As we all know, COVID has changed the world. It is no different in Connecticut divorce courts. Here are a few things that may help you plan for what is ahead during these difficult times.
- There are no more weekly hearings on motions regarding disputed issues
We used to get weekly court calendars upon submission of Motions, and we could mark a Motion ready and see a judge quickly.
Now only emergencies such as child related issues and domestic violence situations get heard quickly in person.
At the start of COVID, Courts latterly shut down. As of January 1, 2021, the Judges saw people were struggling, so they arranged different stages to help move family cases along.
The first stage is now what is referred to as a Resolution Plan Date which date is set by the Courts.
If an action or Motion concerns financial issues, five (5) days before the Plan Resolution Date you must submit a sworn financial affidavit to the Court.
You will meet remotely with your attorney and a court Family Relations Social Worker together with your Spouse and their Attorney to address immediate issues and finances. The Family Relations Social Worker is an Officer of the Court to assist the Judges in resolving issues before the matters become hotly contested and litigated.
- The Case Date is a new vehicle and stage in the process to move the case along before a Judge
At the Case Date the parties and their Counsel appear remotely with a Judge who is assigned to the docket to hear your matter as well as other cases and to move those cases to resolution or the next stage of hearing the disputed issues. Prior to the Case Date the Parties and Counsel are supposed to be prepared to submit a list of pending disputed motions, claims for relief or proposed orders sought from the Court. Documents at this stage include a list of witnesses who will be subpoenaed or appear voluntarily both fact witnesses such as the Parties or others with knowledge such as teachers, coaches, religious advisors, relatives, third-parties with knowledge of the facts at issue, and expert witnesses such as accountants, real estate appraisers, actuaries, who can opine and provide testimony on specialized matters outside of the scope of a lay person are noticed as potential witnesses at a Hearing or Trial. List of exhibits are exchanged and submitted to the Court if the matter is continuing to a Hearing or Trial.
While the case date can result in matters being heard by a Judge with testimony of witnesses and exhibits being identified and received into evidence, typically on the Case Date the Judges are hearing argument of Counsel and/or are determining what motions will be heard and are setting dates in the future for the Hearing or Trial of disputed issues. Evidence is then heard and received by witnesses and testimony and exhibits at a date certain in the future.
- The last stage is the Hearing or Trial
The Court will take opening statements and remarks from Counsel and will begin to hear and receive evidence by way of testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence received by way of Exhibits exchanged between Counsel and the Court prior to and sometimes at the date of the Hearing and Trial.
Hearings and Trials require extensive preparation with your Counsel and are time consuming, emotionally difficult and are costly. You can assume it takes at least four (4) times more to have the Court try and hear your case than it does to resolve your disputes amicably through discussions and negotiations with your Spouse and their Counsel.
As COVID continues, cases are conducted remotely by video over the internet on a computer or by phone through a link or designated telephone number. Family matter cases that are heard in person at the Court remain those that the Courts consider “Priority 1” cases, such as emergency custody and visitation matters concerning children and domestic violence situations regarding restraining and protective orders.
Given COVID is still unpredictable, and surges are peaking, some of these Court changes will likely remain in effect for the time being. This may result in continued delays before your Motions and Hearings and Trials are heard by a Judge, and the Courts are currently beset with a backlog of cases and are limited in time and scope and staff to hear and proceed with the matters you may want the Courts to hear expeditiously or in a timely manner.
Accordingly, people should come into their attorneys’ offices without the mindset of litigating and attacking their Spouse, but rather, with the mindset to reach an amicable resolution of their disputes through Agreements that the Courts are accepting remotely and electronically on paper. It is always best for the Parties to control and resolve their disputes. Settlements with Parties and Counsel are always far more detailed and complete than any determination rendered by a Court after trial, as the Courts are congested and have limited time and resources to hear and determine your disputes as effectively as the Parties can through the assistance of Counsel.
At the Law Offices of Heidi E. Opinsky, LLC, we are here to have you meet your challenges, goals, and objectives in a timely and efficient manner in your best interests. Please contact the Law Offices of Heidi E. Opinsky, LLC and begin to resolve your family disputes now.203-653-3542