Posts tagged with "H. Daniel Murphy"

Defeating Governmental Immunity: Navigating the Uphill Climb

Lawsuits against the State of Connecticut or its local municipalities are notoriously difficult to pursue from a legal perspective, in large part due to various statutory protections and administrative hurdles put in place by the legislature.  For example, a plaintiff seeking to initiate a personal injury case against her own town must adhere to strict time limitations and procedural requirements in order to have her case successfully get into court and survive the scrutiny of a judge, well before she ever comes close to having a “day in court” before a jury of her peers.

Unless the site of a plaintiff’s injury falls within one of a few narrow exceptions (such as an injury on a “public highway,” which would invoke the protections and mechanisms of Connecticut’s “highway defect statute,” or Connecticut General Statutes Section 13a-149), a plaintiff is entitled only to proceed against a state or municipality under the Political Subdivision Liability Statute (Connecticut General Statutes Section 52-557n).

Section 52-557n, however, contains its own pitfalls for prospective plaintiffs.  The statute provides that a town or political subdivision may be liable for negligent acts of its employees, officers, or agents except if such actions or omissions constitute criminal conduct or willful misconduct, or, significantly, if such negligent acts or omissions require the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the job responsibility.

The latter part of this test is key – and is a gold mine for municipalities (and their lawyers) seeking to invoke the governmental immunity doctrine and escape liability for the negligence of its employees, even if such negligence is established by an injured person.  What the provision states, in plain language, is that a town may well be free and clear from liability if the task that was performed negligently was a task that required an exercise of judgment on the part of the town employee.

Take the hypothetical example of a plaintiff who was injured when she slipped on ice on the front steps of City Hall.  The evidence suggests that the maintenance workers either knew or should have known that ice had built up on the steps, that they were expecting the public to be walking in and out of the building, and that someone clearly “dropped the ball” in making sure that the ice was scraped off and that salt or sand was applied generously to the area.  Instead, nothing was done, nothing was scraped, no sand or salt was used, no warning signs were posted, and the ice remained for several business days before this plaintiff came along and fell on her very first visit to City Hall.

Even with these simplified facts (which appear at first blush to be quite damaging to the City), the City will surely investigate the existence of any policy, procedure, and practice of those maintenance workers who were assigned to the front steps of the building.  In this case, the City will attempt to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that “judgment” and “discretion” of the City employees were required to be exercised to keep those steps free of snow and ice.  On the contrary, a plaintiff will seek to demonstrate that the actions (or omissions) of the City workers were “ministerial” – that is, the workers had a clear directive to do something (e.g. to clear the ice at certain times, in a certain manner, with no exercise of judgment) and yet they failed to carry out that task, resulting in the plaintiff’s injury.

When the proverbial dust settles, if no clear, articulated policy existed to clear the steps, to inspect the steps on a scheduled basis, or to take preventative measures against ice buildup, a municipal defendant in this instance would likely argue (perhaps successfully) that the maintenance workers were required not to follow any protocol, but only to “use their judgment and discretion” in determining what needed to be kept safe and clear for pedestrian traffic.

An unknowing plaintiff (or perhaps an inexperienced attorney) who advances her case against a town believing that a jury would be shocked if there is no snow removal policy might find herself equally shocked when or if it is determined that any negligence was of a “discretionary” nature and governmental immunity therefore applies, subject to other very narrow legal exceptions not discussed here.

A savvy plaintiff, in discovery and at the very outset of the lawsuit, might request that the town admit, under oath and in writing, to the existence of a clear and articulated policy (even if it is unwritten) with regard to the safety issue which resulted in her injury.  While towns (and their attorneys) are often eager to show that preventative measures are and were in place, in this instance, they may well eliminate – as a matter of law – their own sacred protection of governmental immunity at trial.  With a valid legal admission of a clear and articulated policy, a municipal defendant is effectively hamstrung – it cannot simultaneously admit to the existence of a policy and directive while claiming that its employees were simply exercising their own judgment.  Dramatically and emphatically, the curtain of governmental immunity draws away, paving the way for a plaintiff to reach the eyes and ears of a jury.

An injured person seeking legal assistance as against the state or a municipality faces a virtual hornet’s nest of obstacles and legal entanglements.  A trusted, informed advocate is essential to place such a claim in the best possible legal position.  The invitation is open to consulting with attorneys at our firm who are experienced in this type of civil litigation.

