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 divorce, legal separationcustody, or visitation action. These are commonly referred to 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. 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.

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

  • Dissolution of marriage (Divorce)
  • Legal separation
  • Annulment
  • Legal custody

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 which are attached to the Complaint that is filed by the person seeking the divorce or separation, etc. (the “Plaintiff”), and served on the other spouse (the “Defendant”).

When Do the Automatic Orders Apply?

The Automatic Orders go into effect and apply to the Plaintiff immediately as soon as the complaint is signed. They apply to the Defendant as soon as the Notice of Automatic Orders is served with a copy of the complaint or application. The orders remain in effect throughout the legal action except if they are specifically changed by a different court order. Note that it’s possible that the court can punish certain actions as Automatic Orders violations even if they occur before the orders technically take effect if it continues after the orders were in place. For example, if in planning for the divorce, one spouse attempts to protect and/or conceal assets from the other spouse, 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, which are explained in Connecticut Practice Book §25-5, describe things that both parties are prohibited 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 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.

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, and custody, and child support.

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, usually by filing a Motion for Contempt of the Automatic Orders. To hold your spouse in contempt, the court must find that your spouse willfully violated the terms of the Automatic Orders when they were in effect. In some limited circumstances, the judge may even extend a finding of contempt to include a time 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.

Next Steps

Depending on your goals and the circumstances of your particular situation, the Automatic Orders may be a useful tool or may need to be modified. At Freed Marcroft, we are experienced both in seeking both Court enforcement and modification of the Automatic Orders as the circumstances and your goals require.

Our first step, the Goals & Planning Conference is designed 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 are able to take our 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