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Tilsen v. Benson 2019 WL 6329065 (Conn. Super., November 7, 2019)

In a case of First Impression in the state of Connecticut, Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC successfully represented the Wife in opposing the Husband’s claim that the parties’ Jewish marriage contract, known as a “Ketubah,” constituted a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement.  In relevant part, the Ketubah states that the parties “agree to divorce (or, separate from) one another … according to Torah law as in the manner of Jewish People.”  The Husband asserted that “Torah law” mandated that his premarital and inherited property was exempt from equitable distribution, and that he was relieved of any obligation to pay alimony to his wife of thirty (30) years.

Ruling in favor of the Wife, the Court held that even if the Ketubah was otherwise a valid prenuptial agreement under Connecticut law, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution nonetheless forbids the Court from enforcing the provision cited above.  Specifically, the Court concluded that it could not interpret the “Torah law” provision of the parties’ Ketubah using strictly neutral, secular legal principles (as mandated by the First Amendment), and that granting the plaintiff the relief he was requesting, based upon his interpretation of the Ketuba and Jewish law, would instead “excessively entangle the court in a religious dispute and, therefore, … violate the first amendment.”


Powell-Ferri v. Ferri, 326 Conn. 457 (2017) (companion case, Ferri v. Powell-Ferri, 326 Conn. 438 (2017))

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled, in a precedent-setting case, that the decanting of trust assets to protect them from a party’s reach in a divorce case was lawful.  The Connecticut Supreme Court also upheld the trial court’s decision making alternate property distribution and alimony orders in the divorce case.  The Husband, who was represented by Carole Topol Orland and Sarah E. Murray of Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC in the divorce trial, was the beneficiary of a trust that had been established by his father prior to the parties’ marriage.  The Husband had the right to withdraw principal from the trust when he reached certain ages, though he had not exercised this right except under limited circumstances.  During the dissolution action, without the Husband’s prior knowledge, the Trustees decanted the trust assets into a new spendthrift trust of which the Husband was beneficiary and filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that they had validly exercised their authority.  The trial court found that the decanting was improper and ordered that 75% of the trust assets (the percentage which the Husband had a right to withdraw under the terms of the original trust at the time of the decanting) be returned to the original trust.

The Trustees appealed this Order, and the appeal remained pending during the dissolution trial.  The parties agreed that the trial court could issue “alternate” Orders because the validity of the decanting was at issue at the time of the dissolution trial.  The value of the trust assets was in dispute at trial, with the Wife claiming they were worth at least $98 million.  In her Proposed Orders at trial, the Wife requested an award in excess of $50 million.  In contrast, the trial court’s “alternate” Orders were as follows: if the decanting was found to be invalid, then the Husband was to pay $12 million in lump sum alimony to the Wife in light of the trust assets (and periodic alimony would cease), whereas, if the decanting was found to be valid, no lump sum alimony order would issue and the Husband would only have to pay periodic alimony of $25,000 per month.  The Wife was not successful in her appeal of this decision.  The Connecticut Supreme Court, after deciding in the companion civil case that the decanting had been lawful, affirmed the trial court’s dissolution orders.  The trial court’s alternate Order of periodic alimony only, with no lump sum alimony award, will be the effective Order in the dissolution action.


Wilson v. Wilson 2014 WL 7156650 (Conn. Super., November 10, 2014)

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC represented Father in post-judgment relocation trial wherein Mother was denied her request to move child to California where her new husband is employed in the financial industry.


Dan v. Dan 315 Conn. 1 (2014)

Landmark Supreme Court decision holding that the modification of an alimony award typically is not justified where the only substantial change in circumstances after the divorce is an increase in the alimony payor’s income and where the alimony award continues to meet the original purpose for which it was made. Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC represented the alimony payor, who was ultimately successful on appeal, in the post-judgment modification trial.


* These are brief summaries. You should not rely on these summaries as full statements or analyses of the law that may apply in your case. Past outcomes are not necessarily an indicator of future results.

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