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

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Defeating an Employer’s Defenses

A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace has certain available protections and remedies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with respect to unwanted amorous advances, inappropriate touching, or an outright physical assault by another employee or co-worker.  Essentially, a victim of sexual harassment must prove in a civil lawsuit that the harassment was “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to alter the conditions of her employment, and that there was a specific basis for imputing the resulting hostile work environment to her employer (and not merely to the harasser).

Under what has become known as the Faragher/Ellerth defense, employers since 1998 have been permitted by the courts to put forth and establish an affirmative defense to victims’ lawsuits against inappropriately behaving employees, so long as they are able to prove one of two things: A) that the victim unreasonably failed to take advantage of a company’s established procedures and opportunities to prevent sexual harassment (such as policies, training, and complaint mechanisms through human resources), or B) that the victim employee complained about the conduct and the employer took prompt and appropriate corrective action (such as an investigation, discipline, and/or termination of the harasser).

If a defendant company succeeds in proving one of these two elements, that company may not be held liable for the sexual harassment of one of its employees, even under some egregious circumstances.  Today, many companies have policies and procedures in place, and in most circumstances, a company can successfully claim that it would have been “unreasonable” for a victim not to complain about a harasser’s misconduct and to put the company on notice when something untoward occurs.

However, sometimes victims do not complain right away.  In some cases, the harassment is committed by a supervisor – someone in a position of power over the victim, with a stranglehold on the victim’s voice, on her employment, on her will.

Our law makes adjustments accordingly.  Therefore, where the harassment is committed not just by a co-worker of the victim, but by the victim’s work supervisor, the standard shifts dramatically – the employer company is “presumptively responsible” for the harasser’s conduct.  In that instance, also, there is a proscribed limitation under which an employer can put forth the Faragher/Ellerth defense and potentially escape liability.  Specifically, the test becomes whether the supervisor’s harassment (or unwanted sexual advance) culminated in what is known as a “tangible employment action” – such as a demotion, a denial of a promotion, a change in job responsibilities, or a termination of employment.

In other words, in cases of supervisor-subordinate harassment, a trial court applies a test to determine whether the tangible employment action is “linked” in some fashion to the supervisor’s discriminatory harassment.  If indeed a connection is found – if a supervisor, for example, ultimately fires his victim of sexual harassment for fear she will disclose his reprehensible conduct to others – then the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense is not available to the employer company.  The purpose of this rule is to insure that, despite the procedures they might put in place to protect their employees from sexual harassment, companies may and often will be held liable and accountable for the actions of supervisors who harass their subordinates and then utilize their positions of power to remove their victims from the workplace.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, we urge you to seek legal advice immediately and to learn your rights.  Our firm has decades of experience in successfully handling sexual harassment and discrimination cases throughout New York and Connecticut, in both state and federal courts.  Our clients present us with the facts; we arm them with the law and the aggressive, informed advocacy to seek justice on their behalf.

If you have any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter, please contact Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.

Protective Orders and Domestic Violence: Full Hearings Offer Expedited Justice

Next week, the Connecticut Supreme Court will officially release an opinion holding that people accused of domestic violence crimes will be entitled to an evidentiary hearing “within a reasonable time” before a full protective order would continue to restrain them from their homes – and from their children – while criminal proceedings are ongoing. Very often, in the context of divorce proceedings, an unfortunate occurrence will result in the arrest of one spouse or the other, with the result that a party is temporarily removed from the marital residence to protect the victim (and perhaps the children) from a threat of violence. However, whereas criminal defendants were and are always entitled to the presumption of innocence as well as a full evidentiary, adversarial proceeding to determine guilt or innocence (a trial), those individuals who are removed from the home by way of a criminal protective order were often not given the same opportunity for a “hearing,” beyond the limited oral argument of a defendant’s attorney and the opposition from the State’s Attorney and the Office of the Victim’s Advocate. Now, in the matter of State v. Fernando A., (SC 18045), the Supreme Court of this state has held that our statutes do indeed afford subjects of a protective order the right to a full evidentiary hearing, with witnesses and cross examination, “within a reasonable time” – so long as the defendant’s attorney timely requests such a hearing. This mechanism will serve to insure that full protective orders are properly issued only in cases in which imminent physical harm indeed faces a spouse or children within a household. While requiring an additional expenditure of judicial resources, these hearings (for so often as they are requested and not waived by defendants), should also act to minimize those regrettable cases where spouses initiate criminal proceedings in bad faith or upon false claims, in order to gain leverage in pending or future divorce proceedings. Whether by protecting the victims of abuse or by protecting those accused of the same, adversarial evidentiary hearings are the cornerstone of our judicial system. Those in contact with the system, under any circumstances, should be confident that their legal advisors are well-versed in the law and familiar with recent case developments.

