Divorce, Divorce Appeals in Connecticut, Fairfield County, Litigation, Von Kohorn, Von Kohorn Attorney

Divorce Appeals – Just When You Thought You Were Done…

The good news: You got your divorce.

The bad news: They filed an appeal.

As a divorce lawyer, I spend most of my time in the Superior Court, which is the trial level court for the State of Connecticut.  Our Appellate Courts are available to divorce litigants if a party feels that a trial judge either misapplied the law or just clearly misunderstood the facts.

Decades ago, it was common for the divorce lawyer who handled the trial to also handle any appeal that came up.  It made a certain amount of sense because the trial lawyer had an intimate knowledge of how the case was handled at trial and a party would not have to pay another attorney to try to re-learn the whole case.  However, and similar to what is happening with many professions these days, both legal and non-legal, there has been a steady march to sub-specialization.  There are now lawyers who do nothing but appellate work.  Within that sub-set, there are also now lawyers who do nothing but family or divorce appellate work.

When clients or prospective clients have appellate issues, I usually refer them to attorneys who generally limit their practice to appellate law.  However, and as with most things, there are exceptions.  I remain willing to take on appellate cases if my background is well suited to handling the issue.  It can be a little nerve wracking to get out of your comfort zone of arguing to trial Judges and instead face a panel of Appellate Justices.  (I also suspect that even the most seasoned appellate lawyer experiences some degree of jitters before oral argument too.)  I am sure, however, that the exercise also makes you a better trial lawyer.

Understanding how our Justices will think about and approach appellate controversies in divorce cases helps to inform an approach at the trial level.  While I have no interest in becoming an appellate lawyer, I do appreciate any opportunity to refine my trial advocacy skills.  While most divorce lawyers like to pretend that they “know everything” – they don’t.  The practice, when done right, involves a never ending willingness to learn and refine your skills.  Adapting to new Judges and Justices is a constant responsibility as well.

Recently, my firm successfully defended an appeal that has been reported as Discover Bank v. Kevin P. Hill, Conn. App. No. 34966 (2014).  The case was a procedural mess and involved an underlying divorce case.  A copy of the decision is available from the State of Connecticut, Judicial Branch Website at: http://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP150/150AP292.pdf

Another unique aspect of appellate practice that I enjoy, and as evidenced on the first page of the decision, is that my wife and law partner, Tara L. Von Kohorn, and I are able to collaborate on the brief writing.  That is a rare professional treat for us and it is certainly a kick to see our names together on an appellate decision.

* Note: This blog is not legal advice.  Certain terms like “specialty” used in this blog have ethical implications.  For example, there is no such thing as a divorce specialist in Connecticut and anyone who holds themselves out as one may be breaching an ethical rule and could get in trouble with the state bar or licensing committee.  This blog is not written in legal prose and is no substitute for legal advice.

Divorce, Fairfield County, Litigation, Von Kohorn

Divorce in the Age of the Internet – Attorney Jonathan E. Von Kohorn

I had the pleasure back in 2009 of speaking on a panel to attendees of the American Bar Association, Family Law Section Conference in Baltimore about issues related to ethics and technology in family law.  The title of the presentation was “‘The Love Bug’ and Other Ethical Issues Arising from the Use of Technological Tools”. http://apps.americanbar.org/family/events/courses.shtml

I also enjoyed the opportunity in 2010 of speaking to members of the American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division about similar issues.  The title of that presentation was “Utilizing Social Networking Websites: Opportunities and Pitfalls”. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/initiatives/listen/utilizing_social_networking_websites.html

In the five years since, I have continued to be amazed at the growing role technology plays in divorce cases.  Our court trials, hearings, custody evaluations and financial examinations all involve an ever increasing proportion of technology issues every year.  When clients find out that I have a background in Information Technology and have lectured on computer issues in divorce cases, it invariably prompts discussions about technology issues in their own pending cases.  The more that our lives and relationships take place online, the more that online issues will invariably arise in divorce.

Divorce, Fairfield County, Litigation, Von Kohorn, Von Kohorn Attorney

Second Post – Good Advice Is Usually Right

As a young lawyer, I remember a conversation with a trusted colleague who has since retired.  They had practiced divorce law for about as long as I had been alive at that point.  The advice was more or less as follows:

Some divorce lawyers argue about the law in court.  What a mistake.  If you are arguing about the law then you are really just telling everyone that you either don’t know what you are doing or have no case at all and are being unreasonable.  Just focus on the facts.

Now I certainly don’t think this advice applies all the time.  It was an exaggeration to make an important and worthwhile point.  This is also a spin on the old adage that attorneys should argue the facts when the law is against them – and argue the law when the facts are against them.  By never arguing the law, I suppose you could try to at least act as if the facts were always in your favor.

However, I often think back to this advice whenever I see a young (or sometimes just plain ineffective) lawyer at court muddling through their case.  Most of our trial judges know the law very well and don’t need to be reminded of the specifics in every case.  The demand for trial time always exceeds the available supply.  During the precious time you have to make your case and convince a judge of your position, the overwhelming focus should be on the facts.  It is amazing – amazing! – how many lawyers don’t understand this and undermine their own cases.

To give you some idea of what it is like to watch a mess like this unfold in court while waiting for your own case to be called, it would be easier to give a “traffic court” sort of example.  Imagine a trial over a ticket for running a red light.  Instead of just calling their witnesses to the stand and asking them if the light was red, yellow or green (facts) or if they came to a stop or drove through the intersection (more facts) – the lawyer instead just spends 20 minutes lecturing the court about the law.  What the law says you do at an intersection if the light is green, yellow or red.  While this is a simple example, there are often genuinely simple controversies in family court that play out this way every day.

-Jon Von Kohorn

Divorce, Fairfield County, Litigation, Von Kohorn

First Blog Post! – Submit your questions or ideas. (Anonymous requests are welcome too!)

Welcome to my first blog post!

I have been practicing divorce law in Connecticut for over 10 years.  For most of that, I have practiced with Tara, my wife and law partner.  Given that I am focused on family or matrimonial law, it is difficult to pin down one area of divorce law that I have more experience in over others.  However, it is fair to say that my practice involves a relatively high level of litigation and trial experience.  While some attorneys never step foot inside a court room, I’m usually there at least once per week.

While there is plenty to not like about divorce, the practice of divorce law can be very interesting.  You learn a lot about a wide variety of topics.  The trial advocacy aspect of the practice is particularly engaging as well.  Preparing and presenting cases in an adversarial setting is an art as well as a science.

In Connecticut, all family cases are disposed of either through an agreement or by a decision from a judge or agreed upon arbitrator.  There are no jury trials.

I thought that this blog could be an interesting destination for those who had questions about any aspect of divorce law and practice in Connecticut, specifically the Fairfield County area in southwestern Connecticut.

If anyone has any questions or ideas for a blog post then feel free to message me either privately or publicly.  I can be reached through our firm website at http://www.thevklawfirm.com or via our firm’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thevklawfirm/

-Jon Von Kohorn