Update on March “Divorce and Your Dentist” Post

Update on March “Divorce and Your Dentist” Post

In March, after my regular six month dental exam and cleaning, I wrote about why divorcing people have unique health and insurance reasons to meet with a dentist.

This month, another dental visit and an email from my health insurance provider about renewing for 2019, provide the motivation for this post.

First, the dental visit with Tracey, my hygienist, where I learned that teeth clenching while sleeping is a common symptom of stress.  Apparently many people who were never teeth clenchers before divorcing, begin exhibiting the behavior immediately before and during the divorce process.  Untreated teeth clenching can lead to serious dental and other health problems – among these: broken teeth and crowns, headaches, TMJ, nerve damage.  Treatment of these problems can be time consuming and expensive.    As noted in my March column,  a person going through a divorce may be less likely to make or keep an appointment with their dentist  thereby missing the opportunity to address the teeth clenching , or other relatively minor issues, before it creates these other problems.

Second, fall is the time for most people to make decisions and take action regarding health and dental insurance for the coming year.  If you’ve started the divorce process or are even just considering divorce, don’t simply renew existing insurance without exploring how the impact of a divorce might affect coverage for you, your spouse or other family members.  Although divorce is usually a life event that permits mid year insurance changes, being proactive rather than reactive is the best way to protect yourself and your family.


Another sincere “thank you” to Tracey at Martha V. Smyth, DMD Family Dentistry for her help with this blog post.


Is Dog Custody In Our Future?

Connecticut divorce courts still consider pets, including our beloved dogs, as property.  The courts here then don’t enter custody and visitation orders for pets.  But California now does.  So maybe dog custody and visitation is in our future too?

See a recent article about the new California law.

California divorce courts go to dogs as pets gain status

Updated 6:43 am PDT, Saturday, September 29, 2018LOS ANGELES (AP) — California courts could be going to the dogs — and maybe cats, too — under a new law granting judges authority to settle disagreements over who keeps the family pet in divorce cases the same way they handle child-custody disputes.

Until now, Fido and Kitty have been considered family property, a status giving them little more standing in a divorce than a family’s big-screen TV.

Under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, pets will still be considered community property but a judge deciding who gets to keep them will have the discretion of weighing such factors as who feeds them, who takes them to the vet and on walks, and who protects them.

“I think it’s a good idea. I personally have a little rescue bichon poodle named Rodney King Stone. He’s like a family member,” said family law attorney Megan Green of Los Angeles, who has seen her share of divorce cases where couples battled relentlessly over the pet.

In one case, a woman said the dog was a gift from her husband, but the husband maintained he was the one who took care of it. They finally worked out an agreement just ahead of trial.

Without the law that goes into effect on Jan. 1, attorneys say judges have often had to get creative in reaching agreements when both sides say they can’t bear to part with their pet.

Some judges have put the dog between the would-be owners and tried to determine who it liked the best. If a family had two pets, a judge would sometimes suggest splitting them up.

“Or if there’s only one dog, a court may do like, ‘OK, you get the dog a month at a time, a week at a time,” said family law attorney Atousa Saei.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, a Hayward Democrat who introduced the law, said it’s time family pets got the status they deserve — family members.

Quirk himself has a Maltese-ShihTzu mix named Luna and calls himself “the proud parent of a rescued dog.”

He found an ally in California’s pet-loving governor, who has a photo of “first dog” Lucy Brown on his website.

“When she is not out exploring the family ranch in Colusa County with the governor and first lady, Lucy can be found guarding the office and herding staff at the state Capitol,” according to her bio.

Lisa J. Cappalli Named 2018 Super Lawyer

For the 12th year in a row Thomson Reuters has named Lisa J. Cappalli as a Family Law Super Lawyer.  

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

The final published list represents no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state.

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.

For more information about the selection process, go to https://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html.

No Place Like Home?

No Place Like Home?

