Posts tagged with "lawyers in ct"

Court Gives Plaintiff in Bullying Case Green Light to Proceed to Trial

In August 2006 Robert and Louise Dornfried filed suit against the Berlin Board of Education, its former and current superintendents,  the principal, the athletic director and the coach of Berlin High School football team on behalf of their minor son, Robby.  Robby’s parents alleged on their son’s behalf that, while a student at the high school and a place-kicker on the varsity football team, he was subjected to “incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation and was the victim of threats and/or acts of violence” by his teammates.

The parents further alleged that they complained of the misconduct to various school administrators, who, despite their knowledge of the behavior, did nothing to stop it.  As a result, Robby was allegedly forced to seek “medical care and treatment” and, halfway through his sophomore year, transferred to Northwest Catholic High School. Robby’s parents brought suit alleging negligence against the various defendants, claiming they knew or should have known that Robby was subjected to incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats and/or acts of violence, but failed to take any action to prohibit, prevent, or even deter such conduct.

In a separate count, the parents claimed the principal, the athletic director and the football coach were reckless in their failure to stop the inappropriate behavior of Robby’s teammates, claiming they exhibited “a blatant and utter disregard for [Robby’s] safety and wellbeing.”  Notably, as permitted by Connecticut law, the plaintiff sought punitive damages under this count. The defendants initially attacked the plaintiff’s suit filing a motion to strike the negligence claims.

Granting the defendants’ motion, the Court held that the principal of governmental immunity barred the negligence claims because, as a general rule, a municipal employee has qualified immunity in the performance of acts that are discretionary in nature.  Although there is an exception when the injured party is an “identifiable person subject to imminent harm,” the Court held that Robby did not fall within that exception, 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, participation is on a purely voluntary basis and, therefore, any resulting liability is barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity.  Significantly, although Robby was foreclosed from pursuing his negligence claims, his claim under a theory of recklessness, allowing for the recovery of punitive damages, was left intact. More recently, however, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment attempting to eliminate that cause of action as well.  The defendants essentially claimed that, with respect to the plaintiff’s recklessness count, there are no factual issues in dispute and that as a matter of law, they are entitled to a judgment in their favor.

The court denied the defendants’ motion, however, preserving the plaintiff’s case, as well as the potential for punitive damages.  Explaining its decision, the Court first noted that Robby’s parents alleged the defendants had actual knowledge of the bullying yet failed to act, resulting in further escalation of the bullying, and that the defendants knew their failure to act would result in further harm to Robby.  Significantly, the Court then explained that summary judgment should not be used in cases that concern important public issues or questions of inference as to motive or intent, or ones that involve subjective feelings and reactions.

Citing various factual disputes in this particular case, the Court ultimately held that it is “suffused with subjective impressions, intent, motive and pubic issues which do not easily conform to the standards of summary judgment.” This ruling is significant, in part, because, as mentioned, the plaintiffs alleged that the school system, as well as various administrators, were not just negligent, but were actually reckless in their failure to respond to the bullying in question, thus exposing the school system not only to actual or compensatory damages, but punitive damages as well.  This decision is also significant because, although there is always a potential that such rulings will be appealed, the Court effectively gave the plaintiffs a green light to proceed to trial.

By:       Michael DeMeola, Esq.

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

 

Should I File my Family Law Case in Connecticut or New York?

With the mass exodus of New Yorkers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic from New York City to the more suburban lifestyle of Connecticut, the question of where to file family law case actions has been emerging quite frequently.  The first and most critical question that you need to know is whether Connecticut or New York has jurisdiction to hear the case.  In short, the court with jurisdiction retains the official power to make legal decisions and judgments on a case.  But the answer may not be clear-cut.  Here is what you need to know about family law jurisdiction in Connecticut and New York:

Which State Has Jurisdiction for My Divorce Action?

Generally, Connecticut has jurisdiction over a divorce action if one of the following conditions apply:

  1. You or your spouse has lived in Connecticut for at least one (1) year prior to filing for divorce, OR
  2. You or your spouse lived in Connecticut at the time of the marriage, moved away, and then returned to Connecticut, AND plan to live here permanently.

