Bellenot & Boufford, LLC
COVID-19 & Pending Legal Matters – Do we just have to wait?
The Law Firm of Bellenot & Boufford: Serving Connecticut Since 1990
COVID-19 AND PENDING LEGAL MATTERS – DO WE HAVE TO JUST WAIT?
As many already know, the Connecticut courts are only scheduling and hearing matters identified as, “Priority 1 Business Functions.” These matters primarily deal with public safety and include restraining orders, some juvenile and criminal matters and emergency petitions. Most matters, although of high importance to the litigants, will not qualify. Family cases are uniquely affected simply because of both their immediate need for court rulings and the special importance of the subject matter. Family cases that were scheduled for hearings throughout March and April have been indefinitely postponed. So, what does that mean for the parties involved? Do they have to just wait? Is there nothing that can be done? Some think so. I do not.
There is a lot that can be done to move cases along while this health crisis continues to control the day. I urge both attorneys and parties to be productive and a bit creative during this period of time. I also urge both to be a lot more amicable and open to finding resolutions without the need for a court decision. Sure, it takes two to be reasonable. But I assure you, those who are will reap the benefits of being reasonable in the long run. Those who aren’t will pay the price both in future retribution by the other party (and it will come) and in consequences by the Court when they eventually hear the matter.
Here are some productive actions you can take if you have a pending family matter:
– Production – In just about every case there is some form of production that needs to be (or should be) both requested, produced and reviewed. The period allowed for production usually causes the greatest delay in the life of a case. This is the perfect time for attorneys and litigants to work on this – and it can be done remotely. Doing it now will not only make good use of our time but will put us in a good position to finalize your matter when the courts re-open;
- Communication – Now is the time to communicate with your attorney. You can do this by phone or virtually. Get your questions answered, provide information your attorney has been looking for, discuss the next steps you can take on your case and the outcomes you wish. Take advantage of this time; your attorney is not in court!!
- Advancing the Case – Encourage your attorney to reach out to opposing counsel and try to discuss your case. Attorneys can agree on next steps and possibly streamline discovery. Normally, attorneys are going a million miles an hour and react to pleadings and other communications. Instead, with a little time to plan, things may be able to get accomplished proactively which usually saves time and money.
- Work Out Disagreements – Oftentimes, parties to a legal matter think it’s easier to have attorneys file motions and “let the court decide” than trying to work out their disputes. My experience tells me that many attorneys think the same (or would just rather bill for court work). Well, that option is not available right now. That is really unfair for those dealing with unreasonable people who are not inclined or have no incentive to work out a current disagreement. But there are many people (and attorneys) who, while difficult, are not totally unreasonable and may be willing to be more open to a discussion given the current circumstances. I, for one, am going to keep trying. Any agreements reached can be signed and filed with the court for later processing. Until they are acted upon, they will be valid as contracts between the parties.
- Consider Mediation for Resolution – Litigants always have the option of employing a mediator to help resolve disputes. Many mediators, including myself, are offering this service virtually during this time. Schedules are more free allowing for fast help. See below for more information on mediation.
- File Motions Now – If, despite best efforts, a resolution – even temporary – cannot be reached, don’t wait until the courts re-open to file your motions. The courts are going to be back-logged and, although I am sure they are going to implement some sort of priority list apart from date filed, it is surely better to have filed earlier than later.
All the best.