The Stamford Court Will Reopen June 29 on a Limited Basis
The Stamford court has been closed for several months since an employee contracted the COVID-19 virus. The entire State Judicial Branch has been limited to handling only "priority one business functions," which consist of criminal arrangements, protective order hearings, and emergency child custody ex parte motions. The Stamford court has been closed completely. All matters in our area have been transferred to Bridgeport where they have been heard on a modified schedule three days a week. The Judicial Branch has been cautious about reopening to contested court proceedings due to the dangers of the spread of COVD-19.
What the Court Reopening Means For Family Cases
Regrettably, while Stamford court will be opening its doors again on June 29, 2020, it will not be handling many family matters. The focus remains on approving uncontested matters and approving agreements. Many clients have been stuck under challenging situations unable to process claims for alimony, pendente lite, resolve child custody disputes, or arrange parenting plans. Since the judges are not conducting court hearings, the only way to get anything resolved is by reaching an agreement.
Reaching an Agreement is Your Best Option at This Time
Since the family court system is not processing contested matters for the foreseeable future, parties should make every effort to reach an amicable resolution when possible. The Judicial Branch is scheduling status conferences that are being conducted using remote technology. The Judicial Branch reports that it hs held over 600 remote status or settlement conferences on family cases during the past three months, which have resulted in the resolution of over 300 cases. The parties or counsel can conduct informal settlement discussions at any time, and any agreement can be entered as a court judgment remotely at any time.
Because the courts have been closed since March 20, 2020, many cases are backlogged, and anyone who can't reach an agreement can expect significant backlogs and lengthy delays for a hearing date on a contested motion or trial date. Additionally, it could be several more months until the courts are hearing contested matters. It is anticipated that when the courts do open up fully, they will be working on limited capacity, which will further extend delays. For all these reasons, it is important to work with the opposing party and reach an amicable resolution.
Is Arbitration a Good Solution?
C.G.S. 46b-66(c) permits binding arbitration in divorce actions provided that the dispute does not involve child custody, visitation, or support. For those couples looking to get divorced during these times, arbitration affords an alternative to have a fully contested hearing to litigate the disputed matters in an expedited manner. Arbitration has many advantages because the parties can mutually select and agree on the arbitrator. A significant arbitration industry has sprung up in Connecticut, where some of our best judges have stepped off the bench and gone into arbitration. When you elect a trial in family court, you usually have no idea who the judge will be until the day of your trial, and you can't go to judge shopping if you don't like the judge. Another advantage of arbitration is generally, the arbitrators issue final decisions a lot quicker than superior court judges.
The major disadvantage of arbitration is the cost involved. A trial before a superior court judge is free. An arbitrator can cost thousands of dollars per day. Depending on the amount of assets in dispute and the number of days anticipated to conclude the proceedings, arbitration can cost a significant amount of money. Combined with counsel fees, an extended proceeding can become very pricey. Another disadvantage of arbitration is that often if one party loses the proceeding, they may file an objection with the court to contest the results of the arbitration, which will result in additional legal fees.
Give Us A Call If You Need Additional Information
If you require additional information, please feel free to give us a call for a free consultation about the best way to resolve your family law matter during the COVID-19 crisis. We are here to help you. We are offering free zoom video, facetime, and telephone consultations. Call us today at (203) 998-5555.