Getting a divorce in Connecticut during COVID-19
Impacts from the Coronavirus have dramatically altered the course of our everyday lives. Basic health issues taken for granted just a few short weeks ago and scary thoughts like “community spread” are becoming borderline obsessions as all of us race to wash our hands, sanitize all the horizontal surfaces we touch, and stockpile disinfectants, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues and antibacterial wipes.
Accordingly, Needle|Cuda is posting high level guidance (Frequently Asked Questions & Answers) so that our clients and/or potential new clients can take comfort in the notion that outlets are available and productive path remain for a wide range of family conflicts despite the short-term challenges presented by the quarantine.
If you are thinking about a getting a Divorce in Connecticut or are already Divorced and need to pursue a Post-Judgement Modification(Alimony or Child Support Modification) as a result of a material change in circumstance related to the medical or economic impacts of the Coronavirus, please note the following FAQ’s:
I’m quarantined but I’m in the middle of a divorce action…the tension was high to begin with, but now stuck under the same roof, with nowhere to go, how do we move forward if we can not even leave the house?
There is still a lot of leg work that can be done remotely to move a case forward. You can work on collecting required financial disclosure paperwork, you can work with your attorney or paralegal to complete your financial affidavit, you can call your lawyer to discuss strategy and next steps. In essence, staying engaged in the process will empower you to feel better that negotiations are moving forward. Our firm is set up to provide these services to our clients.
What will happen to my divorce case since the courts are closed?
Courts are working closely with attorneys to come up with solutions so client needs may be addressed. I have been involved in cases where parties appear by videoconferencing and this may be a viable option. Mediation and other alternative dispute resolution protocols can be implemented to address client needs. The courts closure is a novel occurrence and we are working creatively to address the gaps such closures have created.
In the interim, do not hesitate to file a divorce action or a Motion in your current divorce because you want to have a place holder in be in the queue when the Courts reopen. The court closure in May 2020 will likely create a back log of cases when the court house reopens.
My job is at risk/my small business has already taken a huge hit…Can I adjust my child support and alimony payments now?
We are entering a strange new world and many of us will suffer an adverse economic impact as a result of COVID-19. Talk to your ex-spouse directly and make your current situation clear and that you want to keep him/her updated during these uncertain times. Explain that you will have to adjust payments, but when things get better you will readjust when business picks up again.
Probably a very important thing is to demonstrate that you are making adjustments and sacrifices to you own daily life by cutting back on certain things.
Let’s face it though, there is a strong likelihood that a direct plea will not lead to a compromise by your ex, then you should consider filing a Motion immediately with the court to preserve the right to modify support retroactive to the date your income took a hit. You may not get a court date immediately to make an adjustment, but hopefully when you do you will receive some financial relief that may date back to the filing or service of the motion. Filing a timely motion to preserve dating for the remedy/relief and the possibility of a retroactive award is an important consideration.
What can you do at Home to help the children?
Stay calm and be a source of comfort for your children. Kids are very perceptive to a parent’s feelings and moods so try to have a semblance of normalcy. If your child is old enough to watch television, consider limiting sensationalized Coronavirus news that may be scary. Rather, have a conversation and answer questions and address concerns and let them know that they are okay. Call the pediatrician to discuss how to handle these conversations given your child’s age, temperament and developmental needs. This will reflect positively on your parenting skills.
How can you protect your children?
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects, including children’s toys.
Children are known for putting their hands everywhere and on everything so teach them not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth. Encourage them to wash their hands well and often. Have them sing the ABC song while they are washing their hands…make a game out of it. This will reflect positively on your parenting skills.
What will happen to the kids if I get Coronavirus? How will that affect my parenting plan? Will I be able to have make-up time when I am healthy again?
It really depends on what your parenting plan says, and most likely, your plan says nothing about if a pandemic hit. If you have concerns about these questions, you should bring them up now, with your ex-spouse or your divorce lawyer. You could amend your parenting plan or even have a written agreement outlining what you will do. Being proactive about this now will save you worry and concern if this becomes an issue later.
What happens if one of our kids gets Coronavirus?
This is a scenario that you should discuss with your ex-spouse and your attorney now. You have likely addressed what to do and procedures to follow in situations where you child becomes hurt or is ill and required medical treatment. What you probably did not plan for is where your child should stay if they become quarantined. This is an issue that needs to be addressed now.
If you have more than one child, how will you handle if one child is ill and one is healthy? Or, if one parent lives with an aging parent or someone else in a high risk category, you may decide that the children should reside with the other parent, to prevent even the possibility of bringing home and spreading the virus.
How do we Co-Parent during COVID-19?
Take this as an opportunity to create an open line of communication between you your ex. If direct communication is a struggle, enlist the help of a software platform, such as Our Family Wizard. Try to put your family’s interest first. It is very important that both parents are on the same page when it comes to what measure will be used to protect their children. If met with resistance, call your divorce lawyer to help come up with strategies.
How do we handle co-parenting with school closures due to Coronavirus?
Have a conversation with your boss so you can understand meaningful ways you can contribute in the care of the children. Be proactive to get ahead of any potential challenges.
The parenting plan can be a guide as to handle school closure. So, if one parent typically has the children form Monday after school until the return to school Wednesday, there is a strong argument that this parent should have the children from Monday morning thru Wednesday morning. Talk to your ex and your lawyer. There is no strict guideline as to handle this situation, but the having the discussion will put the whole family at ease.
What if my ex is taking health risks, or not taking Coronavirus seriously enough in a way that could impact the health of our kids?
You should call your lawyer right away if you are concerned about your ex’s ability to safely parent your children. If your ex has come in contact with the virus or puts themselves in risky situation, you need to do what is best for your children. Your attorney can assist you in formulating a safe plan.
Needle | Cuda — Keeping the workplace safe during the Coronavirus
Needle|Cuda is taking a safe but proactive approach to the Coronavirus in our law practice. We are working everyday to represent our clients. At the same time, we are following best practices to protect the health of our clients and our employees.
All of our employees understand that they should not be working if they are sick, and in particular that they should not be at our office if they feel ill.
To further protect our employees and our clients we encourage meetings by phone, Face Time, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom or similar means. We have represented clients from out of state and out of country in this manner for several years. Video conferencing is a very effective use of technology that allows attorney and client to stay connected in an effort to move your case forward.
We are also working diligently with the divorce courts, as well as opposing counsel, to reschedule court appearances, settlement conferences, and other litigation events remotely whenever possible. There are several options available to ensure cases continue to move forward, even though the Family Courts are only open for limited circumstances. Private arbitration is one such alternative/example.
To further protect the health of all concerned, all of our attorneys, paralegals and staff have the technology and encrypted, secure access to work on cases remotely. Your phone calls will be returned. Your emails will be answered. Your case deadlines will be met.
We will continue to work to take care of our clients
Attorney Melissa Needle is a lifetime resident of Connecticut. She was born in New Haven and raised in Fairfield. Her family has deep roots in Connecticut and she is a third-generation attorney. Since her admission to the bar in 1990, Ms. Needle has practiced matrimonial law exclusively.