The recent Coronavirus, or Covid-19, pandemic is affecting many aspects of life in Connecticut. This includes matters related to family and divorce law. Many courts across the state are closed for most cases and issues. In many districts, the family courts were officially closed as of Thursday, March 19th. However, the criminal courts across the state will remain open, so cases concerning domestic violence or abuse will still be handled.
What Actions will Connecticut Courts Hear?
The Connecticut Judicial Branch will only be addressing Priority 1 business matters through March 27th. Priority 1 matters are generally reserved to emergency matters, such as some criminal arraignments or domestic violence victim notifications. Generally, family law matters are not Priority 1 unless they constitute an emergency. Priority 1 family law matters include family orders of relief from abuse, emergency ex-parte orders of temporary custody, and termination of parental rights.
What will Happen to My Scheduled Court Date?
Individuals that had a scheduled court day regarding a non-Priority 1 matter up until March 27th will have their court date cancelled or rescheduled to a later date. To reschedule your court date, individuals should contact their attorney to make adjustments to their plans. Individual that have a Priority 1 matter may still be able to appear in court before March 27th.
Can I File for Divorce During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
In Connecticut, many family law actions, such as filing for divorce, can be completed electronically. This means that an individual can start the divorce process during the Covid-19 quarantine period. An experienced attorney may also help exchange discovery requests, draft financial affidavits, and negotiate parenting plans remotely.
An important consideration for individuals filing for divorce is that there may be an increase in court activity once normal procedures resume. While the divorce process may generally take up to 18 months to complete, that timeframe may be extended due to an influx of court actions. Additionally, individuals may still file for motions during the Covid-19 quarantine for a pending divorce action. Non-emergency motions in Connecticut family courts are generally scheduled to be heard 3 to 4 weeks after filing. Speaking to a knowledgeable family law attorney now may expedite the process or enable them to better understand the new timeframe for their case.
Legal Options for Those Financially Impacted by Covid-19
Those experiencing a significant change in their financial situation may want to consider filing a motion for modification. Filing a motion for modification may adjust child custody or child support to reflect an individual’s new financial situation. This includes changes in employment or revenue due to the Coronavirus.
Connecticut family courts have the discretion to modify a divorce decree retroactively. Because of this, it may be best to file a motion to modification now rather than wait for when the courts resume normal operations. However, until a divorce decree is modified by the court, an individual is still bound by their current obligations. Failure to adhere to these obligations may result in an ex-spouse filing a contempt motion.
How the Covid-19 Pandemic Affects Parenting Plans
Similar to financial matters, a parenting plan must be followed, even during the Coronavirus outbreak. If you have concerns about your child’s safety during the pandemic, it is best to reach out to the parent of the other child to discuss these concerns and attempt to reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, it is best to express that agreement in writing. If an agreement cannot be reached, an experienced family law attorney may be able to guide you through your options.
Consulting the advice of medical experts, such as doctors, and following declarations issued by the government may also help ensure your child’s safety. Parents in joint legal custody of a child may also have a legal obligation to inform each other of information regarding the child’s health and safety. This may include alerting the child’s other parent of medical appointments, emergency room visits, or potential exposure to infection vectors.
Can School Closures Affect My Connecticut Parenting Plan?
With schools closing across the country and Connecticut, an established parenting plan may be affected. Some parenting plans may include provisions designating a change in custody before or after the child attends school. Similarly, parenting plans may designate a change is custody based on work schedules that may no longer apply. When issues with parenting plans arise, it is best to first attempt to reach an agreement with the child’s other parent. If an agreement cannot be reached, an attorney may be able to discuss your options and select the one that best fits your situation.
Can I Stop My Child from Traveling During the Covid-19 Pandemic?
If you have concerns about your child traveling with their other parent during the Coronavirus pandemic, there are several options available to you. The first thing you should do is discuss your concerns with the child’s other parent and attempt to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be made, it is best to consult an attorney. An experienced attorney could file an emergency motion if you believe the child’s health or safety may be at risk due to travel. Filing emergency parenting motions would be classified at a Priority 1 business function and may be heard before the court prior to March 27th.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
Navigating family law matters during unexpected and extraordinary circumstances can be stressful for both parents and children, especially in these difficult times. A knowledgeable Connecticut family law attorney may be able to examine your specific case and select the most favorable option for you. Contact the experienced legal team at Schoonmaker George Blomberg Bryniczka & Welsh P.C. today to discuss your legal options.