Renouncing your marital vows is hardly a pleasant experience, but holding on to the dying embers of a failed or unhappy relationship is much worse. If for better or worse becomes more of a chore than a journey, it may be time to say goodbye to your spouse.
Getting familiar with Connecticut divorce laws improves your chances of deciding the terms of your divorce. In this guide, you will learn the step-by-step procedure for divorce and the requirements for dissolution of marriage in Connecticut.
Divorce in Connecticut Summary
Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Connecticut.
Divorce Petition Requirements
In order to dissolve your marriage, Connecticut courts can only do so in the following circumstances:
- When the divorce petition or final divorce judgment was filed by a spouse who has resided in the state for more than a year before
- Before filing for divorce, one spouse moved away from Connecticut, the state where the marriage certificate was issued, and then returned.
- The event that precipitated the decision to divorce occurred after either you or your spouse moved to Connecticut.
How to File A Divorce in Connecticut
The first step in dissolving your marriage is to obtain the necessary divorce paperwork from the courthouse. Whether the spouses have children will determine the kind of documents that must be filed.
You can jointly apply for an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse agree on the terms of the separation.
The Superior Court in Connecticut has authority over divorce cases. Your complaints, the issuance of child support orders, and the dissolution of your marriage can only be done by the Superior Court.
You must give copies of the court documents to your spouse or former partner to inform them about the divorce process. You can either present the divorce documents to them in person, electronically, or by using the State Marshal’s delivery service.
In response to your complaint, your spouse may decide to accept your claims or file a cross-complaint. When your divorce complaint is received, your spouse has 30 days to file a response.
This mainly pertains to disputed divorce cases where there are various points of contention.
The judge may not preside over the final divorce hearing in a non-adversarial Connecticut divorce. Otherwise, the separation agreement you and your partner negotiated will be approved or rejected by the judge.
At the last divorce hearing or trial, the judge will issue a final divorce decree to conclude the legal process. The judge’s rulings will be included in the divorce decree.
This completes the divorce process in Connecticut.
Requirements for Filing a Divorce in Connecticut
Before filing your divorce complaint, the first obstacle is confirming if you qualify for a divorce in Connecticut. Your qualification status is determined by how long you or your spouse has lived in Connecticut. However, if kids are involved, the court can only issue orders affecting them if they also fulfill specific residency requirements.
Connecticut courts can only issue a divorce decree to dissolve your marriage in the following situations:
- Where one spouse lived in the state for more than a year before filing for divorce or the final dissolution decree
- One spouse formerly resided in Connecticut, where the marriage certificate was issued, but relocated and returned to the state before filing for divorce
- The reason that prompted the divorce decision happened after you or your spouse became a resident of Connecticut
NOTE: If your divorce involves minor kids, the children must have resided with a parent in the state for at least six months before either parent can file for divorce. Minor children younger than six months old must have been with their parents since birth. The court cannot issue related orders or grant a divorce decree if these requirements are unmet.
How to File for Divorce in Connecticut
There are some things to consider when you decide to file for divorce in Connecticut. The first is what type of divorce to file and the judicial district of the Connecticut courts to file in.
In an uncontested divorce, you or your partner can file the divorce complaint individually or jointly. If the divorce is contested, you have to file an individual complaint. An uncontested divorce is one in which you and your spouse agree on the divorce terms, while a contested divorce usually has one spouse filing a petition against the other. If you are the filing spouse in the divorce action, being familiar with the steps in the Connecticut divorce process is a good advantage.
You may also find it easier to use an online divorce service to complete the filing process for you. Nevertheless, here is how you can terminate marital relations legally in Connecticut:
Step 1: Preparing the Divorce Paperwork
The first step to ending your marriage is picking up the relevant forms for a divorce at the courthouse. The type of forms to be filed will depend on whether the spouses have children. If you and your spouse agree on the terms of the dissolution, you can jointly file for an uncontested divorce.
Thankfully, these forms are available on the court’s website so that you can begin your divorce online. The mandatory documents that the filing spouse must fill out are the Summons Family Actions form and the Divorce Complaint or Cross Complaint forms. The Notice of Automatic Court Orders form must also be completed and attached to the divorce complaint. If the spouses are parents with minor children, the filing party must include the Affidavit Concerning Children with the complaint.