Similarly, New York has jurisdiction over a divorce action if one of the following conditions apply:

  1.  You or your spouse have lived in New York State uninterrupted for at least two (2) years immediately before the date you start your divorce action; OR
  2. You or your spouse have lived in New York State on the date the divorce action was commended for a period of at least one (1) year, AND one of the following conditions applies:
    1. Your marriage ceremony was in New York; OR
    2. You lived in New York State with your spouse as married persons; OR
  3. You or your spouse have lived in New York State uninterrupted for at least one (1) year immediately before the date you start your divorce action, AND your grounds for divorce occurred in New York State; OR
  4. You and your spouse are residents of New York State on the date you start your divorce action, AND your grounds for divorce occurred in New York State.

Which State Has Jurisdiction for My Child Custody/Visitation Action?

Generally, Connecticut has custody and visitation jurisdiction if one of the following conditions apply:

  1. Connecticut is the home state of the child at the time the custody/visitation application is submitted, and the child has lived in Connecticut for the last six (6) months, or from birth if the child is less than six (6) months old; OR
  2.  The child lived in Connecticut for the last six (6) months, but has been removed from Connecticut less than six (6) months ago by a person claiming to have custody of the child and a parent or guardian continues to live in Connecticut; OR
  3. The child and at least one parent has significant ties to Connecticut and substantial evidence exists in Connecticut concerning the child’s present or future care, protection, training, and personal relationships; OR
  4. The child is in Connecticut now and has been abandoned, or there is an emergency affecting the child’s well-being; OR
  5. No other states have an interest in hearing the case, and it is in the child’s best interest for Connecticut to hear the case.

Generally, New York has custody and visitation jurisdiction if one of the following conditions apply:

  1. New York is the home state of the child at the time the custody/visitation application is submitted, and the child has resided in New York State for the last six (6) months before the start of a custody/visitation action, or
  2. No other state has jurisdiction, or any interested states has declined jurisdiction; and
    1. The child and child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent, have a significant connection with New York State other than a physical presence; OR
    2. Substantial evidence exists in New York concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships; OR
    3. All courts having jurisdiction have declined jurisdiction on the ground that New York State is the more appropriate forum to determine custody; OR
    4. No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the provisions of the statute.

You can now see that when determining where to file your family law matter, often jurisdiction is not a matter of choice, but a matter of law.  While it is possible that your case may be filed in either court, understanding the jurisdictional requirements is crucial in eliminating unnecessary expenses and attorneys’ fees expended by moving a case to the appropriate jurisdiction.  

If you have any further questions concerning the appropriate jurisdiction to file your family law action or would like the representation of an experienced attorney to assist you, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.

What You Need to Know About Divorce Automatic Court Orders in Connecticut

In Connecticut, upon filings for dissolution of marriage, dissolution of civil union, custody, and visitation, annulment, or legal separation, automatic court orders are put into place that essentially put a freeze on taking certain actions during the pendency of the case. These orders essentially act as restraining orders and are binding on the plaintiff at the time the complaint is signed, and on the defendant when served. Both parties must comply with these orders or risk facing contempt.

The intention behind these orders makes sense: they are designed to maintain the status quo. The period surrounding a divorce or separation can be extremely sensitive due to the enormity of uncertainty and associated stress, especially for households with children. Parents and children who once lived their lives completely intertwined will be forced to make changes in the coming months as the household is divided. Understandably, the stress that comes along with these changes often results in bringing the worst out of the parties. The automatic court orders aim to minimize actions by the parties that would inevitably cause further distress—or necessary legal action. 

Connecticut courts recognize that in cases involving children it is imperative to keep everything as close to normal as possible to minimize the disruption the divorce has on children. The parties are ordered not to move the children permanently from the state of Connecticut without the written consent of both parties. When moving from the marital home, you are ordered to notify the other party within 48 hours and to provide the other party with an address for mail to allow for communication. If the parties have decided to live separately during the pendency of the case, the parties must also aid the children in continuing usual contact with the other parent in person, by telephone, or in writing. Likewise, no parent may change existing medical insurance or allow for such policies to expire. Both parents must also participate in a parenting education program.  

