The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, and this includes the court system. If you have a concern related to divorce or family law, have a divorce pending, are preparing to file for divorce, or are facing anything else related to past divorce obligations, you’re likely at a loss as to how best to proceed, and that’s understandable. At this moment, the novel coronavirus has Connecticut courts operating in a very limited capacity. This does not mean that you should ignore your legal concerns. Now is a good time to consult with an experienced Connecticut family law attorney or mediator, electronically or over the phone – to address pressing legal matters and to plan important next steps during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filing for Divorce
If you have come to the difficult decision that you need to file for divorce, you’re already going through a difficult experience. The fact that you’re going through it during a national emergency makes it that much more daunting, but don’t give up hope. Although many Connecticut courthouses are closed, or are operating at limited capacity, filing for divorce is fully electronic, and you can begin the process with confidence. The fact is that divorce involves a good deal of leg work in terms of gathering financial documents, reviewing expenses, and much more, which means that quarantine may be the perfect opportunity to get everything in order so that your case moves full steam ahead once the courts have figured out how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Deciding Whether to Postpone Filing
The divorce process is often lengthy and complicated. Even without the delays brought on by COVID-19, a divorce usually takes between 6 and 18 months, but the clock does not start ticking until you file. If you are convinced that divorce is your best path forward, there’s no need to put off the inevitable to wait out the coronavirus. The first few months after filing are generally devoted to requesting discovery exchanges, drafting financial affidavits, negotiating parenting plans, and the like. These are all important components of your divorce, but they can all be accomplished remotely. In other words, filing now could put you ahead of the game when our lives return to business as usual.
Also, consider that certain automatic court orders are in place once the divorce action is commenced. For some people, the protection afforded by the automatic court orders is critically important.
If your divorce is pending, divorce motions may continue to be filed in spite of COVID-19. Although there is no way of knowing when your motion will ultimately be adjudicated, filing now may still be preferable to waiting. Think of current filings as placeholders that could save you time and effort on the other side. Be aware that some motions MUST be filed in a timely manner, regardless of whether they can be adjudicated during the coronavirus pandemic. Speak to a divorce or family law professional to determine whether divorce motions should be filed now to protect your legal interests.
A Substantial Change in Financial Circumstances
The COVID-19-related shutdowns we’ve experienced all over our nation – and globally – have left many in a precarious financial position. If you’ve lost your job, are experiencing a reduction in pay, or are a business owner whose business has been closed, it only stands to reason that you could also have difficulty meeting your court-ordered financial obligations, such as child support and alimony (spousal support). While it’s important to recognize that your court-ordered financial obligations still stand during the coronavirus, filing a Motion for Modification now could help mitigate the fallout if you do fall short on your payments, and your ex subsequently files a Motion for Contempt in response. We’re navigating uncharted territory here, but if you are concerned about keeping up with your divorce obligations, an experienced Connecticut family law attorney will help you explore your options and implement best practices as we move forward. Remember: The earliest date to which any new alimony or child support order can be made retroactive is the date of service of the motion upon the support recipient. As such, it may make good sense to start the process of a support modification right away.
Support and Alimony Enforcement
Of course, the flip side to support modification is the enforcement of support and alimony obligations. Are you concerned that your ex-spouse is taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to unilaterally reduce payment to you? Maybe he or she experienced a small pay reduction, and has used that excuse to stop paying alimony or child support altogether. Of course, this is not appropriate, and it may be time to speak to a divorce professional to determine whether a legal action can be filed with the court in order to enforce your rights.
Custody and Parenting Concerns and COVID-19
The kids are out of school, and life seems topsy-turvy. Many parents with visitation or parenting schedules are confused about how best to proceed. The simple answer is to stick to your court ordered visitation or parenting schedule. Of course, it is unlikely that a judge would fault a parent who elects not to follow a parenting schedule because the other parent has tested positive for COVID-19, or is currently symptomatic. Be careful, though, electing not to follow a court order simply because you believe the other parent is choosing to exercise social-distancing protocols different than you. Reasonable minds can disagree on how to best implement the WHO and CDC coronavirus recommendations. Judges may not later take kindly to a parent who withholds a child due to the other parent’s choice, without evidence of a true danger to the minor child.
Take a Deep Breath
It’s a lot to take in. Family and divorce law concerns are difficult to begin with, and let’s face it, this world situation isn’t easy. You are not, however, alone, and your situation should not leave you feeling hopeless. If you’re ready to file for divorce, want to continue moving forward with your pending divorce, have a concern about your parenting schedule, can’t meet your court-ordered financial obligations related to child support and alimony, or anything else along these lines, an experienced family law attorney can help you with that. If you have an emergency in which you believe your children’s other parent may be endangering their health (and yours) in relation to the COVID pandemic, consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney immediately. Connecticut courts are hearing priority cases, and yours may qualify.
An Experienced Team
When it comes to the COVID-19 national emergency, we are all in this together. The dedicated legal team at the Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC, takes a balanced approach to all family law matters. Mr. Posmantier is committed to protecting your rights and addressing your legal concerns during these trying times. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 203-930-1515 (Greenwich) or 203-431-8720 (Ridgefield) for more information today.
The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC serves clients seeking to resolve disputes with dignity and integrity who reside in Greenwich, Cos Cob, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, Southport, Trumbull, Bridgeport, Stratford, Shelton, Fairfield, Easton, Weston, Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel, Brookfield, Sherman, Danbury, Newtown, Monroe, New Fairfield, Southbury and Waterbury, as well as the surrounding communities.