Legal Separation in Connecticut
Connecticut General Statutes has a specific law and requisite legal process for legal separation. A legal separation is essentially a legally binding agreement that determines the terms and conditions of the period of separation. In a legal separation a married couple will have to agree on all of the key issues that emanate from a separation, including child custody and child support, property settlement, spousal support, etc. However, the couple remain legally married during the length of the separation, which means that they are not free to marry someone else after a legal separation.
If the separated couple manage to resolve the issues disrupting their marriage and decide to reconcile, they can ask the court to terminate the legal separation by filing a declaration to resume marital relations.
A married couple is free to live separately even without a legal separation. But in that case they need to come to a mutual agreement to tackle the issues arising from the separation, as there won’t be any legal order. A separation agreement is an option as well.
Legal Separation vs Divorce
The process of filing for a legal separation or divorce (also referred to as dissolution of marriage) in Connecticut is essentially the same, which begins with one spouse filing for a legal separation with the court. When a court grants a legal separation or divorce, the outcome of the order is largely the same as well, except for one key difference. While divorce permanently terminates the marriage, you and your spouse technically remain married after a legal separation. You’re free to remarry after a divorce without any further intervention of the court, but after a legal separation you will have to ask the court to convert the legal separation into a divorce before you can remarry someone else.
There are several reasons why couples experiencing difficulties in their marriage opt for legal separation over divorce. Firstly, legal separation leaves the door open for reconciliation at a later date, which divorce doesn’t provide. Yet legal separation accords the same set of legal resolution of issues arising from the separation that divorce does, including custody, division of property, financial support, etc.
Many couples prefer legal separation as it’s less disruptive than a divorce for their children. Both parents get to spend ample time with the children, even though they’re living separately. On the other hand, divorce can lead to a lot more changes in the living situation of the children. Plus, divorce still has a social stigma attached to it, unlike legal separation. Couples wanting to avoid social scrutiny opt of legal separation over divorce.
Legal separation can also help protect the financial interests of the spouses. Divorce terminates marriage and with it any of the financial benefits associated with the marriage ends as well. Since, technically you remain married during legal separation, financial benefits such as social security benefits, tax benefits, insurance payments, etc. remain active.
Grounds for Legal Separation
There are certain grounds or requirements that need to be satisfied in order for the court to grant a decree of legal separation in Connecticut.
- If the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
- If you and your spouse have lived apart for at least 18 months prior to filing for a legal separation.
- In case your spouse is guilty of adultery.
- If your spouse is guilty of fraudulent contract.
- If your spouse wilfully deserted you for at least one year and during that period completely neglected all of his duties related to the marriage.
- If your spouse has been absent for seven years or more and during this period has not contacted you
- If your spouse has demonstrated habitual intemperance or intolerable cruelty.
- If your spouse has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
- If your spouse has been legally confined to a hospital or institute due to mental illness for at least five years over a period of six years prior to filing for legal separation.
To be able to file for a legal separation in Connecticut, you will also have to satisfy certain residency requirements.
- You or your spouse must have resided in Connecticut for a minimum of 12 months before filing for a legal separation.
- You or your spouse was a resident of Connecticut at the time you got married and you have returned to the state with the intention of permanently staying here, before filing for a legal separation.
- If the the grounds for filing for a legal separation arose after you or your spouse moved to Connecticut.
Procedure of Legal Separation in Connecticut
There’s a proper legal process in place in Connecticut for legal separation. Typically, a legal separation order is passed within two months for first filing a motion of legal separation. In certain situations, it can take longer for the court to resolve all of the issues arising due to the separation and pass an order.
Step 1: Filing for Legal Separation
You will have to file a motion for separation at the district or county court nearest to you. You will have to submit a statement to prove that you or your spouse or both have been residents of Connecticut for at least 12 months before filing for legal separation. You will also have to submit a statement to illustrate the grounds for separation under which you have filed for separation.
In Connecticut, both no-fault and fault separation is allowed. In case of an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage or having lived apart for a period of 18 months, which are no-fault grounds, you will have to submit a statement to that effect. In case of any of the fault grounds mentioned earlier, there are specific documents that would be required.
Step 2: 90-day Waiting Period
Connecticut has a 90-day waiting period beginning from the date the motion for separation was filed. It’s only at the end of this waiting period that court will begin proceedings to pass an order of legal separation. Typically, couples use this waiting period to negotiate and arrive at a mutual agreement regarding the terms and conditions of the separation. This should cover every issue that will arise after the separation is finalized, including but limited to child custody, spousal support, bill payments, etc.
Step 3: Terms of Separation
If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the separation, the court will review them and if it finds the terms to be fair for both spouses, the terms will be approved. In case you fail to come to a mutual agreement regarding the terms of separation or if the court deems the terms to be unfair on one of the spouses. The court will schedule hearings at the end of the 90-day waiting period to tackle each issue and resolve the same.
Step 4: Judgment of Legal Separation
Once the terms of the separation have been finalized, the court will approve the separation and pass an order to that effect. There’s no minimum or maximum period set for legal separation in Connecticut. So, you and your spouse can remain legally separated indefinitely. The option of reconciliation remains open indefinitely as well. In order to remarry, you will have to go back to the court and get the legal separation converted into a divorce.
A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that protects the interests of both spouses and charts the entire terms and conditions of separation. You don’t need to go to court to get a separation agreement. But it can be submitted in court during the process of getting a legal separation to establish that you and your spouse have agreed on certain terms of separation. The court has the right to modify the agreement as it sees fit.
If you do not want a legal separation, but want to live separately from your spouse nonetheless, a separation agreement can help protect your interests. Ideally, you should hire an attorney to explain all of your rights under Connecticut law as well as take care of the paperwork. In case you and your spouse are not on talking terms or can’t mutually come to an agreement regarding the terms of separation, your lawyers can negotiate on your behalf.
This agreement will cover issues such as child custody arrangement, child support, visitation rights (if applicable), division of marital property, responsibility for settlement of any and all outstanding debt, spousal support and more.
Legal Separation Costs
You will have to pay a fee to file your motion of separation and summons at the district or county court. You will have to pay a small fee to serve the copy of the motion and the summons to your spouse. In case you hire an attorney, you will have to his or her fee as well.
- You can use the Connecticut Bar Association Find a Lawyer tool to identify the right lawyer for your case. You can search for lawyers based on the city or town they are based in, the postal code they are based in and even what language(s) they speak.
- There are a number of lawyer referral services in Connecticut as well, including in Fairfield County, Hartford County, New Haven County and New London County. You can find the contact details here.
- The Connecticut Judicial Branch law librarians have prepared research guides for legal separation and equitable distribution of marital property that can be excellent guidelines for you to figure out your rights and how you can best protect your interests.
We hope this article has been helpful in guiding you with respect to what’s the best route to take in this tough situation you and your family find yourself in.