Divorce in Connecticut can be a lengthy process that is hard to understand. You may be unsure if you have the grounds for a divorce in Connecticut and how you would go about understanding the divorce process. In order to make intelligent, informed decisions, you should familiarize yourself with the topic and contact and attorney. Even if you decide to settle your divorce out of court, a divorce lawyer can answer any questions that you have and can help the process go smoothly. If you need help with your divorce, contact my office. I can answer your questions.
What is Divorce in Connecticut?
In the state of Connecticut, “A marriage [or civil union] is dissolved only by (1) the death of one of the parties or (2) a decree of annulment or dissolution of marriage by a court of competent jurisdiction.” CONN. GEN. STAT. § 46b-40(a) (2008). Unless one of the parties is deceased, divorce can only occur through annulment or dissolution.
However, it is important to note that these terms do not mean the same thing. An annulment considers the marriage void from the very beginning, while a dissolution considers a legitimate marriage to be dissolved only by the date that the divorce is actually settled. If a marriage is dissolved due to death, an annulment, or dissolution, these are considered “no fault grounds.” However, there are oftentimes different, more serious grounds for divorce that are taken into consideration.
Grounds for Divorce
In Connecticut, there are several grounds for divorce under CONN. GEN. STAT. § 46b-40(c) (2008). These grounds for divorce include well-known violations of trust such as adultery, severe cruelty, or habitual intemperance. Other grounds for divorce include mental illness, separation of 18 months or more, imprisonment or crime, seven years absence, desertion, or fraudulent contract. Fraudulent contract is defined as one spouse severely deceiving another. It is understood that the deceived spouse has been left out of something extremely important dealing with the marriage or the other spouse, and that it will lead to the end of the marriage (Gould v. Gould, 78 Conn. 242, 261 (1905)). Divorce filed because of one of these infractions is filed under “fault grounds.”
There can be multiple grounds considered in one divorce case, however, they must be substantially proven in order for a divorce to be completed on those grounds. If you feel that you have been subjected to one or more of these grounds for divorce, and you would like to end your marriage, you should contact an attorney and consider your options. Begin building your case against your spouse and be sure to include as much evidence as possible. Divorce is never easy, but the sooner you make the decision to file for divorce, the sooner you can have a fresh start.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to file for fault based divorce in Connecticut. You could file a no-fault divorce if the grounds mentioned above do not apply to you but you would like to get divorced.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
A fully contested divorce may include disputes over custody, visitation, property division and family support. The contest may be over one, several, or all issues. The parties may engage in discovery over financial issues or even with respect to their parenting abilities and personal histories.
If custody or visitation is disputed, studies may be conducted by court officers and/or private experts retained by each party. If finances are in dispute, expert appraisers and forensic accountants may be engaged by each party. Multiple court hearings, with both lawyers “on the clock,” may take place on matters such as temporary custody, visitation, alimony and child support. Depositions are often taken of both parties and other persons relevant to the litigation. Finally, a contested trial takes place with witnesses and experts testifying, leading to a decision on the contested issues by a Judge.
An uncontested divorce is one in which all issues have been agreed upon by the parties. The parties reduce their agreement to writing and it is presented to a Judge at the final hearing. An uncontested divorce can be achieved by the parties working on their own or through mediators and collaborative lawyers as well as lawyers working in the traditional context.
Oftentimes, cases which are contested on one or more issues end up being uncontested when the parties settle after a period of adversarial litigation. In fact, the vast majority of divorce cases are settled by agreement. But what occurs in the course of litigation prior to the settlement can be damaging to the family relationships and resources. Connecticut adjudicates limited contested divorces when the only issues under dispute are financial and division of property. After a case management conference, the judge will counsel and issue orders.