The paperwork will state the return date and case management date for the proceedings, which are 90 days apart. The Case Management Agreement form must also be filled out and sent to the clerk’s office.
You can find and download your divorce forms on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website, where you’ll find instructions based on the conditions that apply to you. Alternatively, you can file in person with the court clerk. If you encounter difficulties, reach out to the Court Service Center.
Step 2: Filing the Divorce Forms at the Superior Court
In Connecticut, divorce proceedings are under the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. Only the Superior Court can listen to your complaints, grant child support orders, and dissolve your marriage. Upon completing the paperwork, they must be delivered or brought to the Superior Court and filed with the clerk in the county where you or your spouse lives. The clerk will sign the summons and return the forms to the sender.
Step 3: Serve the Divorce Forms to the Other Party
You must notify your spouse or estranged lover of the divorce process by giving them copies of the court papers. You may do this personally, electronically, or send them copies of the divorce papers via the State Marshal’s delivery service. Details about the State Marshals are available at the clerk’s office.
Subsequently, file the Return of Service document as proof that your spouse received the paperwork alongside the filing fees and the original documents with the clerk. If the divorce is uncontested, you may file a waiver, showing your spouse’s consent and awareness of the divorce proceedings.
Step 4: Spouse’s Response to the Divorce Complaint
Your spouse may choose to respond to your complaint by accepting your claims or issuing a cross complaint. In this case, your spouse must file such a response within 30 days of receiving your divorce complaint. This primarily applies to a contested divorce filing with disagreement on several issues.
This response includes an appearance and an answer form on which your spouse can either agree or disagree with the claims in your divorce complaints. Your spouse can also file a cross complaint form to address personal needs not included in the divorce complaint. You and your spouse will also fill out financial affidavit forms to declare income, assets, and liabilities.
Once the case file is open, there is a notice of automatic order to put specific automatic court orders in place. The court orders will prohibit you and your spouse from unjust actions like disposing of your assets, excessive spending, changing life or health insurance terms, or relocating with the children.
Step 5: Final Divorce Hearing or Trial
For a non-adversarial Connecticut divorce, the judge may not preside over the final divorce hearing. Otherwise, the judge will authorize or refuse the separation agreement you and your partner arranged. The judge also passes judgments on the unsettled matter and modifies the terms of automatic court orders.
However, the case will proceed to trial if you and your spouse fail to negotiate the terms of the separation agreement. Both sides can present evidence before the court to back their claims and requests.
Step 6: The Divorce Order
The judge will issue a final decree on the divorce after the final divorce hearing or trial to finalize the court proceedings. The divorce order will contain decisions made by the judge.
If you need help with your divorce . . .
Unfamiliar legal terminologies and court paperwork can confuse you while navigating your divorce filing. Finding helpful resources will provide the needed knowledge to file court documents and know what to expect from the proceedings.
The Divorce, Custody, and Visitation page on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website is a great place to find helpful information and resources. You can also check out this helpful list of Connecticut’s best online divorce services for more assistance with your divorce.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a divorce in Connecticut?
The duration of divorce proceedings in Connecticut depends on the type of divorce and other relevant circumstances. The disposition of a non-adversarial Connecticut divorce takes about 30 days. Because an agreement between the spouses exists, the presiding judge will review the paperwork to ensure the fulfillment of statutory requirements. However, the judge can schedule a hearing to ensure that the agreement favors both parties.
You and your spouse may finalize your divorce without court appearances if you meet all of the following conditions:
- The marriage has existed for at least nine years
- No pregnancy or children are involved
- Neither party owns real property
- The cost of other properties is under $80,000
- There is no official benefit pension plan
- No debts exist to be shared
- No other pending divorce case
- No party filed for a protective or restraining order on the other spouse
For other types of Connecticut divorce, the earliest date to enter a final divorce decree is 90 days after the return date. If the spouses are parents to minor kids, they must take a mandatory education class before the court can issue a final decree. Parents with little children must finish the parenting program within 60 days after the divorce filing.