It is worth noting, however, that such orders involving the children do not override any existing court orders that are in conflict. Conflicting orders may include existing criminal protective orders put in place at arraignment after a domestic violence arrest or civil protective orders.

In addition to their application to families with children, the automatic court orders also extend to finances, regardless of whether parties have children. In all cases, neither party may dispose of any property without written agreement by the other party or court order. You may not hide property, mortgage property, remove the other party from ownership in a joint asset, go into unreasonable debt, remove the other from existing medical, life, auto, homeowners, or renter’s insurance or allow such policies to expire, change the terms or beneficiaries of life insurance, or deny the use of the family home to the other person without a court order.  

While these orders are intended to be limiting, you can imagine the complexities that may arise. Is there a family business? Will the addition of a second household change the financial situation substantially? Does one party need to get a job considerably changing the childcare need? It may prove difficult to navigate everyday life with these orders in place and thus it is important to seek competent counsel to aid you in the process. 

If you have any further questions about automatic court orders in Connecticut or would like the representation of an experienced attorney to assist you, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.

Prenuptial Agreements in Connecticut

Prenuptial agreements, also known as antenuptial or premarital agreements, are recognized in Connecticut, though they are not required to fit within a rigidly defined structure to be enforceable.  In fact, it is likely by design that Connecticut has opted to allow the construction of such agreements to be governed by contract law so as not to limit their applicability.  Such agreements are not just for the rich and famous, they can be powerful asset protection tools for anyone.

What Should I Include in my Prenuptial Agreement?

Connecticut law defines a prenuptial agreement as an agreement between prospective spouses in contemplation of marriage.   In such an agreement, the parties may contract with respect to the rights and obligations of each party to property including the right to buy, sell, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property; the disposition of that property upon marital dissolution or other defined event; modification or elimination of alimony; the creation of a will or other asset protection tool enabling carrying out the provisions of the agreement; disposition of a life insurance policy and retirement plans; and any other matter that effects their personal rights and obligations. A full financial disclosure is required by both parties so as to ensure the parties are aware of all of the facts before entering into such an agreement.  In determine what provisions to incorporate, it is a good idea to consider all of these rights and obligations.

Can Alimony and Child Support Obligations be Included in a Premarital Agreement?

It is possible to agree on the terms of alimony in the event of the breakdown of a marriage under Connecticut law.  If a party asserts there has been a waiver of such a right, however, the party allegedly waiving such a right must have been aware that by signing the agreement they were relinquishing any claims to alimony, Chang v. Chang, 170 Conn. App. 822, 155.  The waiver of such a right must have been clear and unequivocal; an inference of waiver alone is not sufficient.

Of course, prenuptial agreements do not allow you to contract away certain public policy interests, including child support.  

How Will I Know if my Connecticut Prenuptial Agreement Will be Upheld?

When seeking to have a premarital agreement enforced, the enforcing party must be able to show that the agreement was either, 1) not entered into voluntarily, 2) was unconscionable when it was executed or when enforcement is sought, 3) before the agreement was executed, such party was not provided fair and reasonable disclosure of the amount, character and value of property, financial obligations and income of the other party; or 4) such a party was not afforded a reasonable opportunity to consult with independent counsel.  

It is always best with prenuptial agreements to be extraordinarily transparent with respect to everything that may affect the rights and obligations of each party ensuring that the agreement will be upheld.  

If you have any further questions about Prenuptial Agreements in Connecticut, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.

The Intersection of Divorce and Domestic Violence in the Era of Covid-19

Now, more than ever, Connecticut Courts are seeing an increasing number of cases that involve both civil and criminal law. 

When an arrest is made as a result of a domestic disturbance, the offender is required to be in court the next business day for arraignment. Typically, a full no-contact protective order is put in place by the arresting officer that lasts from the time of the arrest until the offender presents at arraignment. This order not only requires that the offender not contact the protected party but also often orders the offender out of his or her own home while awaiting arraignment—or longer.

