Needle | Cuda: Divorce and Family Law

Needle | Cuda: Divorce and Family Law

Needle | Cuda is a boutique Fairfield County law firm located in Westport, CT exclusively dedicated to Divorce and Family Law: marriage dissolution, property division, alimony, custody, post judgement modificaions, and related enforcement actions.

Firm Overview

At Needle | Cuda, we know when you come to see us, you may be going through the most difficult time of your life. That's why we style ourselves a "high touch" law firm with a premium on client service. In the comfort of our welcoming Westport office, we discuss your situation thoroughly and provide the information anConnecticut divorce d guidance you need to make well-informed decisions about how you'd like to proceed. We focus exclusively on family law and limit the number of cases we take in order to deliver the personal attention you deserve and to maintain a close working relationship throughout the process. Over decades of practice, our Fairfield County cases have involved couples with significant net worth, so you can trust our ability to manage complex property settlement issues. If you are seeking strong, effective legal representation for divorce or family law, Needle | Cuda can and will deliver.

Serving Westport, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Fairfield, Ridgefield, and Wilton.

Needle | Cuda offers personalized, experienced, and aggressive representation in all family matters including: divorce, alimony, property division, restraining orders, custody, child support, parenting plans, visitation, relocation, post-judgment modifications, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreement, divorce and family law appeals, and enforcement orders.

Main Office

Main Office
830 Post Road East, Suite 301
Westport, CT 06880


(203) 557-9500


(203) 557-9504


Free Initial Consultation?

Consultations charged at our hourly rates

Services Offered For Fixed Fees?

Generally not applicable to our practice, but may apply to some prenuptial agreements.

Hourly Rates

Attorneys hourly rates range from $450-$600/Hour

Office Information

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 8:30-5:30

Office Manager

Jessica Calise

Emergency After Hours


How did your firm decide on the primary area of practice(s)?

At Needle | Cuda, we focus exclusively on divorce and family law. That sharp focus allows us to keep abreast of all developments in Connecticut family law so we can better represent your interests. We provide comprehensive legal services for a wide range of matters, including:

Marriage Dissolution: The experience of a divorce action can be distressing, emotional, and tedious for both clients and their families. Needle | Cuda will patiently and expertly guide you through the all ups and downs inherent to process with confidence and balance. Needle | Cuda’s goal is to deliver a workable, enforceable, long-term solution that empowers you to move forward with the rest of your life.

Alimony: Whether you pay or receive alimony, this issue is one of the most important impacting your financial future. Needle | Cuda will work aggressively to design an economic solution for your future.

Parenting Plans: A parenting plan typically includes: legal custody, physical custody, and parenting schedules. While collaboration and active cooperation between parents is ideal for defining the related schedules that compose a parenting plan and the component decisions related to legal custody (e.g. education, healthcare, religion, etc.), it is not always possible to agree. Needle | Cuda is always prepared to forcefully pursue a parenting plan and custody arrangement that is both practical and enforceable.

Child Custody and Visitation: In our experience, it is entirely possible (with active cooperation between parents and well-designed court orders) for children to emerge from a divorce action with positive and engaging relationships with both parents and for many of the (potential) negative emotional impacts to either be muted or avoided.

Property Distribution: Division of property (and assets) in a Connecticut divorce is subject to legal principal called equitable distribution. Numerous statutory factors are considered and applied by the courts in determining the equitable division of property. Connecticut is also an “all property state” which means that 100% of all assets brought into the marriage by the parties are considered regardless as to the name under which a particular asset is held. This means that all property is considered. Needle | Cuda has extensive experience with High Net Worth Clients, closely held family businesses, hedge fund investments/ownership interest, private equity ownership interests, complex family trusts, and other highly technical/sophisticated property and asset valuations.

Business Valuations: (family and closely held businesses) The protection and sophisticated handling of family and/or closely held businesses can be extremely sensitive issues in a marriage dissolution. These cases involve complex business valuations and negotiated buy-outs/settlements (lump sums, payments over time, asset set-offs, etc.) that ensure the continuity of business operations, governance, etc. These situations can be especially tricky when there are extended family members or third-party partners involved. Needle | Cuda has a successful track record of representing clients on either side of the equation (both business operator and spouse) and deep roster of business valuation, forensic accountants, and other technical experts to ensure that businesses are properly valued.

Prenuptial agreements: In these uncertain times, anyone contemplating marriage should protect their property rights with a carefully executed prenuptial agreement. In particular, Prenuptial agreements frequently come into play with respect to in second marriages, with those people marrying later in life, when family businesses are involved, and with high net worth families and potential inheritances are involved. In Connecticut, prenuptial agreements are governed by statue so it is essential that they are drafted by experienced family law attorneys. Needle | Cuda specializes in complex prenuptial agreements for high net worth clients.

