This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht
There are instances where one spouse decides to file for divorce while the other spouse strongly desires to salvage the marriage. Sometimes the legal process is well under way when one or both parties suddenly decide to explore the possibility of reconciliation. Divorce clients throughout Fairfield County in towns from Greenwich to New Canaan to Weston find themselves in these situations, and are surprised to learn that the law provides a way for divorcing spouses to stop the process without losing the benefit of what they have already invested time and money in.
- Gen. Stat. § 46b-53 allows a party to request conciliation within the first ninety days of the commencement of an action, which is automatically granted.
- Gen. Stat. § 46b-10 allows a party to initiate conciliation at any time during the pendency of a case which is permitted with the approval of the Court.
- The Automatic Orders that go into effect at the commencement of an action pursuant to Practice Book § 25-5 are not affected by the reconciliation period and remain in place.
In the first instance, the process involves the submission of a request to the clerk within the first ninety days following the filing of a complaint. The clerk “shall forthwith enter an order to meet a conciliator. …” C.G.S. 46b-53(1). The conciliator may be a mutually agreed upon clergyman, physician, domestic relations officer or marriage counselor, and all communications during the consultations are absolutely privileged. C.G.S. 46b-53(c). Within the ninety day period or within 30 days of the request, whichever is later, the parties must attend two mandatory consultations with the conciliator. The purpose is to determine the possibility of reconciliation or “of resolving the emotional problems which might lead to continuing conflicts following the dissolution of the marriage.” C.G.S. § 46b-53(b). Failure of either party to attend the consultations, except for good cause, results in no further action being taken on the complaint for six months following the return date. Id.
The second situation involves the filing of a motion at any time prior to judgment but requires the Court’s permission to halt the process for the purpose of attempting reconciliation. The legal effect of reconciliation status is a stay of the proceedings, discovery deadlines and other mandatory Court obligations without prejudice, and either party may move to have the case restored to the docket.
The Automatic Orders that are issued to both parties upon the signing and service of the complaint pursuant to Practice Book §25-5 “remain in place during the pendency of the action unless terminated, modified, or amended by further order of the Court upon motion of either of the parties” and are therefore not disturbed by the reconciliation process.
Of course, it is always possible to end a case altogether by filing a withdrawal of the action. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-80 provides that a party may withdraw an action as of right after the commencement of an action but prior to the commencement of a hearing on the merits.
The attorneys at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC are extremely knowledgeable in both the substantive family law and the applicable procedural rules to customize the legal approach that best serves an individual client’s needs, and which, occasionally, results in no divorce at all.