Family Law FAQ

Q: Do you charge for an initial interview?

A: Yes. We charge hourly rates for an initial interview.

Q: In what family law areas do you practice?

A: Our practice includes divorce, alimony, child custody and support, property division, parenting and visitation, relocation, premarital and postnuptial agreements, jurisdictional disputes, legal separation, international family matters, post-judgment modification of financial and custody orders, and post-judgment enforcement of court orders.

Q: How long have the attorneys at PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC practiced family law?

A: Thomas P. Parrino since 1987
Laura R. Shattuck since 1999
Randi Nelson since 2011

Q: How long will my divorce take?

A: There is no typical time for a divorce. Each divorce differs from every other divorce depending upon, among other factors: the financial issues of the marital estate, the reasonableness of the respective parties and the court’s schedule.

Q: What distinguishes PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC from other law firms?

A: Our Westport firm’s top priority is client service. We are accessible and responsive to your needs, providing regular communication, real-time updates and prompt legal counseling on issues that arise in your particular circumstances.

As seasoned negotiators and capable litigators, we apply our skill and diligent preparation to resolve your case by agreement while always prepared to litigate when necessary.

Other law firms recognize our prominence by hiring us as co-counsel in cases. We work collectively to serve your needs, to research the legal issues in your case, and to devise the best course of action given the facts of your case in an effort to provide you with sufficient information to make important decisions.

Q: How does PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC approach collaborative law, mediation and arbitration?

A: Our experience leads us to our preference for exhausting all possibilities for negotiation of a voluntary settlement of a divorce by the involved spouses, each represented by independent counsel while reserving litigation as the last resort.

While the goals of the collaborative divorce process are admirable, spouses participating in the process rarely have equal negotiation skills or equal knowledge of the financial issues or ability to analyze those issues. They do not have advice of independent counsel until late in the process, if at all. While negotiating, neither has an experienced matrimonial attorney’s ability to measure their respective positions against what the family court may consider to be a fair and equitable resolution to their case.

The collaborative process fails either when spouses are unable to reach agreement or, when consulting independent counsel about the agreement reached, they find important law, facts, or factors have not been considered. This then requires retention of independent counsel to restart the divorce process irrespective of the time, expense, effort and emotion already invested in the attempted collaborative divorce.

There are a number of ways that cases are mediated. Some parties elect to represent themselves and choose one mediator who attempts through meeting with the parties and exchanging information to resolve their case. In those situations, the parties do not have independent counsel. After the mediator has made a recommendation some litigants will retain their own attorneys to serve as review counsel to advise the client as to the terms of the mediated settlement and what those terms mean.

PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC believes this type of mediation divorce process is fraught with risks since the process may not account for the unequal negotiation skills of the parties or forego the exchange of documents that verify the accuracy of financial information on financial affidavits. The process above often fails to focus on fair and equitable results as the primary goal, sometimes resulting in disproportionate and unfair results. The process, moreover, assumes that the couple involved, with no legal background, will be able to negotiate a resolution of all issues with the individual mediator who does not represent either party’s interest. When that assumption fails, in most cases, the parties then hire their own counsel, resulting in the additional expense of two more lawyers who may very well enter the mediation process at a late stage and advise their clients against that which a mediator has been recommending for a significant period of time.

The result is that the divorce is prolonged, the mediation may fail, and the time and finances spent on mediation have been unfruitful. Many times in mediation, the parties are left to the “good faith” representations of their spouse without the benefit of discovery, which would reveal whether or not the assets and incomes of the respective parties, upon which an agreement is reached, are accurate.

PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC typically engages in mediation at an appropriate juncture following the completion of discovery. In many cases, after discovery is completed, including depositions and court appearances, this firm will select a skilled mediator who specializes in family law or a retired family law judge selected by both counsels.

Most importantly, by selecting a mediator you hopefully will be able to resolve your case short of a trial and avoid the unpredictable results of litigation and the attendant costs.

In addition, Connecticut law allows for binding arbitration of a divorce (except for child custody, support and parenting issues) by an arbitrator agreed upon by the spouses and then appointed by the court. This avoids the exposures and strictures attendant to a public trial while providing a mandated, final judgment when the court approves the binding arbitrator’s written decision.

In sum, our judgment is that the best interests of a client involved in a divorce require representation from the very beginning by independent counsel who can guide and advise the person based on detailed discovery, full knowledge of the facts, and the willingness and skill to litigate as a last resort. PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC continually seeks resolution while preparing for litigation.

Q: How does PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC resolve divorce issues?

A: We settle most of our cases by agreement but the option of litigation is necessary to reach an equitable result when other methods have failed. We possess the necessary litigation tools to litigate a case as a last resort.

Q: What if my case needs nonlegal expert help in areas such as taxes, valuation or child custody?

A: When necessary, we work with proven and trusted outside professionals such as tax experts, valuation experts, forensic accountants, custody and psychological evaluators, trusts and estates experts, substance abuse experts and information technology experts.

Q: What is my divorce going to demand of me?

A: Detailed preparation of a financial affidavit
Preparation of a comprehensive marital summary; a history of your marriage
Preparation of a parenting plan to determine accessibility of each parent to their children on issues such as visitation, vacations, holidays and residence
Response to interrogatories or production requests from the other side
Patience and perseverance as you work with us in preparation of your case