In Connecticut, upon filings for dissolution of marriage, dissolution of civil union, custody, and visitation, annulment, or legal separation, automatic court orders are put into place that essentially put a freeze on taking certain actions during the pendency of the case. These orders essentially act as restraining orders and are binding on the plaintiff at the time the complaint is signed, and on the defendant when served. Both parties must comply with these orders or risk facing contempt.
The intention behind these orders makes sense: they are designed to maintain the status quo. The period surrounding a divorce or separation can be extremely sensitive due to the enormity of uncertainty and associated stress, especially for households with children. Parents and children who once lived their lives completely intertwined will be forced to make changes in the coming months as the household is divided. Understandably, the stress that comes along with these changes often results in bringing the worst out of the parties. The automatic court orders aim to minimize actions by the parties that would inevitably cause further distress—or necessary legal action.
Connecticut courts recognize that in cases involving children it is imperative to keep everything as close to normal as possible to minimize the disruption the divorce has on children. The parties are ordered not to move the children permanently from the state of Connecticut without the written consent of both parties. When moving from the marital home, you are ordered to notify the other party within 48 hours and to provide the other party with an address for mail to allow for communication. If the parties have decided to live separately during the pendency of the case, the parties must also aid the children in continuing usual contact with the other parent in person, by telephone, or in writing. Likewise, no parent may change existing medical insurance or allow for such policies to expire. Both parents must also participate in a parenting education program.
It is worth noting, however, that such orders involving the children do not override any existing court orders that are in conflict. Conflicting orders may include existing criminal protective orders put in place at arraignment after a domestic violence arrest or civil protective orders.
In addition to their application to families with children, the automatic court orders also extend to finances, regardless of whether parties have children. In all cases, neither party may dispose of any property without written agreement by the other party or court order. You may not hide property, mortgage property, remove the other party from ownership in a joint asset, go into unreasonable debt, remove the other from existing medical, life, auto, homeowners, or renter’s insurance or allow such policies to expire, change the terms or beneficiaries of life insurance, or deny the use of the family home to the other person without a court order.
While these orders are intended to be limiting, you can imagine the complexities that may arise. Is there a family business? Will the addition of a second household change the financial situation substantially? Does one party need to get a job considerably changing the childcare need? It may prove difficult to navigate everyday life with these orders in place and thus it is important to seek competent counsel to aid you in the process.
If you have any further questions about automatic court orders in Connecticut or would like the representation of an experienced attorney to assist you, contact our Managing Partner Joseph Maya directly via email at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by telephone at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation.