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.