If you have any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter, please contact Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.
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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.

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Domestic Violence and Divorce Litigation

By virtue of executive proclamation, the month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Westport, Connecticut.

As noted by Westport’s First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff, “Domestic violence should not happen to anyone. There is no excuse for abuse. It is not a family business, and should never be considered nor treated as a socially-acceptable behavior.”

Indeed, domestic violence is a crime, and is frequently the basis for (or perhaps a symptom of) divorce proceedings. More and more, in the field of divorce litigation, our lawyers handle the complex matters which relate to incidents of abuse within the home – including those issues relating to the criminal prosecution itself as well as the ongoing security of the victim.

At our firm, we have decades of experience dealing with divorces, restraining order petitions, and criminal litigation – often in situations where the three matters run concurrently. We are similarly experienced with those unfortunate circumstances in which false allegations of criminal abuse have been improperly levied to gain advantage in divorce proceedings. We handle all types of divorce and child-custody matters, including post-judgment matters, in Westport, Fairfield, Greenwich, and the entire Fairfield County area.

At every turn, our lawyers aggressively seek to advance the rights of the innocent, to protect the victimized, and to correct injustice.

For more information and a confidential consultation on your family law matter, please call our firm or email: hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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

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 GAL’s duty 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.

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.

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

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Joint Legal Custody and Final Decision-Making Authority

Any custody proceeding relating to minor children includes the decision or determination regarding a parent’s participation in the legal custody of those minor children. Legal custody, as contrasted with “physical custody,” relates not to where the children physically reside, but rather deals with which parent or parents make certain major legal decisions on behalf of a child until such time as the child reaches the age of majority.

Generally speaking, the legal decisions covered by the authority of “legal custody” consist of non-emergency medical decisions, educational decisions, and those relating to the child’s religious upbringing.

Joint legal custody, as defined by Connecticut General Statutes §46(b)-56a(a), is “an order awarding legal custody of the minor child to both parents, providing for joint decision-making by the parents and providing that physical custody shall be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of continuing contact with both parents.”

In certain circumstances, whether by agreement of the parties or by court order following a hearing or trial, joint legal custody may be awarded with a catch known as “final decision-making authority.” In some instances, perhaps where communication between the parents is strained or ineffective, a court may find it appropriate to require the parties to communicate and discuss a major decision in good faith, but may award only one party the ultimate decision-making authority if an impasse remains – essentially giving one party a tiebreaking vote.

In a decision released just this week, Connecticut’s Appellate Court stated that such an award of ultimate decision-making power remains consistent with a finding of joint legal custody, where the trial court enters orders including “any such custody arrangements as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child” (C.G.S. § 46(b)-56(b)). Citing its own 1991 decision, the Appellate Court has noted its continued rejection of the argument that ultimate decision-making authority by one party effectively constitutes an award of sole custody.

In its ruling, the Court affirms a custodial arrangement whereby the parties were compelled to attempt to agree in good faith on any major decision relating to the child, after which they were directed to resolve the agreement through mediation. In that case, only where mediation did not produce an agreement was one party given the authority to exercise final decision-making – effectively, the tiebreak. The Court noted that the construct and process did not prevent either party from meaningfully participating in the major decisions relating to the child, but rather, merely “provided the parties with a solution for the occasion when, despite good faith and multiple attempts to reach a decision, the parties were stymied.”

Often in family law disputes, it takes creativity and a keen understanding of the parties’ interpersonal dynamics to arrive at solutions that not only benefit the minor children, but could also prevent future tension and litigation.

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

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Child Visitation: Privileges and Limitations

Parties entering a custody dispute or a divorce proceeding often inquire about visitation privileges by the so-called “non-custodial parent” – that is, the parent whose home is not the primary residence of the minor child.