Imagine this; you have had a turbulent few years within your household. Financial stresses, infidelity, death, excessive work hours—the addition of children. All these stressors when piled on top of one another have created an exceedingly toxic environment within the four walls of your home. It has been difficult to come to terms with it, but it has become glaringly apparent that your relationship falls squarely within the parameters of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence.  You imagined getting a divorce before but up until now simply could not wrap your head around the life-altering, permanent leap of making this choice. 

Now, Covid-19 sweeps across the nation crippling life as we knew it, and you are suddenly thrust unexpectedly into a situation of unemployment and are now expected to homeschool or shoulder the burden and expense of full-time childcare—for multiple children. The physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse has quickly escalated, and you are no longer able to sweep it under the rug.  Your life just went from uncomfortable—to unbearable.  

One evening an argument between you and your spouse ensues.  It becomes excessively heated and the neighbors call the police. Before you know it, your spouse has been arrested for a domestic violence offense and ordered out of the home during the pendency of the criminal case. When your spouse shows up to court for the arraignment, the Judge extends the protective order and your spouse is unable to return home for an indeterminate amount of time.  You have no job, no local family, and a spouse that is now raging with fury. You are suddenly in dire need of help.

Amidst Covid-19, the courts are seeing an increasing number of cases just like this. It is tremendously important to have competent counsel to strategically guide you through the complex intersection of criminal and civil law from the onset. The choices made during this process can have tremendous consequences.  This is your life, your home—your family. 

If you have any further questions about family law and domestic violence in Connecticut or would like the representation of an experienced attorney to assist you, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.

Connecticut Divorce Checklist

Getting a divorce, for many people, is the most challenging life event they have experienced. Not only does divorce tend to be both financially and emotionally taxing, the legalities of getting a divorce can overwhelming.

Divorce can leave you feeling as though almost all aspects of your life are uncertain. In the face of such uncertainties, it is especially important to know what questions to ask your divorce attorney. We compiled a list of topics for you to consider when contemplating divorce.

Property and Finances

  • Spousal support: periodic, lump sum, waiver
  • Tax implications of divorce
  • Division of marital assets
  • Who, if anyone, will remain in the marital home?
  • Selling the marital home
  • Division of other real property
  • Vehicles: Leased, owned
  • Personal property: Furniture, jewelry, etc.
  • Business assets
  • Bank accounts: Checking, savings, kids account
  • Retirement benefits: Pensions, profit shares, deferred compensation, retirement funds
  • Debts: Loans, credit cards, taxes, healthcare, etc.
  • Medical insurance
  • Life insurance

Children

  • Child support
  • Child custody: legal and physical
  • Parenting time with non-custodial parent
  • Children’s healthcare costs
  • Children’s dental costs
  • Cost of primary education
  • Cost of secondary education
  • Beneficiaries of life insurance

Other Important issues

  • Domestic violence
  • Temporary restraining orders
  • The intersection of criminal law and divorce
  • Child abuse
  • Addressing mental health
  • Addressing substance abuse
  • Changing your marital name

 

If you have any further questions about divorce in Connecticut or would like the representation of an experienced attorney to assist you, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.

Can I Receive Alimony in Connecticut, if so, How Much Alimony Will I Receive?

In Connecticut, before a judge decides whether to award alimony, he must first take into account the length of the marriage, the cause for the divorce or legal separation, the respective ages of the parties involved, the health of the parties, the parties station in life, the parties occupations, the amount and sources of income of the parties, the parties employability, the estate needs of the parties, and the property distribution as a result of the divorce.

If alimony is to be awarded in Connecticut, a judge will consider the totality of the facts and circumstances of the parties to the action. If alimony is awarded, it can be in the form of periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, or one dollar per year alimony. It is important to note, if alimony is not awarded at the time of dissolution, it may never be awarded. This is why judges sometimes award one dollar per year alimony. By awarding a nominal amount, the one dollar, the judge reserves the right to modify the alimony should circumstances of the parties change.

When seeking an alimony award, it is imperative to have an experienced divorce law attorney on your side. At Maya Murphy, our Divorce Law Group has been handling divorce, child custody, child support, and alimony issues for over a decade in the courts of Connecticut and New York. Call 203-221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com to schedule a consultation today.

