We sometimes learn of a parent who loudly disparages the other within earshot of the minor children. We often deal with litigants who unjustifiably attempt to “micro-manage” all aspects of visitation with the other parent, to the extent where the parental access – and the parent-child relationship itself – is materially (if not irreparably) harmed.

In divorce litigation, it is the attorneys’ task to dispassionately assess the evidence for and against our clients, to give sound advice, and to pursue legal remedies aggressively where other avenues have failed. Protecting the rights and psychological well-being of children caught in the middle of litigation is, and must be, of the utmost concern. At every turn, we seek to advise our clients of the perceived benefits, risks, and consequences of the lawsuit in which they are involved, lest they lose sight of the most valuable assets of their marriage: their children.

Any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter, may be directed to Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@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.

Keywords: divorce attorney ct, divorce attorneys in ct, divorce attorneys ct, divorce attorney Connecticut, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce attorney, divorce attorneys NYC, ct lawyers, Connecticut family attorney, divorce lawyer in ct, free divorce consultation, free consultation family law, divorce in ct, free consultation family law, Connecticut divorce lawyer, divorce attorney for men, divorce attorney for women, free divorce attorney, divorce lawyers in ct, ct divorce laws, ct divorce attorney, family law firm, divorce attorney Fairfield, attorneys in Connecticut, family law office, ct divorce mediation, best divorce attorney in ct, lawyers in ct, uncontested divorce, divorce lawyer nyc, Connecticut divorce laws, best divorce attorney, divorce attorney Hartford, new haven divorce attorney, divorce, lawyer, attorney, law firm ct, law office, legal advice in ct, ct divorce attorneys, family attorney, domestic violence rights, Connecticut, marital property rights, CT divorce mediation, legal separation Connecticut, child custody laws, child support litigation, contested, uncontested, annulments, alimony, mediator, spouse, spousal support law, asset division, visitation right, premarital agreements, prenup, prenuptial agreement, prenup NY, restraining orders, appeals, custody modifications, legal separation CT, prenup in CT, custody in CT, filing divorce in CT, filing, lawyers, attorneys, family law in CT, family in NY, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce law NY, matrimonial law CT, custody NY, child custody CT, property division in CT, dissolution of marriage in CT, marriage, divorce NY, New York divorce, visitation in CT, visitation rights in CT, post marital agreements, divorce law firm CT, divorce law firm NY

Continue Reading

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 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.

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.

Any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter, may be directed to Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@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.

Keywords: divorce attorney ct, divorce attorneys in ct, divorce attorneys ct, divorce attorney Connecticut, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce attorney, divorce attorneys NYC, ct lawyers, Connecticut family attorney, divorce lawyer in ct, free divorce consultation, free consultation family law, divorce in ct, free consultation family law, Connecticut divorce lawyer, divorce attorney for men, divorce attorney for women, free divorce attorney, divorce lawyers in ct, ct divorce laws, ct divorce attorney, family law firm, divorce attorney Fairfield, attorneys in Connecticut, family law office, ct divorce mediation, best divorce attorney in ct, lawyers in ct, uncontested divorce, divorce lawyer nyc, Connecticut divorce laws, best divorce attorney, divorce attorney Hartford, new haven divorce attorney, divorce, lawyer, attorney, law firm ct, law office, legal advice in ct, ct divorce attorneys, family attorney, domestic violence rights, Connecticut, marital property rights, CT divorce mediation, legal separation Connecticut, child custody laws, child support litigation, contested, uncontested, annulments, alimony, mediator, spouse, spousal support law, asset division, visitation right, premarital agreements, prenup, prenuptial agreement, prenup NY, restraining orders, appeals, custody modifications, legal separation CT, prenup in CT, custody in CT, filing divorce in CT, filing, lawyers, attorneys, family law in CT, family in NY, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce law NY, matrimonial law CT, custody NY, child custody CT, property division in CT, dissolution of marriage in CT, marriage, divorce NY, New York divorce, visitation in CT, visitation rights in CT, post marital agreements, divorce law firm CT, divorce law firm NY

Continue Reading

Domestic Violence and Divorce in Connecticut: How Relevant is Domestic Violence in Divorce Proceedings?

In 2009, eighteen murders were committed as a result of domestic violence in Connecticut, and 21,018 total reported incidents of domestic violence.[1] Domestic violence is a crime, and often results in divorce proceedings. In reality, up to seventy-five percent of instances of domestic violence in a marriage occurs after the couple has separated.[2] Given the increased risk of violence after separation, it is extremely important for a victim of domestic violence to be aware and known her rights.