Entirely separate from the determination of legal custody (which relates to the parties’ arrangements for major legal decisions to be made for and on behalf of the minor child) is the subject of a visitation arrangement, also sometimes referred to as a “parental access plan.” Regardless of which parent is awarded legal custody, a non-custodial parent has a right to visit with his or her child, although such visitation is not guaranteed to be unfettered and unrestricted in all circumstances.

In the best case scenario, the parties or their lawyers may arrange for “flexible, liberal rights of visitation” for the non-custodial parent, which might mean that the parties work out their access schedule amongst themselves, rather than reducing the intricacies of a schedule to writing. In some instances, the parties might follow a broad-brush, general guideline for visits and holiday scheduling which ebbs and flows according to the parties’ schedules and the child’s activities and needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, visitation by a non-custodial parent can be suspended, temporarily denied, or restricted in some fashion by a court if it is found that a parent’s visitation with a minor child would be adverse to that child’s best interest. If it can be demonstrated in a court of law that a child’s personal safety, physical, mental, or emotional well-being, would be negatively and seriously impacted by visitation with a parent, it is likely that such a parent’s visitation will be severely limited, if not suspended entirely.

However, any restriction of a parent’s ability to spend quality time with his or her child is not taken lightly – not by attorneys, and not by the courts. Before taking such drastic measures, courts will look for compelling, factual predicates based on very specific, presently existing circumstances. Before any type of restriction on visitation, a non-custodial parent has a right to a full evidentiary hearing, an opportunity to present and cross-examine witnesses, and a chance to argue to a court that the custodial parent has not established that continued, unlimited visitation would be injurious to the minor child’s best interests.

There are limited situations in which courts deem it appropriate to deny visitation entirely; others in which visitation is restricted in time, place, or manner; still others in which visitation is required to be supervised by a third party, such as a family member or an independent agency.

Obviously, acts or omissions by the non-custodial parent which have directly impacted the child (such as cases of physical abuse, or outright neglect for the child) are looked at most critically and could potentially result in the most drastic of remedies to protect a minor child.

Of course, there are certain other factors which could – in isolated cases – result in restricted visitation by a non-custodial parent. Violence or the threat of violence on the part of the non-custodial parent will be considered as an important factor, provided the evidence offered is competent and survives judicial scrutiny. In very extreme cases only, a mental illness or a psychiatric condition could impact visitation time, but only where it is established, proven, and accepted by a court that there would be harm to the child as a result of the illness if visitation were to take place.

More commonly, issues concerning substance and/or alcohol abuse could and may impact visitation by a non-custodial parent, especially where the behavior is found to be likely to jeopardize a minor child’s welfare. Even in these cases, with the best interests of the child in mind, courts are likely to favor a continued, healthy and loving relationship between the minor child and his or her non-custodial parent, provided that the visitation environment is such that the child will not be harmed or put at risk.

Whether a visitation arrangement will be “flexible and liberal” or heavily regulated is dependent on the factual circumstances of each case, the weight of the evidence, the credibility of the parties and their witnesses, and what is determined by a court to be the best interests of the minor child or children. A legal advisor in this area is challenged not merely to advance a client’s desires, but to simultaneously consider and protect the welfare of the minor child (and the parent-child relationship) when advising his or her client.

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

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Leading Divorce Law Firm in Fairfield County Connecticut: Maya Murphy

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group consists of a dedicated team of lawyers committed to representing its clients through the most complex divorce proceedings. As a significant portion of our Matrimonial Law Group’s client base consists of high net worth individuals, we have experience dealing with the valuation and division of a variety of assets including businesses, residential and commercial real estate, high-end personal property, trusts, various retirement vehicles, as well as stocks, bonds and other securities. Our matrimonial lawyers also counsel the Firm’s clients through the formation and execution of pre-marital agreements, and often collaborate with our Trusts & Estates Group regarding issues involving trusts, testamentary instruments and estate planning. With attorneys licensed to practice in Connecticut and New York, we routinely handle cases originating in Fairfield County, Westchester County and New York City.

Our Matrimonial Law Group represents clients in dissolution and separation proceedings, custody and child support cases, as well as post-judgment custody and support modifications. Our matrimonial lawyers handle each and every case professionally and diligently. Though we aggressively litigate our more acrimonious cases when required, we always take into account the individual and unique needs, position and desires of each client, and recognize the importance of negotiating settlements when appropriate. Our matrimonial lawyers are well versed in the mediation process as well, and are often retained in a neutral capacity, providing our clients with an alternative to the traditional adversarial divorce model.

