Fairfield County Bar Association president Eric Broder, a matrimonial lawyer, says that "aside from serious health problems, about the worst thing people experience in their lives is a divorce." Just as surgeons care about better anesthesia, Broder would like to minimize unnecessary pain in a marital split.
All things being equal, how much of the pain is being inflicted by the divorce lawyers themselves? In an attempt to find out, Broder, of Broder & Orland in Westport, created a survey for the state's divorce lawyers, asking them to recommend fair settlements in a "plain vanilla" divorce matter with children. Of the 106 lawyers who responded, about 46 percent put Stamford as their primary court, and the rest were from throughout the state.
What Broder found was wide disagreement, and those results were analyzed by a panel and roundtable discussion in Darien on Friday, Feb. 7. Broder was joined by divorce mediation lawyer Maurice Segall of Wilton, and former Superior Court judge Elaine Gordon, an alternate dispute resolution specialist. Broder spoke recently about this with Senior Writer Thomas B. Scheffey.
LAW TRIBUNE: What prompted you to undertake this project?
ERIC BRODER: I had a case a few years ago in Stamford before a special master who said: "This is pretty much a cookie-cutter case: Here's how I would split the difference and resolve it." Soon after, I had a case with a partner in the same lawyer's firm. The facts were very similar to the earlier "cookie-cutter" matter his partner worked on. I proposed the same approach, and the partner vehemently disagreed. Tens of thousands of dollars in litigation later, we resolved the matter on terms very similar to the original "cookie-cutter" terms first proposed. I began to think, "Is there a cookie-cutter case?" What do lawyers really think about how these cases should end up? I put together a fact pattern, as simplistic as possible, that didn't allow for too much leeway. I had it submitted to the entire state, asking family lawyers to respond.
LAW TRIBUNE: What was the result?
BRODER: I was shocked. The range of results were relatively astonishing.
LAW TRIBUNE: What were the biggest differences?
BRODER: Sixty-five per cent of the Stamford lawyers said it was a 50-50 case, for equal asset division between the husband and wife. Only 40 percent of the rest of the state said it was a 50-50 case. Of the Stamford lawyers, 30 percent gave 55 to 60 percent to the wife. In the rest of the state, you had 56 percent of the respondents giving the wife 55 to 60 percent. That's a pretty big difference, between how Stamford and the rest of the state look at things.
LAW TRIBUNE: How about child support issues?