Postnuptial agreements: An alternative to the finality of divorce is the postnuptial agreement (sometimes also called a post marital agreement), which allows you and your spouse to continue to work on your marriage. A postnuptial agreement is an agreement entered into by married couples that provides for what will happen financially (alimony and the division of property) should the couple eventually divorce. The postnuptial agreement does not require or mandate an eventual divorce, or even mean that the marriage will not work, but can provide a resolution of the financial issues should a divorce action eventually be commenced. The purpose of a postnuptial agreement is in fact to facilitate resumption of the marriage on agreeable terms.

Restraining orders: No one should be a target of threats or abuse, nor should anyone be wrongly accused of domestic violence. If you need a restraining order, or you want to protect your good name from allegations, we provide capable and determined representation.

What experience or education distinguishes your lawyers from others?

At Needle | Cuda, our exclusive focus on divorce and family law ensures in-depth knowledge of substantive law and procedure, as well as a current and clear understanding of ever-evolving case law. You can trust our accomplished legal team to manage:

Divorce: A divorce matter (the dissolution of a marriage) requires resolution of three main components between the parties before an agreement can be presented before a family court on behalf of the parties:

Child custody - There are two aspects: legal custody and physical custody.

Asset/property division - All property held by either party can be considered by courts in Connecticut,
regardless of title and regardless of whether it was acquired before or after the marriage.

Disposition of Income - his includes alimony and child support.

These three main components of a divorce action generally involve the following issues: legal and physical child custody, visitation, parenting plans, alimony, child support, earning capacity, real property, financial and retirements assets, 401(k) plans, ownership in family and closely held businesses and a variety of complicated and valuation issues specific to high net worth divorces.

Any or all of these issues and areas can become extremely complex and nuanced. Parents may have strong disagreements about how to raise their children and so may propose vastly different parenting plans. Same-sex couples may need to take special efforts to protect their parental rights. The financial status of high-net-worth couples also complicates divorce, which must fairly address such properties as retirement assets, business interests and assets that are inherited or held in trust or that were owned before marriage.

Family Law: Our family law practice handles a wide range of matters concerning custody, marriage, domestic relations, and post-divorce issues. These include prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, legal separation, restraining orders, protective orders, custody actions (irrespective of whether the parents are married), paternity and child support claims, enforcement orders, contempt actions, relocation and post-judgment modifications.

Appeals - At Needle|Cuda in Westport, our attorneys are not just skilled litigators but also experienced Connecticut family law appellate attorneys. If we are your trial counsel, we work to preserve your right to appeal adverse rulings, so that you have an opportunity to seek a remand or a retrial. Conversely, we may work to protect a judgment from missteps by the judicial authority if an appeal is anticipated by the other side. We also handle appeals for clients who were represented by other attorneys at the trial stage.

The fact that our family lawyers in Connecticut try cases and handle appeals gives our clients a strong advantage. As your trial counsel, we apply our experience in preserving issues for appeal and we are already knowledgeable about the case, thus saving you the time and expense of having to retain a new attorney for the appeal. Our trial experience also helps us identify trial errors for clients who were represented by other counsel at that stage.

Dispute resolution - We select methods of resolving disputes appropriate to our clients unique circumstances, needs, and goals. We can use a range of processes, such as mediation and arbitration, to achieve negotiated settlements. When settlement is not possible, we pursue litigation to obtain the best possible outcome based on the needs and circumstances of our client. We also bring appeals when a court ruling or judgment results in an injustice.

What distinguishes your law firm from others?

At Needle | Cuda, we understand your need for candid legal advice from a trustworthy source. When you come to us with a family law problem, you'll find we are:

Reputable Our attorneys have established themselves as skilled litigators and reliable authorities on
Connecticut family law. Our colleagues at law know us as formidable opponents and principled
advocates for our clients' rights.

Responsive We are always mindful that our role as counselors requires us to be attentive, accessible,
and proactive. Once we understand your goals for yourself and your family, we implement effective
strategies designed to deliver the results you need.

Comprehensive We are very detail-oriented and work tirelessly to achieve lasting resolutions to your
family law disputes. We know we can only succeed by understanding your unique circumstances and
addressing the totality of your concerns. We draw on outside resources, consulting a range of experts
whose input is vital to helping us achieve our clients' goals.

Our firm combines indispensable experience with a passionate desire to help our clients secure their future.

How frequently does your firm use mediation, arbitration, or collaborative law to resolve cases?

