The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to families everywhere. It seems that we all have been facing a “new normal” in just about every aspect of our lives— from remote work to virtual school and everything in between. Since March, our court system has similarly been uprooted. But, lawyers at Pullman have continued to work towards re-opening the Court, at least virtually, so we can advance our clients’ interests.
Until very recently, in Connecticut, parties were unable to seek relief in court unless their matter qualified as a “Priority 1” business function of the court. Unless parties entered into an agreement for court approval without court appearance, the only contested family matters that could be heard by the court were the most emergent of issues, including relief from abuse and emergency custody issues. For all other contested matters not rising to the level of “Priority 1” business, parties have been stuck without the ability to seek relief in court.
Just as work life has changed with a shift toward virtual meetings and telephone conferences taking precedence over in-person meetings, the Connecticut family court is making a similar shift in order to expand court operations. On June 17, 2020, Judge Michael Albis, Chief Administrative Judge of the Family Division, announced that Connecticut judges will begin to hold virtual (video) family court hearings starting June 24, 2020.
While this unprecedented move to remote family court hearings is a sign of welcomed progress that will allow contested family matters to move forward, not all uncontested matters are eligible for a virtual hearing at this time. Rather, the first group of virtual hearings will feature select matters expected to require an hour or less of court time. Nonetheless, this move to virtual hearings will likely be expanded over time to allow more complex and time-consuming matters to be heard virtually by the family court, a move that is long overdue.
Although the courts have been largely closed because of the pandemic, our team members have continued to serve and advocate on behalf of our clients by initiating new cases, settling others, and moving forward with discovery. Virtual family court hearings may be new, but each of our family attorneys is equipped and ready to represent our clients via this new platform. Indeed, our firm has been deeply involved on behalf of the Bar to not only plan for this change, but also we have been among the first lawyers to represent clients using these new tools in the Superior and Appellate Court. We will continue to be at the forefront of the roll-out of these technologies to provide the best representation possible under the circumstances.