Are initial consultations with a divorce lawyer or lawyer mediator free?
Many lawyers charge consultation fees. I recommend that a person considering divorce view a consultation fee as an investment in his or her future.
How should a divorcing person choose the method for his or her divorce?
Consider your goals and concerns. Will mediation, collaboration or litigation best enable you to achieve and address these? Often an experienced divorce lawyer can help you make this critical decision.
How should a divorcing person choose the right lawyer?
A divorcing person should:
- Identify the qualities you want in your lawyer.
- Investigate potential lawyers who possess those qualities by looking on line, obtaining referrals from satisfied clients or other professionals such as therapists or lawyers who do not practice divorce law.
- Meet with one or more potential lawyers for an initial consultation.
If a person is considering divorce, what should they do next?
- Imagine what you’d like your life to look like five years from now.
- Identify and prioritize your goals and concerns with regard to the divorce.
- Educate yourself about the various ways to divorce and divorce basics.
- Investigate potential lawyers and meet with a lawyer for an informational initial consultation.
Will getting the most aggressive lawyer get his client the best result?
Often no. “Aggressive” does not necessarily equate to “effective”. Instead, consider which lawyer will be most effective in helping achieve your realistic financial, family, and other objectives.
Ways to Divorce
Is there more than one way to get divorced in Connecticut?
Yes. Litigation and arbitration are adversarial ways to divorce. Fortunately, you may also take advantage of non-adversarial ways to divorce such as mediation or collaboration.
What is a traditional or litigated divorce?
There are many definitions or descriptions. In my experience, a litigated divorce typically is one in which each spouse is an opponent or adversary, each gets “more”, however more is defined, by making the other get “less”, and each spouse, to some extent, turns control of and decision making in the divorce over to lawyers, therapists, judges and court officials.
What does non-adversarial divorce mean?
Again, there are many definitions or descriptions. In my experience, a non-adversarial divorce is one in which the spouses, most often with the input and guidance of legal professionals, resolve their own divorce issues based upon their legitimate interests rather than unrealistic or unreasonable demands and positions, without court interference. Mediation and collaboration are two methods of non-adversarial divorce.
Will a divorcing person receive a better outcome if he or she litigates rather than mediates or collaborates?
No. In my experience, the overall divorce experience and outcome of a non-adversarial divorce for essentially all divorcing persons is superior to the experience and outcome of a litigated divorce case.
What are the benefits of non-adversarial divorce like mediation or collaborative divorce?
Most non-adversarial divorces, as compared to litigated divorces, are private, respectful and foster creative problem solving. Most importantly, you and your spouse retain decision making over your lives and those of your children.
Can spouses who dislike or even hate each other successfully mediate or collaborate?
Yes, quite often. Finding the right professional support is one key to success.
Is divorce mediation or collaborative divorce better?
Neither process is necessarily “better” than the other. Instead, the divorcing couple should consider the level of professional support that best fits your situation.
How does divorce mediation work?
As a mediator, I am jointly retained by the divorcing couple to guide you through the court process, identify your respective interests, create choices and assist you both achieve a satisfactory settlement of all financial and parenting issues. Rather than being either spouse’s lawyer, I am a neutral facilitator working to help you both achieve your goals, to the extent possible, and reach an agreement that is acceptable to you both.
What is collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a private and respectful way to divorce without court interference. Collaborative practice is also family focused, especially when children are involved. In contrast to mediation, each spouse retains your own specially trained lawyers. As a collaborative lawyer, I work as my client’s advocate to achieve and satisfy my client’s legitimate interests. At the same time, I listen to and consider the interests of the other family members. Collaboration emphasizes open communication and creative decision making.
What is the main difference between divorce mediation and collaborative divorce?
As a mediator, I am neutral and I must maintain neutrality throughout the mediation process. As a collaborative lawyer, I am my client’s advocate and maintain a privileged confidential relationship with my client throughout the collaborative divorce process.
Can any divorce lawyer effectively and properly handle a collaborative divorce case?
In my opinion, no. I strongly recommend that you do not retain a lawyer to represent you in a collaborative divorce unless a) the lawyer has formal collaborative training, b) he has a record of collaborative case success, and c) he agrees that he will not represent you in court if the collaboration is unsuccessful.
Basic Divoce Questions
Does a divorcing person need a lawyer to divorce?
No. But in most circumstances the input of a good divorce lawyer can add great value to your overall divorce experience and settlement.
How long does it take to divorce in Connecticut?
From as quickly as a day to more than one year. It depends primarily on the motivations and readiness of both spouses, complexity of the case, and method of divorcing.
