What are the “Automatic Orders” in a Connecticut Divorce?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

In Connecticut, some court orders go into effect automatically at the beginning of a divorcelegal separationcustody, or visitation action. We commonly refer to these as the “Automatic Orders.”

Read on for answers to the most commonly asked questions about the Automatic Orders.

“Automatic Orders” in a Connecticut Divorce

What is the Purpose of the Automatic Orders?

There is a lot of emotion and uncertainty in play at the beginning of divorce and other family law cases. The purpose of the Automatic Orders is to maintain the status quo with regard to your finances, property, and children “pendente lite” — or while your divorce is pending. They prevent either spouse from taking actions that would drastically affect the couple’s property or children without the other spouse’s consent, such as spending a large amount of money, changing life or medical insurance beneficiaries, mortgaging or selling a home, locking the other spouse out of the home, or taking children out of the state. In some cases, it may make sense to file a case in order so that the Automatic Orders will be in effect, as they can be an effective tool to accomplish client goals.

Read:What Is Pendente Lite?

In What Types of Connecticut Cases Do the Automatic Orders Apply?

To Whom Do the Automatic Orders Apply in a Connecticut Divorce?

The parties in a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, annulment, legal custody, or visitation are automatically subject to these orders.  The person seeking the divorce or separation, etc. (the “Plaintiff”), attaches them to the Complaint that they file with the Court and servedon the other spouse (the “Defendant”).

When Do the Automatic Orders Apply?

The Automatic Orders go into effect and apply to the Plaintiff immediately as they sign the complaint. They apply to the Defendant as soon as they are served with the Notice of Automatic Orders. The orders remain in effect throughout the legal action unless the court issues a different court order. Note that the court can punish certain actions even if they occur before the orders technically take effect. For example, if one spouse attempts to protect and/or conceal assets from the other spouse before filing, the court may find the spouse in violation of the automatic orders.

What is Covered By the Connecticut Automatic Orders?

Automatic Orders that Prohibit Action

The Automatic Orders, contained in Connecticut Practice Book §25-5, describe things that Connecticut prohibits both parties from doing, including:

  • Sell, exchange, take away, give away or dispose of any property without written agreement with the other party or a court order except in their usual business or for usual expenses for the home or for reasonable attorney’s fees in the case.
  • Hide any property.
  • Mortgage any property except in their usual business or for usual expenses for the house or for reasonable attorney’s fees for the case without written agreement or a court order.
  • Have any asset or an asset that is owned by both parties become owned only by him or her without written agreement or a court order.
  • Go into unreasonable debt by borrowing money or using credit cards or cash advances unreasonably.
  • Take the other spouse or the child(ren) off any existing medical, hospital, doctor, or dental insurance policy or let any such insurance coverage end.
  • Change the terms or named beneficiaries of any existing insurance policy or let any existing insurance coverage end, including life, automobile, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
  • Permanently take the child(ren) from Connecticut without a written agreement or a court order.
  • Deny use of the family home to the other person without a court order, if the spouses are living together on the date the court papers are delivered.

Read: How Are Assets Protected in a CT Divorce?

Read: Health Insurance & Divorce

Automatic Orders That Require Action

Some of the Automatic Orders require action. For example, both parties must:

  • Complete and exchange sworn financial affidavits within thirty days of the return date.
  • Participate in a parenting education program (if the children are under 18).
  • Attend a case management conference on the date specified, unless you both agree on all issues and file a Case Management Agreement form with the court clerk on or before that date.
  • Tell the other person in writing within forty-eight hours about your new address or a place where you can receive mail if you move out of the family home (if the children are under 18).
  • Facilitate the usual contact between the children and both parents in person, by telephone, and in writing.

In other words, the automatic orders impact property divisionalimony, custody, and child support.

Read: What Is a Financial Affidavit in a Connecticut Divorce?

How are the Automatic Orders Enforced in Connecticut Divorces?

Sometimes, a spouse violates the Automatic Orders. If this happens, you need to affirmatively bring it to the court’s attention.  Often, we do this by filing a Motion for Contempt of the Automatic Orders. To hold someone contempt, the court must find they willfully violated the terms of the Automatic Orders. In some limited circumstances, the judge may even extend a finding of contempt to include a period prior to the date of service of the Automatic Orders if the court finds that the act was committed in contemplation of the filing of the action. In some cases, it may also be appropriate for you to seek a Temporary Injunction.

Read: What Is a Motion for Contempt?

Read: What Is a Temporary Injunction?

Next Steps

Depending on your goals and the circumstances, the Automatic Orders may or may not be a helpful tool. At Freed Marcroft, we are experienced in seeking both Court enforcement and modification of the Automatic Orders.  We designed our first step, the Goals & Planning Conference, to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals for your life. Once we discover your goals for your life at the Goals and Planning Conference, we can take all of our collective experience with divorce, law, the available ways to divorce, strategy, courts, judges, and other lawyers and build a divorce, separation, or annulment customized for you.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us here.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC