This Week’s Blog by Chris DeMattie
The Connecticut Judicial Branch created a special docket in the Middlesex Judicial District to handle contested custody and visitation matters. One judge presides over and manages the docket and per the Judicial Branch: “The goal is to handle contested cases involving children quickly and without interruption.” Cases are referred to the Regional Family Trial Docket by the presiding family judge in the local court if the referred case meets the program criteria: (a) child focused issue; (b) ready for trial; (c) family relations case study completed and not more than nine months old; and (d) an attorney has been appointed for the children.
How does my Case end up in the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket?
Since our local family courts are overcrowded and its resources are limited, it is difficult for the Court to devote significant time to just one case. Thus, if you and your spouse are unable to resolve the children and financial issues in your case, you meet the foregoing program criteria, and if your case will likely take more than four (4) days of trial, it will likely to be referred to the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket. Recently, non-custody cases have also been referred to the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, if the presiding judge determines there is a compelling reason to do so, such complex financial issues which would require substantial court time.
How is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket similar to my local court?
The Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket applies the same law and procedures as your local court (e.g. Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven).
The standing Trial Management Orders still apply.
If your case is eligible for e-filing, all pleadings, motions, and notices are filed the same way. If your case is not eligible for e-filing, all filings are sent to both your local court and the Middletown Clerk.
The Courthouse opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. There is typically a fifteen-minute mid morning and afternoon recess, as well as a lunch break from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
How is the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket different from my local court?
First, you are assigned one Judge, and this Judge follows your case the entire time. At your local court, generally you can be assigned a new Judge each court date, and you often do not know which Judge is assigned to your case until you appear at Court.
Second, except for rare circumstances, pendente lite motions are not heard until the time of trial. At your local court, pendente lite motions are often heard while the case is pending and prior to trial.
Third, the timing of proceeding is much different. At the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, since you case is assigned to one Judge, you are often the only matter scheduled on your court date. This means that your case will often be called right at 9:30 a.m. and you will generally continue uninterrupted until approximately 4:45 p.m. At your local court, it is rare for your case to be the only matter scheduled on your court date. Unfortunately, too often there are multiple matters scheduled for the same date with the same Judge, and your case may not be heard. Further, since your local court is not a special docket, there are usually multiple other matters scheduled such as status conferences, report backs, or stipulations. Even though those matters are generally short, they still disrupt your proceeding because the Judge will delay and/or stop your hearing to address those matters.
In other words, it is rare to be interrupted at the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket, while it is expected at your local court.
Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. As experienced divorce trial lawyers we have successfully tired many cases at the Middletown Regional Family Trial Docket.