Explaining Adversarial Divorce in Connecticut


We are experienced in all phases of divorce actions, including trials, and we are prepared to guide you through the process of an adversarial, or contested divorce, whether it is simple or complex. Although mediation is usually less expensive and less stressful, not every divorce can be mediated.

This does not mean that all civility goes out the window, and a fight to the finish ensues on every single issue. Even in cases that go to trial, the parties agree on many issues. There are many opportunities for settling the case. And, in fact, the vast majority of contested cases do settle with agreement on all issues before going to trial. An adversarial divorce is not a battle to be fought; it is a problem to be solved.

A word about representing yourself without a lawyer in a divorce case: Many people do represent themselves “pro se” in divorce cases. In almost every case, they are making a huge mistake, of the “penny-wise, pound-foolish” variety. Yes, they will get through the court process, but inevitably, they fail to realize the ramifications of what they agreed to until months, perhaps years, later. Most such mistakes cannot be undone.
The Issues in a Contested Divorce

In all cases, the court must resolve all issues pertaining to the parties’ finances: property division and alimony (spousal support). In cases where there are minor children, the court must also resolve all issues pertaining to custody, visitation and child support. Click the link for each of these topics for more detailed discussions.
No Fault Divorce

It is no longer necessary to prove that either party was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, only that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, which is almost always assumed. However, fault (for example, adultery that caused the breakup, spousal abuse or abandonment) can be considered by the court in deciding the financial issues in the case. How much weight the court will give to fault-based evidence is subjective, however, and depends on the individual judge assigned to the case.
90-Day Waiting Period

The court does not have jurisdiction to enter a decree dissolving a marriage until 90 days have elapsed from the beginning of the case. During this period the parties typically engage in routine discovery so that each party knows all about the assets and income of the other party, and understands the issues in the case.
The Case Management Agreement

At the end of the initial 90-day period, the parties file a consensual Case Management Agreement with the court, which characterizes the case as either uncontested (agreement on all issues and ready to go to a final dissolution judgment), limited contested (only financial issues in dispute) or fully contested (issues involving children in dispute). If, at this point, it appears the case will be uncontested, a judgment hearing can usually be scheduled very quickly.

If the case is limited contested or fully contested, the parties have the opportunity to obtain additional discovery on the unresolved issues in the case, and attempt to resolve the issues without going to trial, usually through mediation in the form of a Special Family Masters’ Conference. The exact procedures for resolving limited and fully contested cases vary from court to court, and there are many different options for doing so, but the most common procedures are as follows.
The Special Family Masters’ Conference

Shortly after the end of the waiting period, a Special Family Masters’ Conference is usually scheduled. This is conducted by two highly experienced divorce lawyers (a man and a woman). The parties’ lawyers each present their client’s case, and submit proposed orders to the masters.

The masters confer between themselves, assess the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ cases, and make detailed recommendations to the parties as to how they think the case should be resolved. This usually results in a narrowing of the issues, and often leads to a settlement of the case.
Family Services Evaluation

If there are unresolved issues about children (custody and visitation), the court may order an evaluation from Family Services, a division of the Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services. These highly trained personnel meet with the parties and the children involved, and issue a recommendation, which can resolve or narrow the issues involving children.
Judicial Pretrial

Before trial, each party also has the opportunity to present their case to a judge in a pretrial, to obtain the judge’s recommendation for settlement.
Separation Agreement

If all the issues in the case can be resolved, the lawyers prepare a detailed Separation Agreement, which defines the rights and obligations of the parties on an ongoing basis, after the divorce is final. If the court approves the Separation Agreement after a hearing, it will incorporate the agreement into its divorce judgment.

If all the issues in the case cannot be resolved, a trial will occur. Divorce cases are tried before a judge, not a jury. After hearing testimony and considering evidence from both sides, the judge will enter a decision which decides all of the remaining issues in a manner the judge determines is fair and equitable to both parties.

Contact Attorney Edward P. Jurkiewicz Today

Please contact our law firm to discuss your legal issues. We offer a free initial consultation with an experienced Hartford contested divorce lawyer. With offices in Hartford, Avon and Torrington, we represent clients throughout Connecticut, including the Greater Hartford metropolitan area, and the Farmington Valley and Litchfield County areas.

Hartford area bankruptcy attorney and divorce lawyer Edward P. Jurkiewicz has over 20 years of experience representing clients. Our firm represents debtors and creditors and handles both relatively simple divorces and bankruptcies and more complex litigation matters. With this depth of experience, our firm is able to anticipate and prepare for any potential issues that could arise in your bankruptcy, divorce or family matter.

CONTACT US TODAY AT 860-299-6263