However, the filing spouse may choose to waive the 90-day waiting period if the other spouse does not file an appearance. Both parties can also jointly request that the court waives the waiting period. A divorce case will take longer to finalize if there is no agreement and the judge has to resolve matters that may arise.
What are the different types of divorce in Connecticut?
There are three types of divorce options available in Connecticut. Prospective divorcees can have a mediation, collaborative, or litigated divorce.
A mediation divorce requires the presence of a mediator, who is a neutral professional that facilitates a favorable agreement between both parties. Mediation can result in the amicable settlement of divorce matters, including child support, parenting schedule, alimony payment, and marital property division. The divorce mediator provides legal guidance and helps out from the divorce action to the post-divorce process. Mediation is successful if the outcome of the agreement negotiation is equitable and fair by the court standards. The divorce will be finalized if the judge grants the divorce decree upon reviewing the agreement.
Like mediation, you and your spouse can avoid litigation by opting for a collaborative divorce. However, a divorce lawyer must represent each spouse in a private agreement negotiation. The goal of a collaborative divorce is for both parties to reach a fair divorce settlement. Both sides may make concessions to accommodate the other spouse’s needs to reach a divorce settlement agreement. The negotiation’s results are entered into the divorce settlement form and filed in the courthouse. A collaborative divorce is also called a non-adversarial divorce.
Divorce litigation is unavoidable in Connecticut when both sides fail to reach a divorce settlement out of court. Moreover, it may be necessary to have a litigated divorce under certain circumstances, such as an abusive relationship. A divorce filing with the court begins the litigation process, and court hearings ensue. Unlike other divorce options, the court makes all the decisions and issues orders. Sometimes, you and your spouse may reach an amicable agreement at the pretrial conference. Failure to negotiate a separation agreement will end with a trial. A judge presides over the trial process and decides on all the unresolved issues.
Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Connecticut?
Self-representation in a Connecticut divorce action is allowed by the state judiciary branch. It is known as divorcing pro se. However, keep in mind that some legal consequences may occur in a divorce proceeding, and it is advisable to obtain legal advice. Hiring a divorce attorney may better your chances of getting a favorable dissolution.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch provides resources for self-represented parties to file for divorce. For instance, the Do It Yourself Divorce Guide on its website helps pro se parties through the divorce process. The court clerk can also answer questions about the divorce process. However, neither the clerk nor the court service center can provide legal advice. Parties to a collaborative or litigated Connecticut divorce must use different attorneys.
Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce In Connecticut?
You do not have to prove separation to get a divorce in Connecticut. As long as you or your spouse satisfies the state’s residency requirements, you qualify to proceed with your divorce action.
Connecticut does not practice joint law separation, a process in which spouses automatically get legally separated if they reside apart for a specific duration. However, spouses can decide to file for legal separation in Connecticut. The filing process is similar to a divorce, but the outcome is different.
While a divorce order dissolves a marriage, spouses remain married after a legal separation decree. A legal separation is usually an option if the spouses intend to work on their marriage. Unlike a divorce decree, a legal separation decree can be reversed. In both divorce and separation proceedings, the spouses can negotiate an agreement to resolve contested issues, such as the terms of custody and spousal support.
Can I get a divorce in Connecticut if I was married in another state?
Absolutely! If you got married in another state, you could still get your Connecticut divorce if you or your spouse meets the residency requirement. While marital dissolution laws vary from state to state, they all agree that everyone deserves a chance to leave an unhappy marriage. Typically, one of you must have resided in the state for no less than 12 months before the divorce petition or by the final divorce hearing.
Is spousal fault necessary for the dissolution of marriage in Connecticut?
You may not need to prove spousal fault for the dissolution of marriage in Connecticut. Although Connecticut is not exclusively a no-fault state, you can get a no-fault divorce if the marriage is declared irretrievably broken. If the no-fault divorce is uncontested, the process is shorter, and litigation may not be necessary.
You can also file for divorce on legally accepted grounds. Unlike a no-fault divorce, filing a divorce based on spousal fault means you have to prove the spouse’s misconduct.
Fault-based divorces can be based on these circumstances:
- Separation or living apart from your spouse for 18 months: This is considered proof of incompatibility under Connecticut law.
