As family law attorneys in Connecticut, we are asked many questions by clients during their initial divorce consultation. In this, the second part of a two-part series, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.
Will I have to go to court during my divorce in Connecticut? If so, when and why will I have to go to court?
Once you file the divorce action, the court will schedule various court dates – including a Resolution Plan Date, Case Date, status conferences, and pretrial conferences – as check-ins to ensure that your case is moving along. Parties and lawyers may meet with judges or family relations personnel on these court dates. The court will want to see if there are emergent issues or motions that need to be heard and whether necessary documents and information are being made available.
If you settle your matter before a scheduled court date and submit the required paperwork, you may not have to go to the court date. If a scheduled court date doesn’t work for you, you can ask for it to be rescheduled, but the court has the discretion to move the date or keep it as scheduled.
For some pretrial matters, family relations conferences, or trial or hearings on filed motions, the parties have to appear in person at the court. But for others court dates, such as status conferences in which both parties are represented by attorneys, your attorney may be able to attend on your behalf.
If you resolve your divorce by agreement, you can submit all of the final divorce paperwork electronically to the court’s online system. You don’t have to miss work and drive to the courthouse to appear before the judge for your final divorce date if you settle your case.
How and when do we tell children about divorce?
The age and needs of the child or children will affect how and when you tell them.
Some clients choose the collaborative divorce process, in which each party is represented by their own collaborative divorce attorney, who collaborates with the other party’s attorney and other team members, which may include a parenting coach or mental health professional, to resolve the matter. When we go through the collaborative process with clients, we may discuss how and when to tell the children with the parenting coach or mental health professional. These professionals give advice based on the children’s age and needs. Some clients choose to wait until everything is almost done and they know who is going to live where, so they can tell the children when they have answers.
If there is a lot of conflict, some people choose to tell the kids early on, so they will understand what’s going on. When kids are older, such as middle school or high school age, it may be more difficult to keep the divorce from them.
Which divorce process option you choose can also affect timing. If you are in custody litigation, children will likely know early on since there may be a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or other court personnel who need to talk to them.
When possible, it’s preferable for both parents to deliver the news together. If the child has a therapist, perhaps the news can be delivered by you in that setting. We encourage parents to clearly communicate the message that, “We are your parents no matter what; we love you so much and our love for you is never going to change, but the relationship between us as married people is not working. The family is going to look a little different, but it will not change our love for you as your parents.”
It’s also important to make children feel secure that they have not contributed in any way to the divorce and to set a boundary that the parents are going to be the ones who make the decisions. Parents might say, “We’re going to be making decisions that we believe are best for you. These are adult issues; we will figure it out, and you have nothing to worry about. You are at the forefront of our decision making, and we will let you know what the decisions are at the right time.”
This will help protect the kids from thinking that they have to know all of the information and make a decision, which would put them in the middle when they should not be. Even if parents aren’t on the same page about what the parenting plan will look like, saying “We’ll let you know” takes pressure off the kids.
How do I get my spouse out of my house?
If you need to live apart from your spouse during the divorce proceedings, there are two options that don’t require court involvement: the other spouse could leave, or you could leave. You could have a discussion about who might move out of the home. If there is not an agreement about someone leaving, a party can file a motion for exclusive use and possession of the home. But if your reason is, “I just want my spouse out of the house because it’s uncomfortable,” that is not going to win the day in court. If you want the change to happen, you may have to consider your options and be the one to leave.
You and your spouse will need to consider how the daily expenses will continue to be paid and whether the resources exist for two separate residences. If a new separate residence is not feasible due to cost or availability, some clients choose to move in with family members, and others choose to rent a small space that the parents alternate living in during their non-parenting time, while the parent who has time with the children stays in the marital home.
Clients fear that if they leave the house, they will be seen as abandoning the family or the home. When a court is determining what is in the best interests of a child, the court may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily left the marital home during the pendency of the divorce case in order to alleviate stress within the household. The discussion about whether a person should leave the marital home, given his or her circumstances, is best had with an experienced Connecticut family law attorney.
Unless there are exigent circumstances, it is often preferable for parents to establish an interim parenting plan before separating residences.
If you are considering a divorce and would like to speak to an experienced Connecticut family law attorney, contact our attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns & Britt. Call 860-206-9096 or click here.