In Connecticut, domestic violence falls within a category known as “family violence” which is defined as “an incident resulting in physical harm, bodily injury or assault, or an act of threatened violence that constitutes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault between family or household members.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38a(1). Under this law, “verbal abuse or argument shall not constitute family violence unless there is present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.” Id. According to the statute, in order for an incident to fall under the family violence statute, it must be between (a) spouses, former spouses; (b) parents and their children; (c) persons eighteen years of age or older related by blood or marriage; (d) persons sixteen years of age or older other than those persons in subparagraph (c) presently residing together or who have resided together; (e) persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they are or have been married or have lived together at any time; and (f) persons in, or have recently been in, a dating relationship. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38a(2).

Family violence is a pattern of abusive behavior based upon one partner’s attempt to control and dominate the other. This includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, and stalking and harassment. Rarely are the different types of abuse mutually exclusive. By themselves, each one of these elements can make the decision to leave an abusive relationship difficult. Unfortunately, given the complex nature of domestic violence, Connecticut law provides for criminal relief where physical abuse is present or there is present danger and likelihood that physical violence will ensue.[3] Connecticut does not provide any criminal penalties for emotional or financial abuse.

Protective Orders & Restraining Orders

A victim of family violence has remedies under Connecticut law. Under Connecticut law, a victim of family violence has two different mechanisms to help protect their safety: Protective Orders and Restraining Orders.

A Protective Order is made by a criminal court judge against a person who was arrested for stalking, harassment, or family violence crime.[4] A Protective Order will direct the abuser to refrain from hitting, harassing, contacting the victim or her (his) children, or anything else a judge deems appropriate, and lasts only as long as the criminal court case.

A Restraining Order is made by a civil court judge after a victim files for an Application for Relief from Abuse. Generally, a Protective Order does not address issues of child custody or the removal of the abuser from the marital residence, but a Restraining Order can resolve those issues temporarily. Therefore, it may be necessary to file for a Restraining Order even after a Protective Order has already been granted. Moreover, the application can be granted ex parte, if the judge finds that there is enough evidence to suggest that the applicant is in immediate danger.[5] If the judge declines to grant the Restraining Order ex parte, the judge will set a hearing date within 14 days. At that time, both the applicant and the party whom the Restraining Order is sought, must appear before the judge. A Restraining Order survives for six months, and can be extended on judicial order.

Filing for Divorce

The decision to leave an abusive relationship is difficult, but always right. Abuse in a relationship is never acceptable. While obtaining a Protective and/or Restraining Order is an important step for a victim in protecting herself and/or her children, both types of orders are not permanent. Seeking a divorce or legal separation is the next step.

An action for dissolution of marriage is commenced by filing a summons and complaint with the Superior Court in the judicial district where one of the spouses resides. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-45. Once commenced, the Court will dictate a series of Automatic Orders.[6] The Automatic Orders are designed to prevent either party from making any significant changes relating to their children or finances. These orders prohibit relocating the children out of state or locking one party out of the marital residence. If there is a prior Protective and/or Restraining Order in effect, the Automatic Orders will be issued in accordance with those prior order(s). For example, if there is a Restraining Order in place, directing the husband to leave the marital residence will not be affected by the Automatic Orders.

During a divorce proceeding, the spouses will attempt to work out an amicable separation. The spouses will negotiate the marital residence, child custody, child support, spousal support and other issues. Given the complexity of these proceedings, coupled with the intricate nature of family violence, it is important to have an attorney who understands these multifaceted issues.

Custody

Family violence affects every member of the family, directly and indirectly. It creates a home environment where children live in constant fear. As a result, many survivors of family violence fear they will lose their children to the abusive partner. In some cases, this prevents the victim from leaving her abuser.

The most important thing for a victim of family violence to remember is that the Court will decide custody. In doing so, the Court must consider the best interests of the child.[7] In determining the best interests of the child, the Court will look at a litany of items, including the stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences, the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, and the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56(c). If the Court views the victim as the primary parent, and the victim has not been abusive to the child(ren), then the victim is not likely to lose physical and legal custody.

It is important to understand that custody is not the same as visitation. For example, even if a father has abused a mother, as long as he has not harmed the children, he will likely be granted visitation. However, the mother, as a victim of family violence, has the right to request certain conditions for the visitation in order to provide for her own protection. That might include a provision that visitation only occur at certain times, on certain days, at certain locations, or with another person present.

Family violence and divorce cases are riddled with complex issues. It is important to find an attorney who understands domestic violence and has experience with domestic violence divorce cases. One should be confident that their legal advisors are well-versed in the law and familiar with recent case developments.

At Maya Murphy, P.C., we have decades of experience dealing with divorce, restraining order petitions, and criminal litigation – often in situations where the three matters run concurrently. We handle all types of issues related to divorce and child-custody, including post-judgment matters, in a broad geographic area, which includes Westport, Fairfield, Greenwich, and the entire Fairfield County area. For a free initial consultation call (203) 221-3100.