 “We’ve got to keep the house for the kids-no matter what. We’re already turning their worlds upside down with the divorce. We can’t tell them they have to move.”

This is the immediate reaction of many divorcing parents.  It usually comes from the heart – out of love for their children.  Other factors may also be at play:  on guilt for divorcing, fear of the impact on the children from moving, or other parent focused reasons like “What will people think if I have to move?”

In many situations, children do benefit if they can keep living in their home after their parents’ divorce.  But not always.  And not at any cost.

Instead of making automatic or emotionally driven decisions, divorcing parents should ask themselves these questions:

  • Does keeping the house make good financial sense?

The impact of a single parent struggling to pay for the house can directly affect children.  The damage from financial stress on the psychological health of the parent can make a mom or a dad a less effective parent.  Time spent working a second job to pay for the house rather than time with the children may not be may not be a better choice than a less costly living arrangement – especially during a transition that is difficult for parent and child.

  • What does this house really mean to the child?

The psychological meaning of a home may not be the same for a child as it is for a parent.  Once one parent leaves the family home, to the child it may never again be the family home – it’s not the same home without both mom and dad in it.  Sometimes it’s less painful for a child to move than remain in a house where he’s reminded daily of the family he once but no longer has.

  • If we move, will the new place be good enough?

Many kids, whether from one or two parent or extended family households, are raised in apartments, condos and in situations quite different from the single-family houses at the center of many divorce struggles.  Most of these kids grow up to be happy, healthy and successful adults. So might alternative living arrangements be good or good enough even if not the same or the best?

  • How resilient is our child?

Children move all the time. And not just because their parents have divorced. They move so their parents can take new jobs, for a better climate, or, sadly, because the mortgage is being foreclosed.  Children, generally are resilient. Consider how your particular child does with change?  And how much you and your child’s other parent can help your child adjust to the change rather than resist it?

These guidelines offer a starting point for divorcing parents wrestling with the often difficult question – What should we do about our house?

Thank you to Howard Krieger, PhD, Connecticut Resource Group, Waterbury, CT, for his assistance writing this column.  Dr. Krieger can be reached at 203-573-9521 or www.connecticutresourcegroup.com.

Thank you too to RJ Media, who published this article in the May 3, 2018 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.


“The World of Divorce Law”

To Readers of My Blog,

Last month RJ Media Group published my first monthly column in its Cheshire Citizen newspaper. Reprinted below, with some minor editorial changes, is the column.  



The World of Divorce Law

By Lisa J. Cappalli, Esq.

I’ve practiced divorce and family law for over 30 years.  I’ve seen a lot.  But there are things that still make me shake my head in wonder.  Here is one of them.

I was representing the wife, Jane, who was divorcing her husband, Jim.  The names are changed for obvious reasons.  As sometimes happens, either or both spouses begin new relationships before the divorce is started.  That is what happened here.  As the case proceeded, it came out that Jane had a romantic relationship with Steve and Jim had a romantic relationship with Sandra.  So what, you say.  Well, it seems that Jane and Sandra were sisters and Jim and Steve were brothers.  In addition then to the usual complexities, each sibling swapped his or her spouse with the other sibling.  I can only imagine what family Thanksgiving dinners were like – both before and after the facts came out.  And what about the children?  It’s always difficult to explain to the children that Mom and Dad are getting divorced.  But how do you explain to your daughter, that her sister is now also her step-sister and, I guess, her cousin?    As Mark Twain observed: “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction.  Fiction has to make sense.”

The unusual aside, divorce is very serious and has profound effects not only on the divorcing couple but also, as demonstrated by the case I described, on their family and friends.  Practicing divorce law gives me the chance to be, at the same time, my client’s ally, advocate and advisor to help them through a crucial life-altering time of life.  The objective is for my client to move forward in life with the most positive experience possible.




