There are a number of important items to consider immediately following the commencement of a Connecticut divorce action. This list is, by no means, comprehensive, and it is critically important to consult with a competent and experienced divorce lawyer to discuss these and other considerations. The intention of this list is to provide a brief overview of some initial items of concern:
1. Protecting Equity in Real Estate
In the context of a divorce, a “lis pendens” is a legal document that can be filed on the land records, which informs any future creditor of your spouse that your interest in real estate takes precedent over the creditor’s interest.
This is a useful in situations where a divorcing spouse has a concern that their spouse may be sued for any reason while the divorce is pending, such as for: the collection of a debt; liability for personal injury to another (such as an automobile accident); professional liability; and so on. Also, if it is possible that there are legal judgments outstanding against a spouse, then the filing of a lis pendens may be a wise step to take.
In the view of the Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC, if there is real estate involved, in which there exists any substantial equity to be protected, then it is most likely recommended that a lis pendens be filed.
With this said, many people choose to opt out of the lis pendens procedure in order to save the cost (under $500 with filing and service fees, as well as drafting costs). Another reason to avoid the use of a lis pendens, for some divorce litigants, is a concern about appearing “too aggressive”.
2. Protecting Your Estate in the Event of your Death
In many circumstances, your most current last will and testament (assuming you have one) will govern the distribution of your assets in the event you pass away before the entry of a Connecticut divorce decree. Unless you have already made some changes to your will, this probably means that, in the event of your death while the divorce action is pending, your spouse will receive your share of the marital estate. This may or may not be your desire.
So, what do you do if it is not your desire? Pursuant to certain automatic court orders found in Connecticut Practice Book sec. 25-5, once a divorce action is pending, you cannot (absent agreement of your spouse) transfer assets to a third-party, including a trust entity. You also cannot revoke or change life insurance beneficiaries. You can, however, elect to revoke your prior will, and create a new one naming new beneficiaries. You can also create a testamentary trust (meaning that your individual assets would pass to the beneficiaries of the trust upon your death). A good trust and estate attorney can help you through this process.
Note that there are some statutory restrictions which prevent divesting your spouse of all assets upon your death, but again, a trust and estate attorney can advise you further in this regard.
3. Revocation of Important Legal Documents
Many people have executed powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, or other legal documents granting a spouse the power to make decisions in the event of absence or incapacity. If you have done so during your marriage, then be aware that even though your Connecticut divorce action is pending, your spouse might have considerable legal power over your property, or over your medical care in the event of illness. If this is not your desire, then you should issue a written document immediately revoking whatever powers you have granted. It is important to create a record of the revocation, and the delivery of the same to the person previously granted the power being revoked. Also, be certain to create replacement documents (naming someone else) for any legal power that you revoke.
4. Electronic and Technical Connections
In this digital age, it is common for spouses to be electronically intertwined in a variety of ways. It is also common for spouses to monitor one another’s whereabouts through location sharing applications, such as “Find My Friends”, “Life 360”, “Google Maps”, and so on. If you filed a Connecticut divorce action, you may want to immediately terminate those electronic connections, as well as consider some other technological ties.
Some examples of digital connections requiring disconnection for privacy purposes are:
- Apple Family Sharing account
- Location services on mobile devices
- Location sharing applications
- Cellular phone accounts (to avoid tracking of telephone usage)
- Video monitoring services that are accessible in the cloud (Ring doorbell cameras, Arlo, etc.)
- Alarm codes and alarm monitoring “safe words” (when living separately)
- E-mail account passwords
- Mobile device passwords
- Online bank and credit card account passwords
Note that, even when taking care of all of the above technological connections, in extreme cases, some spouses download “keylogging” or other “spy” software into the other spouse’s electronic device and/or home WI-fi network. This type of software monitors each and every keystroke. So, when a password is changed, the snooping spouse is informed of the same (s well as everything else being done by the unsuspecting other). Oftentimes, this type of software cannot be detected, even with the help of a qualified expert. Therefore, if you are concerned that a device may have been compromised, the best thing to do is dispose of it, get a replacement that cannot be accessed by your spouse, and then change all account passwords using only the “clean” device.
5. Avoiding the Divorce Timeline from Being Restarted
If your spouse has commenced a divorce action, then you may want to consider whether to file a “cross-complaint”. In a Connecticut divorce action, the “cross-complaint” is a legal document indicating that you also want to proceed with the divorce process. Filing this document ensures that your spouse cannot unilaterally terminate the divorce action, thereby re-starting the timeline of the process. Protecting against this possibility is more important than ever because the Connecticut family court system is extremely backlogged.
6. Connecticut Divorcing Parents Parenting Education Program
If a Connecticut divorce action has been filed, and the parties have minor children who are issue of their relationship, then both parents are required to complete a Parent Education Program (PEP) within sixty days of the return day of the complaint.
More information about this program can be found here: https://www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/FM151.pdf
Currently, the PEP is being offered in an online format. The available courses are listed here: https://jud.ct.gov/HomePDFs/parentingprogram.pdf
You should expect to pay roughly $100 for participation in the PEP.
The Law Offices of Eric R. Posmantier, LLC provides divorce representation, mediation and arbitration services in Fairfield County, including Greenwich, Ridgefield, Danbury, Brookfield, Sherman, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, New Fairfield, Darien, New Canaan, Redding, Shelton, Trumbull, Monroe, Bridgeport, Weston and Easton. Remote mediation and arbitration services are provided in all other counties in Connecticut, as well.