[1] 2009 Family Violence Detailed Report, Connecticut Department of Public Safety, September 2010.

[2] Hart, Barbara. Children of Domestic Violence: Risks and Remedies. Child Protective Services Quarterly; Pittsburgh Bar Association, Winter 1992.

[3] While not provided for under the definition of family violence crime, Connecticut law does criminalize sexual abuse and stalking and harassment.

[4] Family Violence Crime is defined as “crime as defined in section 53a-24 which, in addition to its other elements, contains as an element thereof an act of family violence to a family member and shall not include acts by parents or guardians disciplining minor children unless such acts constitute abuse.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-38a(2).

[5] Ex parte means that only the party seeking the Restraining Order is before the Judge. Ex parte Restraining Order only last until the hearing, which must be scheduled within 14 days.

[6] This is also true in legal separation, custody, and visitation proceedings in Connecticut.

[7] Schult v. Schult, 241 Conn. 767, 777, 699 A.2d 134 (1997).
________________________________________________________________________________
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.

Keywords: divorce attorney ct, divorce attorneys in ct, divorce attorneys ct, divorce attorney Connecticut, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce attorney, divorce attorneys NYC, ct lawyers, Connecticut family attorney, divorce lawyer in ct, free divorce consultation, free consultation family law, divorce in ct, free consultation family law, Connecticut divorce lawyer, divorce attorney for men, divorce attorney for women, free divorce attorney, divorce lawyers in ct, ct divorce laws, ct divorce attorney, family law firm, divorce attorney Fairfield, attorneys in Connecticut, family law office, ct divorce mediation, best divorce attorney in ct, lawyers in ct, uncontested divorce, divorce lawyer nyc, Connecticut divorce laws, best divorce attorney, divorce attorney Hartford, new haven divorce attorney, divorce, lawyer, attorney, law firm ct, law office, legal advice in ct, ct divorce attorneys, family attorney, domestic violence rights, Connecticut, marital property rights, CT divorce mediation, legal separation Connecticut, child custody laws, child support litigation, contested, uncontested, annulments, alimony, mediator, spouse, spousal support law, asset division, visitation right, premarital agreements, prenup, prenuptial agreement, prenup NY, restraining orders, appeals, custody modifications, legal separation CT, prenup in CT, custody in CT, filing divorce in CT, filing, lawyers, attorneys, family law in CT, family in NY, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce law NY, matrimonial law CT, custody NY, child custody CT, property division in CT, dissolution of marriage in CT, marriage, divorce NY, New York divorce, visitation in CT, visitation rights in CT, post marital agreements, divorce law firm CT, divorce law firm NY

Continue Reading

Adoption: The Gift of a Nurturing Home

Leigh Ryan, Esq. is an attorney with Maya Murphy, P.C., a full service law firm with offices in Westport, CT and New York City. Ms. Ryan is licensed to practice law in Connecticut and New York.

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

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.

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.

________________________________________________________________________________
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.

Keywords: divorce attorney ct, divorce attorneys in ct, divorce attorneys ct, divorce attorney Connecticut, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce attorney, divorce attorneys NYC, ct lawyers, Connecticut family attorney, divorce lawyer in ct, free divorce consultation, free consultation family law, divorce in ct, free consultation family law, Connecticut divorce lawyer, divorce attorney for men, divorce attorney for women, free divorce attorney, divorce lawyers in ct, ct divorce laws, ct divorce attorney, family law firm, divorce attorney Fairfield, attorneys in Connecticut, family law office, ct divorce mediation, best divorce attorney in ct, lawyers in ct, uncontested divorce, divorce lawyer nyc, Connecticut divorce laws, best divorce attorney, divorce attorney Hartford, new haven divorce attorney, divorce, lawyer, attorney, law firm ct, law office, legal advice in ct, ct divorce attorneys, family attorney, domestic violence rights, Connecticut, marital property rights, CT divorce mediation, legal separation Connecticut, child custody laws, child support litigation, contested, uncontested, annulments, alimony, mediator, spouse, spousal support law, asset division, visitation right, premarital agreements, prenup, prenuptial agreement, prenup NY, restraining orders, appeals, custody modifications, legal separation CT, prenup in CT, custody in CT, filing divorce in CT, filing, lawyers, attorneys, family law in CT, family in NY, Connecticut divorce attorney, divorce law NY, matrimonial law CT, custody NY, child custody CT, property division in CT, dissolution of marriage in CT, marriage, divorce NY, New York divorce, visitation in CT, visitation rights in CT, post marital agreements, divorce law firm CT, divorce law firm NY

Continue Reading