Lisa Cappalli’s New Newspaper Column

The Cheshire Citizen


With pride and enthusiasm I’m reporting that starting this March, I’ll be a regular monthly columnist for The Cheshire Citizen.  Many thanks to RJMedia, publisher of The Cheshire Citizen, Meriden Record Journal, and numerous other central Connecticut newspapers, for the opportunity to contribute to these publications.

As some of you know, in years past I’ve been a regular columnist for The Waterbury Republican American as well as The Cheshire Herald.

My first Cheshire Citizen column appeared on page 10 of the March 16 edition.  Read “Welcome to the world of divorce law” in you paper newspaper or via the on line version at  https://issuu.com/cheshirecitizen/docs/cheshirecitizen20170316

Let me know what you think!



Guest Blogger of the Month of March-Attorney Paul Ruszczyk

Guest Blogger of the Month of March-Attorney Paul Ruszczyk

        A client recently asked Paul the following question:

My husband and I own a house together. That is our biggest asset. This is a second marriage and I would like my children from my first marriage to inherit something from me. What can I do?

Here is Paul’s response:

This is a good question and could be addressed by either a written agreement between husband and wife prior to marriage (a “prenuptual agreement) or such an agreement after marriage (a “postnuptual agreement”). Any such agreement should be drafted by an experienced family lawyer.

That said, it is valuable to understand the way most married couples own real estate.

Most couples own their house in such a way so that when one dies, the other takes full title to the house immediately and the children get nothing. In that case they are said to own the house as “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship.”

Another way to own property with a spouse is to own it as “Tenants in Common.” In that instance if one spouse dies, his or her share of the house becomes part of that spouse’s estate and if that spouse names his/her children in his/her will, the children will be entitled to a portion of the home ownership.

It is relatively easy to convert ownership from one type of ownership to another. However it is important to consult with an attorney to understand all of the legal and tax implications of such a change.

My thanks to Paul, a fellow Cornell Law School alum,  for contributing to my blog.  

Paul  maintains a general practice of law in Cheshire  and is also a Connecticut State Magistrate. If you would like to receive his email newsletter, please contact Paul at rctlawyer@aol.com or  call 203-699-9984.



Exciting News! Attorney Lisa J. Cappalli Joins Freed Marcroft

 Exciting News!

Attorney Lisa J. Cappalli Joins Freed Marcroft

Effective February 1, 2017 I will be Of Counsel at the Hartford-based family law firm of Freed Marcroft.    I chose to join Freed Marcroft because their fundamental approach matches my core philosophy of educating and empowering divorcing clients to make the right choices for themselves and their families.  Freed Marcroft and I agree that this arrangement will enhance the value we provide to our clients.

I have focused my practice on collaborative divorce and mediation to resolve divorce issues privately, respectfully, and creatively.  Freed Marcroft shares my commitment to collaborative divorce and mediation.  All Freed Marcroft lawyers have special training in those non-adversarial methods.  In addition, where non-adversarial divorce is not an option, Freed Marcroft offers clients a sophisticated and experienced litigation capability.

I will be maintaining my Cheshire office, at 325 Highland Avenue, which will become the first Freed Marcroft suburban office.  That geographical expansion will allow Freed Marcroft to serve an expanded client base in and around New Haven County and central Connecticut.  Clients will benefit from the continuing services of my Cheshire staff and additional Freed Marcroft support personnel.

I can still be reached at 203-271-3888 and by email at lcappalli@cappallihill.com.

Learn more about Freed Marcroft at http://www.freedmarcroft.com.



Divorce In Less Than 90 Days, My 1 Year Anniversary Report

In my September 19, 2015 Blog Post I wrote,

“There’s some great news for many Connecticut couples who will be divorcing non-adversarially. As of October 1, 2015, Connecticut offers [a] new option… which should help many couples limit the time and cost of their divorce:

… especially valuable for my mediation and collaborative divorce clients, the ability to eliminate the 90 day waiting period and potentially divorce in a day.

The details and logistics of these new options are still being worked out. I’ll continue to report to you about these exciting new divorce opportunities in the months and years to come.”

