Category: family law

CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURTS ARE NOW OPEN FOR ALL DIVORCE, CUSTODY AND POST-DIVORCE MATTERS, VIRTUALLY

As of July 6, 2020, all courthouses in Connecticut resumed operations on a full-time basis, with doors open to the public Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, including the Stamford, Milford and Danbury courthouses which had been temporarily closed due to employee(s) testing positive with COVID-19.  The clerks’ offices are open to the public for regular business with mandatory safeguards in place.

ARE IN-PERSON HEARINGS BEING HELD IN CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURT?

Yes, for emergency child custody, domestic violence cases, restraining orders, and other emergency family issues.  Anyone physically entering a courthouse must wear a face mask covering the nose and mouth, and all must practice social distancing which may require waiting outside the courthouse until called inside the building to limit the number people in the lobbies, hallways and courtrooms.

ARE VIRTUAL FAMILY COURT HEARINGS BEING HELD?

Yes, limited hearings as well as other Family Law proceedings are being held.  The use of video has allowed the courts to continue expanding the types of cases to be heard.  As of June 24, 2020, the courts began scheduling argument on matters that would ordinarily require physical presence in court.  Final agreements on post-divorce matters and uncontested divorces may be approved without in-person hearing and the courts will also begin scheduling pretrials and evidentiary hearings that were scheduled to take place July 1, 2020 and later.

HOW ARE EXISTING DIVORCE AND CUSTODY CASES MOVING FORWARD IN CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURT?

The Family Courts have held remote Status Conferences for all pending divorce and custody matters to determine whether scheduling orders are necessary to ensure cases are moving forward.  Pendente lite (temporary) agreements continue to be approved on the papers with e-filing, which include appointments of guardians ad litem, temporary parenting plans, temporary alimony and child support payment orders, conditions of alcohol testing, discovery deadlines, and any other type of disputed issue that arises prior to final divorce.    

WHAT OTHER FAMILY LAW SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE BY REMOTE MEANS?

Professional Family Law mediators and arbitrators remain available both in-person and by remote means to resolve child custody and financial disputes.  Co-parenting coordinators and therapists are holding sessions using video, and the Parenting Education course is now offered remotely.  Family Relations counselors are available by telephone and it is anticipated that they will also be offering services using video in the near future. 

IS IT BETTER TO DELAY THE START OF MY DIVORCE OR POST-DIVORCE CASE UNTIL COURTS RESTORE/REQUIRE IN-PERSON APPEARANCES?

Filing sooner rather than later preserves several important rights.  In divorce cases for example, there are injunctive orders that automatically go into effect upon the initiation of a case that prohibit moving or concealing assets, altering insurance coverage and other financial protections.  In post-divorce matters, an earlier date of service will preserve retroactivity claims for altered alimony or child support payments.

Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, is a Westport and Greenwich divorce law firm.  We are currently conducting consultations via video conference and in-person with a face mask at an appropriate distance outdoors if that is preferred.  The Connecticut Judicial Branch is working to constantly expand its courtroom “Remote Justice” functions and we continue to adjust our own practices to continue serving our clients with health and safety as our first priority.     

What Effect Does COVID-19 Have on My Connecticut Family Law Appeal?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on daily functioning for Fairfield County, and the functioning of the Connecticut Court system is no exception.  As of the time of writing this article, only selected courthouses in Connecticut are open with limited hours and restrictions on which individuals are permitted to enter the buildings that are open.  Family law litigants, including those in Westport, Greenwich, and Stamford, with appellate issues naturally have questions about how the current restrictions on Court operations due to COVID-19 affect their appeal.  

Can I Still File an Appeal of My Connecticut Family Law Case?

Yes.  The initial paperwork required to file an appeal can be filed electronically; so, the restrictions on physical access to the courthouses do not prohibit a party from filing an appeal of a final judgment in a Connecticut family law case.   

Are Supreme and Appellate Court Deadlines Still in Effect During the Pandemic?

On March 20, 2020, the Connecticut Supreme and Appellate Courts issued a notice stating that all requirements for Supreme and Appellate Court filings would be suspended until further notice.  As of the date of this article, this notice remains in effect.  Simply because these deadlines are suspended, however, does not necessarily mean that it will benefit your case to wait to file certain documents.  You may have strategic reasons for wanting your appeal to move more quickly.  In such a situation, it may serve the interests of your case to file the document(s) in question so that when the Courts are fully operational, your case is in a position to move more quickly.  

My Preargument Conference was Cancelled—Will it be Rescheduled?

The Preargument Conference program was suspended through May 1, 2020, due to concerns regarding COVID-19.  On April 29, 2020, a notice was issued stating that any appeals that are eligible for a Preargument Conference, but were not yet scheduled for a Preargument Conference, will not have a Preargument Conference scheduled.  This notice also stated that any cases in which a Preargument Conference was scheduled and later canceled would not have a Preargument Conference rescheduled.  Any appeal filed after May 1, 2020, will be excluded from the Preargument Conference program until further notice.  An exception to the foregoing is that parties can agree to request a Preargument Conference by telephone if they believe it may be effective in generating settlement and withdrawal of the appeal.  

When Are Supreme and Appellate Court Briefs Due?

The notice issued on April 29, 2020, requests that, to the extent possible, briefs be filed by June 15, 2020, for any cases in which a Preargument Conference was scheduled and cancelled or which was eligible to be scheduled for a Preargument Conference.  For appeals filed after May 1, 2020, the Practice Book rules apply with respect to when the brief will be due, to the extent possible.  While deadlines remain suspended (see above), this notice clarifies that, to the extent possible, any litigants who are able to file their briefs should do so.  The Supreme and Appellate Courts are requesting that paper briefs not be filed at this time; so, the briefs and appendices should be filed electronically.  If you have questions regarding when a brief should be filed in your Connecticut family law appeal, you should consult with an appellate lawyer. 

Are the Connecticut Supreme and Appellate Courts Hearing Oral Argument During the Pandemic?

Oral arguments during the Appellate Court’s seventh term were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Currently, the Supreme and Appellate Courts are hearing oral argument via videoconference for the first time.  Allowing for oral argument using videoconferencing was a significant step in continuing the operations of the Supreme and Appellate Courts during this unprecedented time so that appeals can continue to progress.  If parties and counsel agree, fully briefed appeals can be decided without oral argument.  The decision as to whether to waive oral argument should be made after considering the risks and benefits with Connecticut appellate counsel.  

Broder and Orland LLC provides appellate representation in family law cases, in addition to litigating family and divorce cases at the trial court level.  If you are contemplating an appeal and/or have questions regarding how your appeal may be affected by the current pandemic, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.    

By: Sarah E. Murray