Where to File for a Connecticut Divorce
If you are filing for divorce, you must go to the clerk’s office in your district. In order to file for divorce, you must bring:
- The complaint
- The original summons
- The state marshal’s return of service
- The Notice of Automatic Court Orders
- The filing fee (currently $350) or waiver of fees signed by a judge
Find the clerk’s office that is closest to you. The clerk’s offices in Connecticut are located at:
- Ansonia-Milford Judicial District
- 70 West River Street, Milford, CT 06460
- 106 Elizabeth Street, Derby, CT 06418
- Danbury Judicial District
- 146 White Street, Danbury, CT 06810
- Fairfield Judicial District
- 172 Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604
- Hartford Judicial District
- 410 Center Street, Manchester, CT 06040
- 111 Phoenix Avenue, Enfield, CT 06082
- 101 Lafayette Street, Hartford, CT 06106
- Litchfield Judicial District
- 80 Doyle Rd., Bantam, CT 06750
- Middlesex Judicial District
- 1 Court Street, Middletown, CT 06457
- New Britain Judicial District
- 20 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT
- 131 North Main Street, Bristol, Police/Court Complex, CT
- New Haven Judicial District
- 54 West Main St., Meriden, CT 06451
- 121 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06510
- New London Judicial District
- 112 Broad Street, New London, CT 06320
- 1 Courthouse Square, Norwich, CT 06360
- Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District
- 123 Hoyt Street, Stamford, CT 06905
- 17 Belden Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06850
- Tolland Judicial District
- 20 Park Street, Rockville, CT 06066
- Waterbury Judicial District
- 400 Grand Street, Waterbury, CT 06702
- Windham Judicial District
- 120 School Street, Danielson, CT 06239
Connecticut Divorce Steps
- Prepare the Divorce Complaint. Your attorney, after gathering the most important information from your meeting with them, will prepare documents to have a Marshal serve on your spouse. There is certain information that must be plead in the Complaint to make it valid and recognized by the Court. Your attorney will obtain this information from you.
- File with the Court. There are certain fees associated with filing your paperwork with the Clerk of the Court. The divorce must be filed with the proper Court and the correct fees must be attached to the paperwork.
- Return Date. Your attorney will receive a return date when filing with the Court. Your spouse will have to file an appearance with the court by this date. Prior to this date is typically when your spouse will seek to hire an attorney to protect his or her interests.
Motions and Dates
- Pendente Lite Motions. After the return date, your attorney can advocate for your best interests by filing requests with the court. These requests may be resolved by agreement or may require a hearing in front of the Judge. Such requests can be for alimony, bill payments, child custody, visitation, or other matters that should be addressed right away. Such Orders last for the period of the divorce proceedings until final judgment.
- Financial Affidavit. A financial affidavit is a very important document that must be sworn to after it is properly filled out. Your attorney will work with you to make sure it is as accurate as possible prior to handing it into the court.
- Case Management Date. Upon filing your complaint with the Court, your attorney will receive a case management date. This date indicates when the 90 day period ends. There are certain documents that the court must receive by this date; however, after this date a final judgment of divorce can be entered.
Building Your Case
- Collection of Documents. There are many documents, mostly financial in nature, that are considered mandatory to be produced to the other party and often to the Court. Additional documents can also be requested of your spouse or of you, depending on your particular situation.
- Automatic Orders. Once your spouse is served with divorce papers, automatic orders are put into place for both parties. It is important to follow the automatic orders so your are not found in contempt of court. These orders are given out by the court and must be followed by all parties who are going through the divorce process. Be sure to have your attorney review these orders with you.
One requirement for filing for divorce or a legal separation in Connecticut is that either you or your spouse must be a resident of Connecticut for at least a year prior to filing for divorce. Another way to file for divorce in Connecticut is if you or your spouse resided in the state of Connecticut at the time that the marriage took place, and you or your spouse has returned to Connecticut with the intention of permanently remaining in Connecticut. This must be done before you file for divorce. The last way that you can file for a divorce in Connecticut is if the cause for divorce occurred after you, your spouse, or both parties moved to the state.
Furthermore, if you or your spouse is serving in the army or has served in the army, and if you or your spouse are a resident of Connecticut at the time of entry into the army, this person will be considered a resident of Connecticut for as long as they are serving in the army.
Failing to Meet Residency Requirements
If you realize that you do not meet the residency requirements to get a divorce in the state of Connecticut, you have a few options. You can establish residency in Connecticut for a full year and then file for divorce. Another option is asking your spouse to file for the divorce if you are not a resident of Connecticut but they are. This may not always be an option, but if you are on good terms with your spouse, it is a possibility. If none of these options are possible or if they do not suit you, you can choose to get divorced in a state in which you or your spouse do meet the residency requirements.
Make sure that you understand the residency requirements in the state of Connecticut before you try to file for divorce. This can save you the hassle of starting the divorce process only to be told that you cannot legally get a divorce in Connecticut. Also consider some of the other options available to you if you are not a resident of Connecticut but you want to get a divorce in that state.