A year has passed since the 90 Day Waiver Option became available. During this year I’ve helped many mediation and collaborative clients take advantage of this option in numerous courts throughout Connecticut including New Britain, New Haven, Stamford, Meriden, Waterbury, Ansonia-Milford, Middletown, and Litchfield.  I can’t say that all the details and logistics have been worked out or that the 90 Day Waiver procedure is identical in every courthouse. But I’m thrilled to report that in my experience, overall the 90 Day Waiting Period Waiver option functions smoothly and as intended, giving divorcing couples control over and responsibility for their own divorces!

To me the greatest value of the 90 Day Waiver Option is that couples can focus on creating their divorce parenting and financial arrangements without having an artificial court imposed time line hanging over their heads adding stress to an already stressful situation.   We’re freed up to  use our time, energy, and other resources creating consensus rather than preparing for pretrials or sitting in the courthouse lobby waiting for status conferences.

And, somewhat ironically, most of my clients choosing the 90 Day Waiver Option are completing their divorce negotiations and the legal divorce much more quickly than they would have under the old system with its court imposed time line and procedures.

Do you want to learn more about how the 90 Day Waiting Period Waiver works or explore whether it makes sense for you, because it doesn’t for every couple, then feel free to call me with your questions and comments at  203-271-3888.




A Quote

“Those who have no fantasies never achieve anything fantastic.”

– Shimon Peres  (1923-2016)

Contempt of Court, the Supreme Court Speaks

It’s been more than a year since the Connecticut Supreme Court issued its decision in Brody v. Brody, 315 Conn.  300 (2015) and  Connecticut  family law attorneys are still debating the impact of the decision.  How and how much will the new “clear and convincing” evidence standard, rather than “a preponderance” standard,  impact our clients, cases and practice?

But rather than a legalistic discussion, what is it that you need to know about contempt of court as you negotiate your family court agreements or, later on, need to enforce them?

First, family court contempt is civil rather than criminal contempt.  This distinction is important because the purpose of civil contempt is to stop the violation of a court order and sometimes to compensate the person who was injured as a result of the violation.  (As the Supreme Court explained in the Brody decision,  “A contempt … coerces the defendant into compliance with the court’s order, [or]… compensates the complainant for losses sustained.” To the dismay of many people who justifiably feel wronged by their former spouse, civil contempt isn’t intended and can’t be used by a judge to punish the offender.

Second, before a judge can find someone in contempt, there must be a clear and specific court order or provision of a court order that the alleged offender is violating—what does the court order say your former spouse must do or not do.   (The Brody decision says “the directives of the underlying court order [must] be clear and unambiguous”.) An intention, even sincere when made, or agreement to agree, even if part of a court order, isn’t enforceable by the court’s power of contempt.

Third, violating a court order alone isn’t necessarily going to result in a judge finding your former spouse in contempt of court.  The offender must typically be choosing, to some extent, to violate the court order.  This component of contempt is often very frustrating to a person whose former spouse isn’t following a court order.  For example, the reason your former spouse may not be making the credit card payments as the court orders says he must, doesn’t lessen the harm his failure to pay is having on your credit.

Fourth, and here’s where Brody v. Brody is relevant, you need to show a judge by  clear and convincing evidence at trial that your former spouse is in contempt.  What does that mean exactly?  More than a preponderance of the evidence and less than completely certain.  A lot of evidence.   As lower courts implement the Brody decision we’ll get a better sense of what “clear and convincing” means.  For the time being, anyone considering filing a contempt motion against their former spouse needs to carefully gather, organize,  and critically evaluate all the evidence which will support the motion before making the decision to file.

Obviously, an experienced divorce and family lawyer can be especially valuable to you as you evaluate your evidence and create the most convincing plan for presenting the evidence to the court.

More important but perhaps not so obvious – working with an experienced and detail oriented family lawyer to make sure your original court orders are clear, specific, and practical should a) limit the need to file a contempt motion, b) increase the likelihood of success if you pursue contempt. 