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Can I Receive Alimony in Connecticut, if so, How Much Alimony Will I Receive?

In Connecticut, before a judge decides whether to award alimony, he must first take into account the length of the marriage, the cause for the divorce or legal separation, the respective ages of the parties involved, the health of the parties, the parties station in life, the parties occupations, the amount and sources of income of the parties, the parties employability, the estate needs of the parties, and the property distribution as a result of the divorce.

If alimony is to be awarded in Connecticut, a judge will consider the totality of the facts and circumstances of the parties to the action. If alimony is awarded, it can be in the form of periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, or one dollar per year alimony. It is important to note, if alimony is not awarded at the time of dissolution, it may never be awarded. This is why judges sometimes award one dollar per year alimony. By awarding a nominal amount, the one dollar, the judge reserves the right to modify the alimony should circumstances of the parties change.

When seeking an alimony award, it is imperative to have an experienced divorce law attorney on your side. At Maya Murphy, our Divorce Law Group has been handling divorce, child custody, child support, and alimony issues for over a decade in the courts of Connecticut and New York. Call 203-221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com to schedule a consultation today.

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Can a Connecticut Court Enforce or Modify My Divorce Judgment if it Was Issued in Another State?

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

The party who files the foreign judgment in Connecticut must notify his or her former spouse by sending the relevant papers to the spouse’s last known address by registered mail within five (5) days of filing, and through personal service by a Connecticut State Marshal. However, the filing party may not move the Connecticut court to enforce or modify the judgment until twenty (20) days after these papers have been served. Once the twenty-day period has expired, either party can then file post-judgment motions in the Connecticut Superior Courts.

One distinction between divorce judgments originally obtained in Connecticut and foreign judgments later filed there should be noted. With such foreign judgments, Connecticut law mandates that courts apply the substantive law of the state in which the judgment was originally obtained. Accordingly, a Connecticut court reviewing a Florida judgment in response to a request to modify its child support provisions, for example, would apply Florida law governing the modification of child support. In such cases, there may be material differences between Connecticut law and the law of the state in which original judgment was issued, which could affect, for example, the relief available or the burden of proof a party must meet to obtain the requested relief, among other things. It is therefore advisable to consult with a Connecticut matrimonial attorney who also is familiar with the relevant foreign state’s family laws before filing a foreign judgment in Connecticut.

The attorneys of Maya Murphy, P.C. frequently represent clients in matters involving the enforcement or modification of foreign matrimonial judgments by Connecticut courts, and they are familiar with numerous other states’ family laws. Please contact us at (203) 221-3100 or email at Ask@mayalaw.com, if you need counsel.

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Can a Connecticut Court Enforce or Modify My Divorce Judgment if it Was Issued in Another State?

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

The party who files the foreign judgment in Connecticut must notify his or her former spouse by sending the relevant papers to the spouse’s last known address by registered mail within five (5) days of filing, and through personal service by a Connecticut State Marshal. However, the filing party may not move the Connecticut court to enforce or modify the judgment until twenty (20) days after these papers have been served. Once the twenty-day period has expired, either party can then file post-judgment motions in the Connecticut Superior Courts.

One distinction between divorce judgments originally obtained in Connecticut and foreign judgments later filed there should be noted. With such foreign judgments, Connecticut law mandates that courts apply the substantive law of the state in which the judgment was originally obtained. Accordingly, a Connecticut court reviewing a Florida judgment in response to a request to modify its child support provisions, for example, would apply Florida law governing the modification of child support. In such cases, there may be material differences between Connecticut law and the law of the state in which original judgment was issued, which could affect, for example, the relief available or the burden of proof a party must meet to obtain the requested relief, among other things. It is therefore advisable to consult with a Connecticut matrimonial attorney who also is familiar with the relevant foreign state’s family laws before filing a foreign judgment in Connecticut.

The attorneys of Maya Murphy, P.C. frequently represent clients in matters involving the enforcement or modification of foreign matrimonial judgments by Connecticut courts, and they are familiar with numerous other states’ family laws. Please contact us at (203) 221-3100 or email at Ask@mayalaw.com, if you need counsel.

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