Connecticut Divorce and coronavirus.  A difficult time for all of us.

I hope you are safe and well.

How is it impacting Family Court litigants and the legal profession?

Here are some questions that were posed to the Family Court and their responses:

1. Emergency Custody Actions and Denial of Parenting Time or Visitation

The statutory language set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-56f is the applicable standard for “emergency ex parte order of temporary custody,” identified as a Priority 1 Business Function under these circumstances.  I presume that any withholding of parental access which causes physical danger or psychological harm to the minor child falls under the language of the statute.  This assures attorneys and parents that true emergency circumstances related to the withholding of parental access may be addressed through the current resources provided by the Family Court.  This is a rapidly rising concern for counsel and anxious parents.

Response from the Court:

The courts have received and acted upon, and will continue to receive and act upon, as Priority #1 matters all applications for emergency orders of custody pursuant to CGS 46b-56f, including the scheduling of hearings in cases where ex parte relief is granted.  That includes applications alleging such harm based on withholding of parental access.  The determination of whether the withholding of access in a given case creates “an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the child,” and if so what relief should be granted, rests within the sound discretion of the judge reviewing each particular application.

In other words, very fact dependent and determined on a case by case basis. Reach out to me discuss your best course of action here. 

2. Order to Show Cause – Motions for Modification and Motions for Contempt regarding Children

Order to Show Cause papers must be addressed in one of three ways: a) Order to Show Cause dates must be assigned and delivered back to practitioners so that service can be effectuated; b) Order to Show Cause papers must be permitted to be served without an assigned date; c) service requirements applicable to family law practitioners pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-86 and 52-50 must be modified on an emergency basis to permit retroactivity to the date of filing with the court, including filing via fax or US Postal mail for non e-file cases, and not service.

The concern is to address how the Connecticut Divorce and coronavirus impacts the critical time period between now and the future date when the Family Court expands business to matters other than Priority 1 Business Functions.  Retroactivity pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-86 can only be granted to the date of service of the motion as prescribed by Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-50.  As the length of this crisis is yet unknown, the inability to obtain retroactivity would otherwise place a literally immeasurable burden on litigants.

The retroactivity is key.  File now to preserve the claim that any new order goes back to the date that the opposing party was served. This is potentially big savings!

Response from the Court:

The clerks of all courts have been instructed to proceed by the first method above, i.e. to assign hearing dates and deliver the papers back to the initiating party for service.  That instruction was given, in part, to afford  parties the opportunity to preserve claims for retroactivity where applicable.

3. Request for Approval of Temporary Agreement Without Court Appearance

As soon as administratively possible, agreements filed with a Request for Approval of Agreement form will be approved and ordered on the “papers” – i.e. you need not show up in court.  The idea is to ensure the smooth administration of justice, grant litigants the ability to settle their own disputes in the absence of judicial resources, and prevent extreme backlog for the Judicial Branch.

This is a very under utilized process – both in both good times and bad!  This should be used now more than ever.

Response from the Court:

We are aware of this issue and exploring ways to do so as soon as that becomes possible without adding to the workload of clerks on duty while they are required to focus on Priority #1 functions.

In other words, the Court will do it but it may take a little longer than usual to do so.  But it will get done.

4. Motions for Contempt for Failure to pay Child Support and Alimony

Motions for Contempt regarding financial non-compliance and establishment of alimony and child support orders must take priority when the court expands business to matters other than Priority 1 Business Functions.  Addressing the critical issues of support during an unprecedented health and financial crisis must be considered.  Without recourse to the courts in family matters,  those with financial resources are placed in an extraordinary position of power and safety, while the most disadvantaged members of society will suffer.  It is a pressing concern as to how the Connecticut Divorce Court and the coronavirus will impact these pre-existing orders.

Response from the Court:

We are sensitive to, and will be mindful of, these concerns as it impacts the Connecticut Divorce Court and coronavirus.  However, given the uncertainty of the future course of this public health crisis and its impact on court personnel and operations, it is not possible to make commitments now about the work that the courts will be in a position to do in the future or the order in which they will be able to do it.

So, wait and see – but no court hearing any time soon.  Still the best move is to file a Motion for Contempt now and get the motion on the docket while realizing that unfortunately it may be continued to another court date. But I suspect, that if you file now you will be further in the “queue” so that when ultimately motions get rescheduled you will be heard before others that wait to file.

5. Case Management Dates

These are “tracking” dates to inform the court whether the case is uncontested and if contested what the outstanding issues are.

Response from the Court:

These matters are not considered priority 1 business and all such matters that are scheduled before April 30, 2020 will be re-assigned.

Connecticut Divorce and Coronavirus Consultation

I represent clients in all Divorce and Family Court related matters through out Fairfield County including those who reside in Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Trumbull, Stratford, Bridgeport, Westport, Weston, New Canaan, Wilton, Norwalk, Darien, Stamford and Greenwich.

Contact me online  or call me in my Fairfield office at (203) 259-5251 or in my Stamford office at (203) 356-1475 to schedule a phone consultation to discuss Connecticut Divorce and coronavirus and what the best available options are for you.


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