Connecticut Dispute Resolution Attorneys for Divorce and Family Law Matters
Personalized care and effective representation focused on positive results
At Needle | Cuda, effective dispute resolution is at the heart of our family law practice. For decades, our Westport family law attorneys have helped clients overcome conflicts and lay the foundation for a more secure future. Our attorneys leverage a variety of process alternatives to litigation, including negotiation, mediation and arbitration. If you have a pressing family law issue that requires a legal remedy, you can trust our legal team to provide the personalized attention, sound guidance, creative thinking and strategic guidance necessary to secure a clear path forward.
When thinking about family law and divorce-related issues, some challenges may come to mind – from costs to messy courtroom drama and, of course, the emotional effects on children. While some divorces indeed involve those things, not all do. There are various ways to resolve your divorce or family law issues in Connecticut and every path is unique. The law allows for several different ways to settle your disputes. No dispute resolution method can guarantee it will prevent the pitfalls of divorce, but approaching your disputes within the right framework and process offers couples the flexibility to work out their differences in a way that best suits their needs.
At Needle | Cuda, effective and efficient dispute resolution is at the heart of our family law practice. We well versed in all forms of dispute resolution. We will approach your family law matter with the care, expertise, and compassion that has made us one of Connecticut’s premier family law firms.
Divorce and Family law resolutions in Connecticut
When you have a legal dispute, effective resolution consists of two elements: a process and a product. Your end goal is the product, which is some sort of enforceable agreement. This can be in the form of a contract, like a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, which a court can implement when necessary. Another form is a marital settlement, which the court must approve to resolve a question of legal status, such as a divorce or child custody.
The dispute resolution processes available in family law cases include:
- Negotiation —Attorneys for each side meet to lay out and discuss their positions and try to reach an agreement on the best terms possible for their clients. Resolution depends on each side being reasonable enough to compromise appropriately on their positions in order to coax agreement from the other. On the other hand, one side can sometimes leverage an agreement simply by having more bargaining power. However, each party has the right to walk away from negotiations at any time prior to an actual agreement, leaving the matter unresolved.
- Litigation — Going to trial has drawbacks in terms of time and expense, but it gives parties powerful tools to get at the root of highly contentious financial issues. Sometimes it is the only way to resolve a matter, especially if the other side will not be reasonable. The litigation process affords rights of discovery that can be helpful no matter how the dispute is eventually resolved. These include the ability to request documents and other information from the other party, to subpoena records and to depose witnesses. Litigation can be used to resolve all or part of a case, or post-judgment enforcement or modification of custody or certain financial orders.
- Mediation — This method of alternative dispute resolution is voluntary and relies on compromise to achieve results satisfactory to both sides. A neutral third party, the mediator, guides discussions between parties and their attorneys, which continue point by point until an agreement or impasse is reached. Resolved issues become part of a settlement agreement, while unresolved issues may need to be decided by the court.
- Arbitration — This method of alternative dispute resolution is more like a trial than a mediation, although it can be more informal and confidential. The arbitrator acts as a judge for the parties, who present their arguments and evidence. In family law disputes, parties may arbitrate financial issues related to alimony, child custody, child support, and equitable distribution of marital property.
Resolution of your case can involve a combination of dispute resolution approaches. For instance, it is possible to settle one aspect of divorce through negotiation while leaving the remainder up to a judge in a litigation setting. Similarly, you may enter mediation to come to a resolution on child support or custody while choosing to litigate all issues surrounding the division of marital property.
In all divorce and family law dispute resolution approaches, it is always recommended to seek the services of an experienced Connecticut family law attorney. For many people, divorce is one of life’s most significant events. So, whether you believe your case to be complex or straightforward, you cannot afford to take a chance on your future by hiring just any dispute resolution group. Having experienced representation with a deep interest in ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive all you are entitled to under the law is your best option.
The dispute resolution method that is best for you depends on a variety of circumstances. Our experienced family law litigation attorneys can advise you on the appropriate process for your situation and goals.
Contact our Westport, CT family law attorneys for divorce dispute resolution
Needle | Cuda helps clients in Fairfield County resolve a wide array of family law disputes. We provide highly professional yet personal representation focused on delivering positive results. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 203-557-9500 or contact our Westport office online.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – Alternative Dispute Resolution (in Connecticut Divorce)
Each dispute resolution approach has distinct advantages and risks. No one approach is superior to the others. The circumstances and facts surrounding the family law matter will dictate which approach will produce the most favorable outcome. In cases with acrimony and entrenched positions, litigation will likely be the only option. On the other hand, mediation may work if the parties are close on the issues but require a neutral third party to assist them in reaching an agreement. Mediation best serves clients when the term if the marriage is shorter (i.e. less than 10 years), there are clearly defined assets, when no children are involved, and when there is a high degree of trust and respect between the parties.
The cost of resolving a family law matter depends mainly on the disposition of the parties and the complexity of their issues/marital property. It is important to remember that any issues that cannot be resolved through mediation, arbitration, or negotiation must be litigated.