At Needle | Cuda, effective dispute resolution is at the heart of our family law practice. For decades, our Westport family law attorneys have helped clients overcome conflicts and lay the foundation for a more secure future. Our attorneys are adept at employing a variety of alternatives to litigation, including negotiation, mediation and arbitration. If you have a pressing family law issue that requires a legal remedy, you can trust our legal team to provide the personalized attention, sound guidance, creative thinking and determined representation necessary to achieve your goals.

Family Law Dispute ResolutionWhen you have a legal dispute, effective resolution consists of two elements: a process and a product. Your end goal is the product, which is some sort of enforceable agreement. This can be in the form of a contract, like a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, which a court can implement when necessary. Another form is a marital settlement, which the court must approve to resolve a question of legal status, such as a divorce or child custody.

The dispute resolution processes available in family law cases include:

Negotiation - Attorneys for each side meet to lay out and discuss their positions and try to reach an agreement on the best terms possible for their clients. Resolution depends on each side being reasonable enough to compromise appropriately on their positions in order to coax agreement from the other. On the other hand, one side can sometimes leverage an agreement simply by having more bargaining power. However, each party has the right to walk away from negotiations at any time prior to an actual agreement, leaving the matter unresolved.

Mediation - This method of alternative dispute resolution is voluntary and relies on compromise to achieve results satisfactory to both sides. A neutral third party, the mediator, guides discussions between parties and their attorneys, which continue point by point until an agreement or impasse is reached. Resolved issues become part of a settlement agreement, while unresolved issues may need to be decided by the court.

Arbitration - This method of alternative dispute resolution is more like a trial than a mediation, although it can be more informal and confidential. The arbitrator acts as a judge for the parties, who present their arguments and evidence. In family law disputes, parties may arbitrate financial issues related to alimony and equitable distribution of marital property. Child custody and child support cannot be arbitrated in Connecticut.

Litigation - Going to trial has drawbacks in terms of time and expense, but it gives parties powerful tools to get at the root of highly contentious financial issues. Sometimes it is the only way to resolve a matter, especially if the other side will not be reasonable. The litigation process affords rights of discovery that can be helpful no matter how the dispute is eventually resolved. These include the ability to request documents and other information from the other party, to subpoena records and to depose witnesses. Litigation can be used to resolve all or part of a case, or post-judgment enforcement or modification of custody or certain financial orders.

The dispute resolution method that is best for you depends on a variety of circumstances. Our experienced family law litigation attorneys can advise you on the appropriate process for your situation and goals.

Melissa Needle

Needle | Cuda: Divorce and Family Law

Attorney Melissa Needle is a lifetime Connecticut resident. She was born in New Haven, raised in Fairfield, and now resides in Westport with her family. Attorney Needle is a third generation attorney with deep family roots in Connecticut. Her father, Attorney Charles Needle, was a founder of the Connecticut firm Zeldes, Needle & Cooper in 1971. Since her admission to the Connecticut Bar in 1990, Melissa has exclusively practiced divorce and family law. Melissa started Needle | Cuda: Divorce and Family Law in 2010. The American Institute of Family Law Attorneys named Needle | Cuda a Connecticut Top 10 Best Firm in Client Satisfaction in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Attorney Needle is an active litigator with an impressive track record. Many of the cases in which Melissa appears involve high net worth divorce property division, complex business valuations, highly contested custody, and petitions for child relocation. She is well-known in Connecticut courts as a forceful, but fair fighter; an attorney with great integrity; and as a worthy adversary who does not shy away from litigation if that path is the best opportunity for her client to reach an equitable solution. Melissa understands that divorce is not just about the dissolution of marriage or stop-gap solutions but helping clients develop and negotiate a comprehensive plan for the rest of their lives.
Connecticut Bar Association, Family Law Section

American Bar Association

Fairfield County Bar Association

Connecticut Family Lawyer, Editorial Board, Former Member

Special Master, Connecticut Superior Court

Speaker: Connecticut Bar Association 2010 Annual Meeting

2019: Super Lawyers (Connecticut)