The Power of Collaborative Peer Relationships

Last month I emphasized that every collaborative lawyer should be an active member of a collaborative practice group or organization.  Why?


A strong collaborative practice group gives its collaborative professionals a place to explore new ideas, practice our skills, and share knowledge about the law.  This place is safe, accepting, and without judgment so that we’re allowed to be vulnerable and open to advice and learn without the fear of looking foolish.  (This is the same environment we, as collaborative professionals, strive to provide to our collaborative divorce clients!)

A strong collaborative practice group gives its members an opportunity to develop long term, respectful, and trusting relationships with each other – the chance to be familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses and know with certainty that we can count on each other.  These trusting relationships are key to successful collaboration, especially in our most difficult collaborative divorce cases. 

 Real Life.

The date was June 24.  The setting was a beautiful backyard on a lake.

From 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM I had the honor of attending The Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Association retreat.  www.collaborative-divorce.com.  Along with the other 20+/- members of our group, we shared practice tips and new developments in CT divorce law, discussed ethical questions which arise in our collaborative cases and had the chance to improve our collaborative skills by roll playing various real case scenarios.

Even more importantly, we strengthened our bonds as collaborative professionals and shared the appreciation we all feel for being able to do this very special, tough, and rewarding work.

Take Away.

There is power in peer relationships.  Before choosing a collaborative divorce lawyer, make sure she’s an active member of a collaborative divorce group.  It’s in your best interests that she is.

Non-Adversarial Divorce, An Even Better Option in Light of Court Budget Cuts

State Budget Cuts Force Courthouse Closures” reads a June 14, 2016 Hartford Courant headline.

Judicial Department officials have already announced that four courts will be closing this year.  And there may be more to follow.

But even more concerning for divorcing couples in Connecticut is the main reason for the closings-hundreds of jobs in the court system are being eliminated due to State budget cuts and there aren’t enough staff members to keep them running.

According to Patrick L. Carroll III, Chief Court Administrator, “It is unfortunate that these courthouse closings must occur… They will be disruptive and will impact many people.  I want to stress that the closure of courthouses is not driven by savings generated by closing the facilities. Rather, these closing are required because of the loss of staff, through attrition, a strict hiring freeze and layoffs that have already been announced.”

Fewer State Marshals to control courthouse entry, patrol hallways and monitor the courtrooms. Fewer clerks to assist the public, judges and lawyers, process paperwork and staff courtrooms. Fewer court reporters, who must be present in the courtroom whenever court is in session.  And especially important to divorcing couples, fewer family relations officers to mediate divorces and custody disputes, conduct custody evaluations, and intervene in family violence matters.

Why would you want to leave decision making about your divorce, your finances or your children to the court system, especially when you don’t have to?

Create arrangements that are best suited to your family instead of competing with others for valuable but limited and shrinking court resources.  Contact a trained experienced divorce mediator or collaborative divorce lawyer today.

Presentation at CTAMFT

Thank you to the Connecticut Association for Marriage and Family Therapy for inviting me to speak at the April 28-29 Annual Conference.  The Conference topic was “The Modern Divorce”.  I had the opportunity to make a presentation about my passion – Collaborative Divorce.

Thank you to my cartoonist, Kurt F. Shaffert, for helping create the comic book which served as my presentation outline.  I’ll post the comic book on this web site next month.




Fast Track Non-Adversarial Divorce : My report back to you.

In my September 19, 2015 post I shared my excitement about a new fast track divorce option which was becoming effective October 1, 2015.

As I’d hoped, I’ve been able to help my mediation and collaborative divorce clients complete their divorces in less than 90 days in the Waterbury, Ansonia-Milford,  Stamford, and New Haven Superior Courts.   I’m  now taking the steps for a collaborative divorce to take advantage of the 90 day waiting period waiver and finish in the next few weeks in the Meriden court.