If one spouse can afford to stay in the house after the divorce but the other cannot, does the spouse who can afford the house automatically get to keep it?
No. Disposition of a house is part of an overall property division and financial resolution. Sometimes, if there are children, the parenting plan may be an important consideration as well.
Is it abandonment if a person moves out of the house before the divorce is completed?
No, it is almost never abandonment. Sometimes, the person moving out benefits from having the courage to do so. However, we recommend that you confer with your spouse, mediator and/or lawyer before making such an important decision.
Once the divorce starts, can either spouse date?
Yes. However, you should consider the potential influence on the court or negative impact on your spouse and children and be sensitive to these possibilities.
Once the divorce starts, can one spouse force the other to move out?
Typically no, but under certain circumstances yes.
What does marriage “dissolution” mean?
Dissolution is the legal term for ending a marriage in Connecticut. Most people refer to dissolution as divorce.
What is a “legal separation”?
A legal status in which the spouses are freed from most legal obligations to each other and have given up most legal rights with regard to the other. But a legally separated person is not free to marry someone else.
What is a “no fault” divorce?
One in which the legal grounds for the divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
What is a “pro se” divorce?
Pro se means that officially a spouse is representing himself or herself in the legal divorce case. Another name for a pro se person is a “self- represented” person. Many pro se or self-represented divorcing persons work with a divorce lawyer either as a consultant, mediator or collaborative attorney.
Will the person wanting or filing for the divorce be penalized by the court simply because he or she wants the divorce or starts the case?
No. There is no automatic “penalty” for being the plaintiff, the person asking the court for the divorce.
Child Support, Alimony, and Property Division
For how long does child support last?
Typically until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, but not after age 19.
How does a court decide to divide up property?
Similarly to alimony, a trial judge must consider various factors and make a property division order that is fair and equitable in light of the circumstances of each particular case.
How does a court decide whether to order alimony and if so how much and for how long?
In each particular case, the trial judge must consider various factors including the length of the marriage, the cause for the divorce and for each spouse his or her age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, needs and child care responsibilities.
How is child support determined?
The court considers the needs of each child and the ability of each parent to pay support. In addition, Connecticut has adopted Child Support Guidelines which include a formula for determining child support based primarily upon the income of each of the parents.
If an asset is in the name of one spouse alone, does that spouse automatically get to keep it?
No. The court, or spouses as part of a voluntary agreement, aren’t usually bound by whether a particular asset is owned by one spouse individually, the other spouse individually or the spouses jointly.
If one spouse had an affair during the marriage, is he or she penalized in the financial outcome?
Not necessarily. If the affair caused the divorce, the court must consider the affair when making alimony and property division orders. Often however, affairs do not have a substantial impact on such orders.
If the children live with each parent at different times, does this mean that there will be no child support paid by either?
No. In most circumstances, even when a child lives 50% of the time with each parent, child support will be paid by one parent to the other.
Is there a rule or formula for alimony?
No. If a divorcing couple leaves the question of alimony to a court to decide, the court will make an order based upon the particular circumstances of that individual couple.
Custody, Visitation, and Parenting
Do all divorcing persons have to take the parenting education program even if they agree about custody and parenting?
Almost all parents must complete the program, yes. There are some exceptions.
If a parent can’t or won’t pay child support does this mean he or she can’t have custody or visitation rights?
If one parent had an affair during the marriage, does this hinder his or her custody or parenting rights?
If one parent intends to live with a boyfriend or girlfriend during or after the divorce, does this mean he or she can’t have custody or visitation rights?
No. But the parenting plan may reflect the parent’s living arrangements and the living arrangements may impact the parenting plan.
What does “shared custody” mean?
Parents share custody when they each have equal input into decision making for the child and the child lives with each parent a substantial amount of time, although not necessarily equal time with each parent.
What is the parenting education program?
A six hour class offered by different social service organizations throughout Connecticut. The program is designed to help divorcing parents help their children by covering: the developmental stages of children; adjustment of children to parental separation; dispute resolution and conflict management; guidelines for visitation, stress reduction in children and cooperative parenting.
How do lawyers charge?
Most divorce lawyers and mediators bill on an hourly basis.
How much does it cost to divorce in Connecticut?
Court fees can be as minimal as several hundred dollars. Legal fees can vary greatly depending upon the:
- complexity of the facts of the case;
- complexity of the legal issues involved;
- ability or inability of one or both spouses to act reasonably;
- method of divorce chosen by the couple;
- skill and experience of the lawyers;
- couple’s willingness and ability to pay legal fees.
What is a retainer, how much is it and how does it work?
A retainer is a payment a client makes to a lawyer in exchange for the lawyer’s willingness to take on the client’s legal matter.