2018 & 2019: 10 Best Family Law Attorney at AIOFLA

Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell, 2018

AVVO Clients' Choice Award 2018

AVVO Top Attorney 2018


Bar Number: 402959
Connecticut, 1990


Whittier Law School
Juris Doctorate, 1990

Tufts University
Bachelor of Arts, 1987

Alexander Cuda

Needle | Cuda: Divorce and Family Law

Alexander J. Cuda is a highly respected family and matrimonial law attorney. With numerous published articles and speaking engagements, Alex's leadership in family law is well-known. He has been named one of the "Top 10 Family Law Attorneys in Southern Connecticut" by such organizations as the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys (2017). The Connecticut Law Tribune recognized him as a "New Leader in the Law," in 2014. He has been deemed a "Rising Star" by both SuperLawyers (2012-present) as well as the Connecticut Bar Association Family Law Section (2010-2011). He was honored to receive the Connecticut Bar Association Pro Bono Award (2009) and has a 10 star "superb" featured attorney rating on Avvo. Alex is an experienced negotiator and advocate whether in litigation, mediation, or arbitration. He also provides representation in family and matrimonial appeals. Alex is known for his vigorous advocacy, responsiveness, and personalized representation and understanding of each client's needs. He handles both custody and financial matters. Alex lives with his family in Fairfield County.

2019 Super Lawyers (Connecticut)

National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, 2017, "Top 10

Family Law Attorneys in Southern Connecticut"

"New Leader in the Law," Connecticut Law Tribune 2014

"Rising Star," SuperLawyers, 2012 present

"Rising Star," Connecticut Bar Association Family Law Section, 2010-2011

Connecticut Bar Association Pro Bono Award, recipient, 2009

10 Star "Superb" Featured Attorney Rating by Avvo

Connecticut Bar Association
Secretary, Family Law Section, 2017 2018
Treasurer, Family Law Section, 2016 2017
Executive Committee, Family Law Section, 2010 present
Amicus Committee Chair, Family Law Section, 2014 present
Presentation of case law updates to the Family Law Section, 2012 2017
Service on various committees addressing issues including family law arbitration, alimony reform, and premarital and postnuptial agreements

Fairfield County Bar Association
FCBA Board of Directors, 2015 present
Family Law Committee, Co-Chair, 2017 present
Bench/Bar Committee, Co-Chair, 2014 2017
MCLE Committee, 2016
Professionalism Symposium Committee, 2016

Greater Bridgeport Bar Association
Family Law Section

American Bar Association
Family Law Section

"Court Time is Valuable Don't Waste It," (with Jacob Pyetranker), Connecticut Law Tribune, 5/12/17

"Confidentiality Agreements Can Keep Cases Moving," Connecticut Law Tribune, 11/24/15

"Connecticut Supreme Court Restricts Alimony, Limits Discretion" (with Arnold H. Rutkin), Connecticut Law Tribune, 1/20/15

Author of chapter on alimony in A Practical Guide to Divorce in Connecticut, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc., 1st Edition 2013, Publication Date: 1/6/14 (Updated publication of treatise chapter pending)

"The Myth of Alimony Reform" (with Arnold H. Rutkin), Connecticut Law Tribune, 8/20/12

"Crews-ing Away from Equity and Back Again: Enforcement of Premarital Agreements in Connecticut," Connecticut Family Lawyer, Summer 2012

"Conservators Can Pursue Divorces on Behalf of Wards" (with David W. Griffin), Connecticut Law Tribune, 8/15/11

"Representing Children in Connecticut Family Court: Examining the Roles and Anticipating the Problems" (by Arnold H. Rutkin with Alexander J. Cuda), Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Seminar

"How to Do Everything Better From Managing Your Clients, Cases and Employing Experts," 5/26/10


Bar Number: 423314
Connecticut, 2004


Cornell University
Bachelor of Arts, 2000

Tulane University
Juris Doctorate, 2003

Tulane University
LL.M, 2004

Mark Randall

Needle | Cuda: Divorce and Family Law

Since his acceptance to the bar, Mark has practiced exclusively in the area of matrimonial and family law, including complex divorce actions involving significant assets and child custody issues, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and he has represented clients in Connecticut and New York trial courts, as well as the Connecticut Appellate Court.

Prior to joining the firm, Mark was an associate at Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan LLP, with offices in Greenwich and New York City, where he represented clients both in Connecticut and New York. He also previously practiced at a prominent family law firm in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Mark has been selected as a Rising Star in the area of Family Law by SuperLawyers each year since 2015.

Mark is currently a member of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, and serves on the CBA Legislative Committee. He was previously a Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Young Lawyers Section Executive Committee. Mark is also an active member of the American Bar Association, New York State Bar Association and Fairfield County Bar Association.


Bar Number: 435373
Connecticut, 2013


University of Connecticut School of Law
J.D., 2013

Trinity College
B.A., 2007

* Nolo has confirmed that every member attorney has a valid license and is in good standing with the state agency that licenses lawyers. Any past disbarments and suspensions (with possible exceptions for minor violations or nonpayment of dues, in our discretion) will be indicated accordingly in the badge. Member attorneys are required to notify Nolo immediately if they become the subject of any disciplinary action by any state licensing agency.