There are still some “kinks” and differences in procedures from one courthouse to the next.  But overall, the new law is helping couples control the timing of their divorces – and the cost as well.  Just as planned.

No Minor Kids? Why a Divorce Coach May Still Be a Valuable Choice.

“Our kids are grown, we’ve been through marriage counseling and I have my own therapist. Why should I have a divorce coach? “  Many collaborative divorce clients ask me this question.

My colleague Jeffrey Zimmerman, PhD, would answer this way.

“Coaching isn’t therapy. The coach is an expert on group process. When the Collaborative Divorce process goes well it’s because the team (professionals and clients) worked well together. This is particularly challenging given how difficult the discussions are and how emotions and the psychological factors and dynamics complicate the process. The last thing a divorcing couple may feel like (and sometimes the lawyers too) can be a ‘team’. The coach isn’t functioning as a therapist, but as a psychologist who helps make sure the process is as productive and healthy as possible.”

From my perspective as a collaborative divorce lawyer, including a coach as part of the collaborative team allows me to focus on what I do best and what I’ve been trained to do – to be my client’s legal ally, advocate, and advisor.

To hear more about collaborative divorce coaching direclty from one of the best coaches in Connecticut, feel free to contact Dr. Zimmerman directly at 203-271-1990 or drz@jzphd.com or check out his web site at www.jeffzimmermanphd.com.


Thank you for Judicial Action Regarding Parenting Education

I thanked her privately in our conversation last week.  But a public “Thank You” to The Honorable Elizabeth A. Bozzuto, Chief Administrative Judge for the Family Division, is in order.  Judge Bozzuto has just made it easier for couples with minor children to take advantage of the new expedited divorce process.

As of October 1, 2015,  the law authorizes a judge to waive the so-called 90 day waiting period. But, as I shared with Judge Bozzuto, the law didn’t address a practical obstacle for couples with minor children—parents  couldn’t enroll in the mandatory Parenting Education Program until after the legal case had started and the State assigned the couple with their own official docket number.

Having learned about this practical obstacle to expedited divorce, Judge Bozzuto acted quickly.  The result—divorcing parents may now enroll and complete the Parenting Education Program before the legal divorce case has started.

From now on I’m advising my clients to enroll and complete the Parenting Education Program as soon as they decide to divorce.  Of course there are procedural advantages to doing so— it will help them qualify for the expedited divorce process.  But, maybe even more importantly, there are real substantive benefits to the divorcing couple and their kids—-Mom and Dad can apply what they learn in the Parenting Education Program first, to help their kids transition through separation and divorce, and second, to create a better parenting plan.

Success, A Mediated Divorce Without Waiting 90 Days

Following up on my September 19 post, I’m pleased to report that I’ve helped my first mediation couple  divorce under the new law which eliminates the 90 days waiting period.  Instead of starting their legal case and waiting 90 days, or more, for their final divorce hearing, I filed the papers with the court on October 14 and my clients were divorced on October 22.

Lori and I made many phone calls to the various court officials since my clients were the first couple to divorce under the new law in this particular court.  But in the end, the process worked exactly as intended.

I’ll continue to keep you posted as I help more clients divorce under this new opportunity for divorcing couples to take control of their own divorces.


State of CT Recognizes Non-Adversarial Divorce

There’s some great news for many Connecticut couples who will be divorcing non-adversarially. As of October 1, 2015, Connecticut offers two new options which should help many couples limit the time and cost of their divorce:

First – a simplified, jointly filed, no fault divorce for couples married less than eight years with no children, limited assets, and meeting certain other conditions.

Second – especially valuable for my mediation and collaborative divorce clients, the ability to eliminate the 90 day waiting period and potentially divorce in a day.

The details and logistics of these new options are still being worked out. I’ll continue to report to you about these exciting new divorce opportunities in the months and years to come.

Lisa J. Cappalli Family Law & Mediation – A Video of our Practice