Requirements for Divorce in Connecticut
To file for divorce in Connecticut, either your spouse or you must have lived in the state for the last 12 months.
The Connecticut law offers spouses with various options while filing for divorce:
Simplified/ Non-Adversarial aka Non-Ad Divorce: This is a simplified method of divorce where the eligible spouses can get a divorce in 35 days or less even without appearing before a judge.
Divorce with an Agreement or “Waive 90″: If your spouse and you have an agreement on all issues of the divorce, then you can request the court to waive off the waiting period of 90 days and get divorced at any time that you want.
Divorce without an Agreement: This is also known as a “Default Divorce”, where if you have filed for divorce in Connecticut and your spouse hasn’t filed an appearance, you can still get a divorce easily and quickly. In the case your spouse has filed an appearance, then it is better that both of you agree on the various issues of your divorce, otherwise your case will go to trial, where it will be heard by a judge.
Grounds for a CT divorce
The grounds for a “no-fault” divorce are:
The marriage has “broken irretrievably”.
Both spouses have lived apart due to incompatibility for a period of 18 months before the divorce complaint was served and there are no reasonable prospects of any reconciliation.
The grounds for a “fault-based” divorce are:
Desertion for a minimum of 1 year
Absence of 7 years
Imprisonment for specific crimes
Institutionalized in a mental hospital for 5 out of 6 years before filing for divorce
Step 1: Starting your CT divorce
In Connecticut, to begin a divorce, you must fill two forms i.e. the Summons Family Actions and the Divorce or Cross Complaint. Apart from asking the court for a divorce, you can also ask the court to divide your property, determine the alimony, child custody, child support and also restore your name prior to marriage.
Documents Needed for Filing for Divorce
To file your divorce, you need the following documents:
Summons Family Actions: Informs your spouse about the divorce and when he/she must come to court.
Divorce Complaint or Cross Complaint: This states the reason why you are seeking a divorce because there is an “irretrievable breakdown” of your marriage or one of the fault-based grounds.
Notice of Automatic Orders: Informs the other spouse about the orders which have automatically gone into effect when your divorce case started preventing you from things that will negatively impact your children, marital property, etc. such as moving your children outside Connecticut, selling your house, etc.
Affidavit Concerning Children: Has information about the residence of your children for the last 5 years and if there are any previous custody or visitation cases pending.
Filing Your CT divorce Papers
Once the documents have been completed, you must take them to the clerk’s office at the superior court in the judicial district where either your spouse or you reside and the clerk will help you with the return date, which is essentially the date when the papers must be served to your spouse and filed.
The return date must be at least a minimum of 4 weeks after you file your papers and it should be a Tuesday (the return date must be mentioned on all your divorce documents). The summons will be signed by the clerk and returned to you and then you must bring the papers to the State Marshall, who will serve them on your spouse.
Step 2: Serving your partner
In the state of Connecticut, the divorce papers are served by the State Marshall to your spouse and you can get the list of State Marshalls, here. The State Marshall will charge a fee for serving the divorce papers.
The State Marshall will complete a document known as “Return of Service” once the papers have been served to your spouse, which is the proof of service. You must either bring the Return of Service or mail it along with all the rest of your papers and file it with the court clerk along with the filing fee.
Step 3: contested or uncontested CT divorce ?
Contested CT divorce (Longer & Expensive)
If your spouse and you do not agree on some or all of the issues pertaining to your divorce, then your case will go to trial, where it will be heard by a judge. The judge will hear all the witness testimonies, review all the evidence and then take decisions on the issues of your case.
Usually, in the case of a contested divorce, you will have to employ the services of a divorce lawyer, who will fight the case on your behalf. Usually, contested divorces are drawn out and take a long time and are also quite expensive.
Uncontested CT divorce (Faster & Less Costly)
In Connecticut, uncontested divorces are also known as “uncontested dissolution of marriage”, and you must meet the following criteria:
Either your spouse or you should have lived in Connecticut for a period 12 months.
If both spouses agree to the other’s grounds for divorce or they state that their marriage is “broken irretrievably”.
There are no other pending cases pertaining to your spouse and your children.
Your spouse and you have submitted financial statements regarding your assets, income and debts to the court.
Both your spouse and you agree on all the terms of the divorce such as property and debt division, child custody, support and visitation and alimony.
Your spouse and you must also enter into marital settlement agreement which must be signed by both of you, which must specifically state how both of you plan to resolve all the issues related to your divorce such as property division, child custody and support, alimony, etc.
Step 4: DIY method or hire a lawyer?