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group is dedicated to providing its clients with high quality representation, including a thorough knowledge of the law, unsurpassed attention to detail, unwavering client support and constant preparedness. We understand that our clients are often in the worst situations they will ever personally encounter, and seek, at every turn, to alleviate their fears while protecting and advancing their interests in a court of law.

To discuss a case please contact Joseph C. Maya or H. Daniel Murphy at (203) 221-3100 in Connecticut or (212) 682-5700 in New York. Mr. Maya can be reached via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com and Mr. Murphy can be reached via e-mail at HDMurphy@Mayalaw.com.
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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.

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Family Law Update: Postnuptial Agreements Now Valid and Enforceable in Connecticut

Upon beginning an action for a divorce, many people will disclose to their lawyers that the parties had already contemplated the end of their marriage, sometimes many years before. More often than one would guess, the parties had even mapped out this projected end to their relationship with an agreement written during the marriage itself – maybe hammered out on the family computer, or perhaps scribbled on a restaurant napkin – which was intended by the parties to govern the terms of any divorce that would loom in the future.

With a waiver of alimony, a promise to exclude inheritance proceeds, or a pledge to leave the marital home – an intended postnuptial agreement could be as flexible and varied as the complex circumstances of the marriage itself. However, unlike their premarital cousins (agreements executed before marriage are governed both Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-36b et seq. and controlling precedent), postnuptial agreements had not been officially recognized by the Connecticut Supreme Court and the prospects of their enforceability at trial was nebulous at best.

In the recent decision of Bedrick v. Bedrick (SC 18568, 200 Conn. 691, decided April 26, 2011), the Connecticut Supreme Court has for the first time set forth parameters to test the enforceability of postnuptial agreements, noting that “we must now consider what standards govern their enforcement. Neither the legislature nor this court has addressed this question.” Bedrick, at 699.

Addressing first the question of whether postnuptial agreements are contrary to public policy, the Supreme Court concluded in the negative. While historically, the Court had determined that prenuptial agreements (as an example) were generally held to violate public policy if they promoted, facilitated, or provided an incentive for separation or divorce” (citing McHugh v. McHugh, 181 Conn. 482, 488-89 (1980)), it has been more recently decided that “private settlement of the financial affairs of estranged marital partners is a goal that courts should support rather than undermine” (see Billington v. Billington, 220 Conn. 212, 221 (1991)). The Bedrick court now opined that “postnuptial agreements may also encourage the private resolution of family issues. In particular, they may allow couples to eliminate a source of emotional turmoil – usually, financial uncertainty – and focus instead on resolving other aspects of the marriage that may be problematic.” Bedrick, at 698.

In this case of first impression, the Supreme Court expressly acknowledged the heightened scrutiny that must be applied to a trial judge’s review of a contract between already married persons, noting that “spouses do not contract under the same conditions as either prospective spouses or spouses who have determined to dissolve their marriage.” In its analysis, the Court points out that already married spouses are “less cautious” in a contractual relationship with one another than they would be as prospective spouses, and similarly, are “certainly less cautious” with one another than they would be with an ordinary contracting party. “With lessened caution comes greater potential for one spouse to take advantage of the other.” Id, at 703.

As such, the law now requires trial courts to enforce a postnuptial agreement only if it complies with applicable contract principles (including the element of consideration, or in layman’s terms, the “give and take” in any contractual arrangement), and if the terms of the agreement are both fair and equitable at the time of execution and if those terms are not unconscionable at the time of dissolution of the marriage. To determine whether terms are “fair and equitable” at the time of execution, a court will look to whether the agreement was made voluntarily, without any undue influence, fraud, coercion, or duress. In addition, as with prenuptial agreements, there must be a factual finding that each spouse was given full, fair, and reasonable disclosure of all property, assets, financial obligations, and income of the other spouse when entering into the contract.

Importantly also, the Court further held that “unfairness or inequity alone does not render a postnuptial agreement unconscionable; spouses may agree on an unequal distribution of assets at dissolution.” Id, at 706. Trial courts are charged with applying a “totality of the circumstances” approach to determining the fairness and equity of enforcing a postnuptial agreement.

With this significant legal decision now available as a roadmap for divorce litigants and their counsel, it is critical now as always that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney in determining your rights relating to an impending divorce. Any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter may be directed to Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.

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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.

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