- Extramarital affairs or infidelity
- Fraudulent contract
- Willful desertion of a spouse for at least a year without performing marital responsibilities
- Absence of a spouse without communication for seven or more years
- Habitual intemperance (this must have existed till the divorce action)
- Extreme cruelty, such as domestic violence and abuse
- Imprisonment of a spouse for a period exceeding one year or conviction of a felony
- One spouse suffers permanent mental incapacitation: In this case, the spouse must have been admitted to a mental facility for an accumulation of five years within a six-year duration before the divorce action.
Fault-based divorces require the filing spouse to show proof and usually result in litigation if contested by the other spouse.
Who gets child custody in a Connecticut divorce?
In a dissolution of marriage with children, the court issues a child custody order to establish custodial arrangements between you and your spouse. A custody order determines who gets legal custody and physical custody. While physical custody determines who the child lives with, legal custody gives a parent decision-making authority on important issues that concern the child.
Connecticut custody laws are intended to award custodial rights based on the child’s best interest. The court may award sole custody to one spouse or joint custody to both parents. It is more common for the court to share legal custody between parents and grant sole physical custody if it suits the child’s needs.
The parents can also decide custody arrangements in a separation agreement on their terms or with the help of a divorce lawyer or mediator. After preparing the custody arrangement, a judge will review it to confirm that it matches statutory provisions before granting the custody order.
The court will decide the custody arrangement if the agreement does not favor the child. The following factors will influence the ruling on a custody order by a judge:
- The custodial preference of the child
- The ability of each parent to provide a comfortable home
- The cultural background of the child
- Willingness and availability of each parent to be actively involved in the child’s life
- The stability of the child’s primary residence
- The duration that the child has resided in the current home
- The child’s familiarity with the current place of residence and school
- If the child requires special needs and the ability of each parent to provide these needs
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a good relationship between the child and the other parent
- If any parent has a history of child abuse or domestic violence
- Other factors the court wishes to consider
NOTE: In ensuring the child will be well cared for, the court may recommend a mandatory parenting education class pending the custody hearing.
What factors influence alimony and child support payments?
Alimony is the money paid by one spouse to the other for financial support after the divorce. If the spouses cannot negotiate the terms of alimony, the court may order one party to pay alimony to the other. The judge will consider certain statutory factors before awarding alimony. Either spouse can also request alimony in the divorce complaint or cross complaint.
Before granting an alimony request, the judge will consider the following factors:
- The duration of the marriage
- The legal ground for the dissolution of marriage
- The age and the health status of each spouse
- Educational qualifications, occupation, income, and earning capacity of each spouse
- The employability level of each party
- Marital property awarded to each spouse by the court, if any
- Personal estate and needs of each spouse
- The prospect of the spouse with custody of minor custody securing employment
For child support payments, the court shall consider:
- The age and health of each parent and the child
- The needs of the child
- The occupation, location, and earning capacity of each parent
- The net worth, income, and sources of income of each parent
- The vocational skills and employability of each parent
- Educational status and expectations of the child
How are marital assets shared in a Connecticut divorce?
Unlike most states, Connecticut’s marital property division is based on the all-property rule. It also follows the equitable distribution statute of marital assets. However, the law classifies all assets as marital assets. All property owned by each spouse, including gifts and inheritance, is marital property regardless of when or how it was acquired. However, you prevent your property from being split with your spouse by showing evidence to the court to prove that such property is solely yours. The spouses can also mutually decide the distribution of their marital assets in an agreement.
To assign marital assets equitably, the court considers the evidence presented by each spouse along with the following:
- The marriage duration
- Grounds for the termination of the marriage
- Age and health condition of each spouse
- Profession, income worth, and sources of income of each spouse
- Education level and vocational skills of each spouse
- Liabilities and needs of each spouse and the prospect of having more capital assets and income
- Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition, maintenance, or improvement of the marital assets
Knowing how divorce works in Connecticut makes the process less intimidating and prepares you for the possible outcomes. Connecticut divorce laws are pretty straightforward, but I hope this guide makes it even easier to begin your divorce action with little to no obstacles.