DIY divorce Papers (Slower & Least Costly)
Even if you agree on all the issues of your divorce, your spouse and you cannot use the same lawyer. However, you can represent yourself and this is known as pro se (or without a lawyer). This process is a bit of a hands on approach and will take more time and energy to figure out exactly what forms that you will need.
The judicial branch of the state of Connecticut has a ”Do It Yourself Divorce Guide” that can help you through the entire process of dissolution if you have decided to go in for self-representation. You can also get a hard copy of the guide from any superior court of the state.
Online Divorce Services (Fast & Low Costings)
If you and your spouse are on the same page, but both of you are unsure about how to go about filling out the forms, you can use an online service to do it for you for a small fee (Typically $145-$399).
An online Divorce service will identify the proper forms you need by having you answer questions about your case, and will fill out and review you forms based on your answers to the questions.
After completing the questionnaire, a service like 3stepdivorce.com, will give you detailed instructions on how to fill the forms. Once the forms are completed, you can take a print out of the forms and file them with the local courthouse clear along with the appropriate filing fee.
Hiring a Divorce Lawyer (Longer & Expensive)
If an appearance has been filed by your spouse and you are unable to agree on all the terms of your divorce, then a divorce trial will be scheduled. a judge will hear your case and make decisions regarding the various issues such as alimony, child custody, child support and visitation, property division, etc.
However, even if the trial has started and your spouse and you are able to resolve any of the issues, then the court encourages this and then report the agreements you have arrived at to the court.
Step 5: Figuring out the big issues
The marital property will be divided equitably during a divorce as Connecticut is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that the property is divided according to what is considered fair rather than equally.
In deciding the property division, the court will consider the following factors such as the duration of the marriage, reasons for dissolution of the marriage, annulment or legal separation, age, occupation, station, health, sources and amount of income, employability, vocational skills, estate and needs and liabilities of each of the spouses and the opportunity of each spouse for the acquisition of income and capital assets in the future. The court will also consider each spouse’s contribution to the preservation, acquisition or appreciation in the value of their individual estates.
While entering the divorce decree, the court may order one of the spouses to pay alimony to the other spouse. And, in deciding whether alimony should be paid, the amount and duration of the alimony, the court will hear the witness of each spouse, consider the duration of the marriage, the reasons for the dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment, the age, station, occupation, health, sources and amount of income, employability, vocational skills, needs and estate of each spouse, parent to whom the custody of the children has been given and the desirability of the custodial parent in getting an employment.
If there are minor children involved, and if both parents are unable to agree about the issues related to the children, then the court will decide the custody order as per its own discretion.
With respect to child custody or visitation, the court will decide on basis of:
The best interests of the child, considering the child’s wishes in case he/she is sufficiently old and is capable of making a rational and intelligent decision.
The court may consider the causes for the divorce or legal separation if they are relevant to determining the best interests of the child.
It will consider if the spouses completed the parenting education program satisfactorily.
In Connecticut, the Income Shares Model is used to calculate child support. And, the court will consider various factors while determining the amount of child support such as the age, station, occupation, health, sources and amount of income, earning capacity, employability and vocational skills of each parent and the age, station, occupation, health, educational status and expectations, sources and amount of income, employability, vocational skills, needs and estate of the child.
Step 6: Finalizing a Connecticut divorce
The 1st date or the “return date”, which is 4 weeks later, provides the defendant a chance to “answer the complaint”, enter a “pro se” appearance or file a cross complaint.
The 2nd date or the “case management date” is usually 90 days after the return date and it is the earliest date when the divorce can be completed.
Usually, the court will not take any action before the case management date and so, this will give your spouse and you time to settle any of the issues outside the court. If your spouse and you are able to reach any agreement, it must be documented using the “Dissolution Agreement” form. If you have children, you must complete the parenting education program recommended by the court within a period of 60 days after the return date.
In the waiting period, you must fill the Case Management Order/Agreement and send it to the office of the court clerk. The Case Management Agreement form is where the date of the actual hearing is mentioned. If your spouse and you are unable to agree on a date and you have not filed a Case Management Agreement form, then you must appear in court on the case management date and the final hearing date will be set by the judge.
The divorce can be either finalized via an agreement between your spouse and you or after a trial in court before the judge. If your spouse and you agree on all the issues of the divorce, then on your divorce hearing date, you can come to court with all the forms filled out completely. The judge will review your Dissolution Agreement and approve it and finalize your divorce.
However, if your spouse and you are unable to agree on all the issues, then a trial date will be scheduled by the judge, where your spouse and you must present your evidence. Both of you may have to hire an attorney for the trial, which usually takes a long time and also costs more.
We hope this guide has helped you in figuring out how to file for divorce in Connecticut and what to expect next. Please use our resources provided in the helpful tips section above if you have further questions.