Recent and Proposed Changes to Procedure in Connecticut Divorce and Family Matters

hartford-family-courtWhat should I expect when I go to court for my divorce?

Many of Freed Marcroft’s family law clients — whether we represent one party in a dissolution or custody dispute, or serve as a couple’s divorce mediator — are understandably interested in knowing what to expect when they go to family court.

Two recent changes and two proposed changes may significantly impact a client’s experience with the Connecticut family courts.

First, the two proposed changes to family court process currently being considered:

Individual Calendaring — This proposed change would assign one judge to handle certain family cases from start to finish. According to Chief Justice Rogers, benefits of this change would include “improved efficiency and reduced costs of litigation; increased consistency in the handling of motions within a case; greater predictability of procedures and scheduling; and improved satisfaction for the parties.”

Simplified Divorces for Certain Uncontested Divorces Not Involving Children — Currently the dissolution process is largely the same for all families, regardless of whether they (1) agree upon the terms of their divorce, (2) have significant assets, or (3) have minor children.  The judicial branch is now exploring instituting a simpler, more streamlined procedure “for people who want to get a divorce, have no children, have limited assets and who agree on the terms of their dissolution.”  More specifically, “under this model, judges could grant the divorce ‘on the papers,’ without the parties having to come to court.”  In addition, the standard waiting period for a divorce would be reduced from 90 days down to 30 days. Per the Chief Justice: “Not only would these childless couples benefit from the expedited process, but so would other parties using the family courts because the Judicial Branch would be able to more effectively allocate resources based on the complexity of the case.”  (Implementation of a streamlined process would require the legislature to change the current statute.)

Some changes to the family court process are already in effect.  For example significant changes regarding the appointment of guardians ad litem were made in 2014.  In addition, effective Dec. 15, 2014 e-filing was successfully implemented for certain eligible family case types, including dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment and civil union. E-filing has been used in Connecticut Superior court civil litigation for several years, and we find it is not only more efficient for us as the attorney, but also less costly and more convenient for our clients.

In a recent article in the Connecticut Law Tribune, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court Chase T. Rogers announced that in 2015 the Connecticut judicial branch will “continue to devote considerable time and energy to restructuring how the courts handle family matters, with the goal of making the family court process more efficient, cost-effective and easier for families to navigate.”

The proposed changes are a result of input sought by the Judicial Branch from those who have been actual parties in a family case.  “To collect this data, the Judicial Branch has contracted with an independent marketing research company to conduct a survey of 1,000 parties to a family court case, randomly selected by the research company.”  Feedback from Connecticut lawyers and judges was also sought.

If you would like to consider Freed Marcroft for your family law or other legal needs, please contact us.

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Written by Meghan Freed