Cases with modest, well-defined martial assets, no children, and/or with shorter terms of marriage (e.g. less than 10 years) tend to be more streamlined.
Cases involving complex financial assets (e.g. family businesses, multiple properties, or exotic assets), child custody, marriages over 20 years, infidelity/affairs, mental illness (diagnosed and undiagnosed), substance abuse, and domestic violence (physical or coercive control) are inherently more involved.
Cooperative action, good behavior, mutual trust, and a commitment to rational decision making (as opposed to emotional and anger-drive decision making) by you and your spouse have more impact on the cost-efficiency (or inefficiency) of your divorce than anything else. Experienced divorce attorneys can customize a framework and process to efficiently resolve your disputes and reach a settlement, but cannot control or guarantee the cooperation between the parties.
It only takes one bad, irrational party to complicate a divorce, delay and/or exponentially expand the process, and drive-up the costs.
Navigating cases with themes and behaviors including but not limited to infidelity, sustained extra marital affairs, highly contested child custody, mental illness, substance abuse, and/or accusations of domestic violence (physical and non-physical) is extremely complicated, often times less efficient, and generally more costly.
Both mediation and arbitration are confidential. The mediator and arbitrator are bound to keep what is discussed or presented during the sessions strictly confidential. Often mediation involves the discussion of facts and circumstances that will aid in the resolution of the issues. Those discussions are strictly confidential and cannot be used even if the mediation fails and the matter is litigated. Litigation is often conducted in open court and may become a public record. Still, if privacy is a concern, an experienced lawyer may persuade a judge to seal the record, making it difficult or impossible for prying eyes to discover the terms of the divorce decree.
Connecticut law has strict statutory requirements regarding the enforceability and validity of prenuptial agreements.
Pre-nuptial agreements can be challenged but will most likely need to be done through litigation. To challenge the validity of an agreement in court, an experienced family law attorney must present arguments and evidence concerning the purported agreement's circumstances. A judge will then decide to uphold or invalidate the prenup.
Engaging an experienced divorce and family law attorney is always advisable to ensure that your individual best interests are protected. The terms of a divorce are profoundly important, often complicated, and can materially impact the rest of your life. If there are substantial assets or potential tax implications in the case, an experienced lawyer is recommended, even if the parties are amicable. Unfortunately, many spouses begin the divorce process on good terms but ultimately descend into acrimony when disputes arise over the division of marital property and child support and custody issues. Things can become even more contentious if it is discovered that either spouse has moved on romantically. Retaining a lawyer should not be viewed as a hostile move but as necessary to promote and protect the individual best interests of that party.
Negotiations are an ongoing process. Even during litigation, the parties are still free to negotiate. One of the benefits of litigation over other dispute resolution methods is a comprehensive discovery process. Information may be gathered throughout the discovery process that will compel a party to return to the negotiating table. In mediation and arbitration, that may not be possible. But when discovery does not reveal facts or evidence that aid in negotiation, the issues will likely need to be litigated.
Mediation is a non-adversarial alternative dispute resolution method used in many civil cases, including divorce. Issues like child support, custody, and the division of marital property can all be resolved through divorce mediation. To take advantage of divorce mediation, both parties must first agree to participate, and then, choose a neutral, third party mediator. A mediator's responsibility to help the parties reach an agreement. Mediators cannot provide legal advise and they DO NOT represent the individual best interest of either party. If mediation is successful and yields an agreement that complies with Connecticut's statutory requirements, the agreement is presented in family court to a judge for review, and (if approved by the judge), entered as a final order of the court.
Generally, the mediation process is much shorter than the other approaches. Still, if the issues are complex and involve several financial interests combined with various tax implications, a resolution may require multiple mediation sessions and a review of the agreement by an attorney and financial professionals. Each session usually takes two or three hours, and most cases require roughly three to four sessions. These sessions will be conducted over a few months, with more complex cases taking six months or more to complete.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon in a contentious divorce for one spouse to hide assets or income from the other. In these instances, litigation may be the only option. As mentioned, litigation is the only form of dispute resolution that requires discovery. During discovery, tax and financial records can be subpoenaed along with witnesses who may know about a spouse's income or assets. In a matter being litigated, the judge has the power to compel a party to disclose information or face sanctions from the court. This can include fines, or the party can be held in contempt of court.
Regardless of which dispute resolution approach is undertaken, no law requires the parties to retain a lawyer. Still, it is always recommended to (at the very least) engage an experienced family law attorney as your Review Counsel to review your mediation agreement and ensure that you individual best interested have been protected, the agreement meets the statutory requirements in Connecticut, and that you fully understand any risks you have decided to assume . Because arbitration is similar to litigation, most people elect to have representation throughout that process. Legal representation is there to protect and advocate for the client's individual best interests, so a choice to forego that layer of protection can negatively affect the outcome if either side is not playing fair.