How to File a Divorce in Connecticut

How to File a Divorce in Connecticut

by Edward A. Haman, Esq., July 2015

In Connecticut the divorce procedure is called a dissolution of marriage. A dissolution for any married couple will accomplish two things: (1) severing the marital relationship, and (2) dividing assets and debts. If they have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting, the issue of alimony may arise. If there are minor children, they will need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.

Procedures

To file for dissolution of marriage in Connecticut, one party must be a resident of Connecticut. However, the court may not enter a final judgment unless (1) one party has been a resident for at least 12 months, or (2) one party was a resident at the time of the marriage and has returned to Connecticut, or (3) the grounds for dissolution arose in Connecticut.

You begin the procedure by filing a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage in the Superior Court of the county where you live. If neither party is seeking alimony, you may file in any county that would be convenient to you and your spouse. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all matters, and your spouse is willing to cooperate in the process, you can proceed with an uncontested dissolution. For this most basic procedure, you, and possibly your spouse, will be required to attend a court hearing. The judge will ask some questions, to be sure you understand and agree to everything, and will enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you will have a contested dissolution, which become much more complex.

Grounds for Divorce

Grounds are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution and sever the marital relationship. Connecticut has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for dissolution. There are two no-fault grounds. For one you would state in the Petition that: “The marriage of the parties has broken down irretrievably.” In order to use this ground, your spouse would need to either sign a court document or appear in court and testify that the marriage is irretrievably broken. For the other ground you would state: “The parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least eighteen months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”

There are also numerous fault-based grounds for dissolution, such as adultery, the marriage coming about as a result of fraud, desertion for at least one year, absence of your spouse for at least 7 years, alcohol abuse, “intolerable cruelty,” “commission or conviction of an infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and imprisonment for at least one year,” and” confinement for psychiatric disabilities for at least 5 years.” However, in most cases, there is no reason to use any of these, since they add complexity to the process by requiring proof.

Property Division in Connecticut

Your property and debts will need to be divided. You and your spouse may reach an agreement and file a property settlement with the court. If the judge must decide the matter, the following factors will be considered:

  • the length of the marriage,
  • the causes for the dissolution of the marriage,
  • each party’s age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities, needs, and opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and
  • each party’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates.

Alimony in Connecticut

In deciding whether to award alimony, as well as the amount and duration of alimony, the judge must consider:

  • the length of the marriage,
  • the causes for dissolution of the marriage,
  • the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate and needs of each of the parties,
  • the property division, and
  • the desirability and feasibility of the custodial parent of a minor child securing employment.

Child Custody in Connecticut

If you and your spouse have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. Connecticut custody law allows for either sole custody to one parent or joint custody. Joint custody is favored, especially where the parents reach a custody agreement. It basically comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on these matters, the judge will decide the issue by determining what is in the child’s best interest, and may consider the following factors:

  • the temperament and developmental needs of the child;
  • the capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs;
  •  any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including the informed preferences of the child;
  •  the wishes of the child's parents;
  • the interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute;
  •  the ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
  •  the child's adjustment to home, school and community environments;
  • the length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment (but considering favorably a parent who voluntarily left the home to alleviate stress in the household);
  • the stability of the child's existing or proposed residences;
  • the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • the child's cultural background;
  • the effect on the child of the actions of any abuse or domestic violence;
  • whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected; and
  • whether the party satisfactorily completed a parenting education program.

Child Support in Connecticut

Children must be financially supported. This almost always results in one parent paying money to the other. Child support takes into account the needs of the child, and each parent’s ability to meet those needs. This is done by reading a chart contained in the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines, which should be available from your Superior Court.

Miscellaneous Matters

A Decree of Dissolution of Marriage may not be entered until 90 days after the date the defendant is required to file a response. Either party may have his or her birth name or a former name restored in the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. In order to explore the possibility of reconciliation, either party may ask the court for a conciliation order, which will require at least two counseling sessions.

If you and your spouse agree on the major issues, an uncontested divorce may be right for you. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney to get advice or help filing for divorce with the LegalZoom personal legal plan.