If you file a divorce, custody, or legal separation complaint in Connecticut (or if you are served with such a complaint), you must read and understand, the “Automatic Court Orders”.
What are Pendente Lite Orders?
Pendente Lite (a Latin term) refers to those orders that may go into effect ‘while the action is pending’, or ‘during the proceeding or litigation’. You may file a motion or motions (separately from the divorce or custody complaint), for pendente lite relief. This form of relief does not come ‘automatically’; you must ask for this relief by filing motions in court.
The reason why someone would pursue pendente lite orders, is that it could take many months to go to final judgment. A party to a divorce or custody case, may not want to wait many months to ask for specific orders, such as:
- Orders for child support or alimony;
- Custody and visitation orders;
- Other financial orders such as who is required to pay the mortgage, utilities, and household expenses; or
- Other temporary orders, or emergency orders, to address a party’s unique situation.
What are the Automatic Orders?
The Automatic Court Orders will apply to both parties, without the need for filing for specific ‘pendente lite’ relief. They apply to the Plaintiff when the complaint is signed, and they apply to the Defendant once the Defendant is served with the Complaint, and Notice of Automatic Orders. It is crucial to read them, and understand them, any time you are a party to a divorce, custody, or legal separation case.
Some Automatic Court Orders affect only cases involving children. For example:
“Neither party shall permanently remove the minor child or children from the state of Connecticut, without written consent of the other or order of a judicial authority.” Further, the Automatic Orders state that “If the parents or minor children live apart during this proceeding, they shall assist their children in having contact with both parties, which is consistent with the habits of the family, personally, by telephone, and in writing. This provision shall not apply if and to the extent there is a prior, contradictory order of a judicial authority”. If you think that complying with the Automatic Orders will be harmful to a child, or is not in a child’s best interests, you should consult with an attorney to understand your legal rights and options.
Other Automatic Court Orders apply in all divorce cases (regardless of whether there are children). For example:
“Neither party shall conceal any property”, and “Neither party shall change the beneficiaries of any life insurance policies, and each party shall maintain the existing life insurance, automobile insurance, homeowners or renters insurance policies in full force and effect.”
There are sixteen (16) Automatic Court Orders and they should be read carefully by all parties. As stated in the orders: “Failure to obey these orders may be punishable by contempt of court. If you object to or seek modification of these orders during the pendency of the action, you have the right to a hearing before a judge within a reasonable time.”
The Automatic Court Orders are available at: https://www.jud.ct.gov/webforms/forms/fm158.pdf