Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut

Learn about the grounds for divorce in Connecticut.

By , Retired Judge

Ending a marriage with a divorce isn't ideal, but if your attempts to repair your relationship have come and gone without success, it might be time to explore your options for divorce.

Connecticut Allows No-Fault Divorce

It's no secret that courts tend to favor marriage more than divorce, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that you need to identify a legally accepted reason (grounds) to the court before a judge will approve your request for a divorce.

Each state's grounds for divorce vary, but all 50 states offer some form of "no-fault" divorce, which simply means that neither spouse is responsible for the relationship's demise.

There are two grounds available for a spouse seeking a no-fault divorce in Connecticut. The first is the classic no-fault ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You might wonder how you can prove that your marriage is "irretrievably broken." This simply means that the relationship is broken beyond repair and there is no chance the couple will get back together. If at least one spouse clearly wants to end the marriage, it's usually enough for the court to assume that there's no chance for reconciliation.

The second way to avoid a fault divorce is to ask for a divorce based on a separation, meaning the spouses have lived separate and apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the 18 months immediately prior to the service of the divorce complaint, and there is no reasonable prospect the couple will reconcile. (C.G.S. § 46b-40 (c).)

It's important to remember, however, that a no-fault divorce isn't necessarily an uncontested divorce. The ground for divorce is only one aspect of the process. You will typically be addressing other issues, such as alimony (spousal support), division of property and debt, child custody, and child support.

The courts and most couples prefer no-fault divorces over fault-based ones. If neither spouse is pointing a finger of blame at the other for the breakup, it tends to reduce conflict.

Grounds for a "Fault-based" Divorce in Connecticut

The fault grounds for divorce in Connecticut include any of the following:

  • adultery
  • fraudulent contract (such as where a spouse hid something important at the time of the marriage, like being a drug addict, for example)
  • willful desertion for at least 12 months with a total neglect of duty
  • at least seven years absence from the marriage, without any communication
  • habitual intemperance (alcohol or drug addiction)
  • intolerable cruelty
  • imprisonment of one spouse (under certain conditions), and
  • a spouse's mental illness, in which the spouse is legally confined to a mental institution for a minimum of five years within the six year period preceding the date of the divorce complaint. (C.G.S. § 46b-40 (c).)

Spouses asking the court for a fault divorce must be able to prove, with specific evidence, that a spouse's misconduct caused the relationship to fail. For example, in one case, a husband proved adultery by demonstrating that his wife gave birth to a child over a year after he had last spent time with her.

Pursuing a fault-based divorce usually triggers a lot of hostility, prolongs the process, and increases attorneys' fees. Unless you're unable to meet either no-fault divorce requirement, there's often no viable reason to pursue a fault-based divorce.

That said, the Connecticut divorce statutes permit a judge to take the causes of the divorce into consideration when dividing marital property or awarding alimony (C.G.S. - §§ 46b-81 (c) and 46b-82 (a).) But whether that happens depends on the particular circumstances of each case. With so much as stake, it's a good idea to consult a local divorce lawyer to see whether your situation warrants using a fault-based ground for divorce.

Nonadverserial Dissolution of Marriage

This is Connecticut's version of a streamlined procedure to end your marriage. However, the conditions for obtaining a divorce by this method are quite strict. The spouses must attest, under oath, that the following conditions exist:

  • the marriage has broken down irretrievably
  • the duration of the marriage does not exceed nine years
  • neither spouse is pregnant (remember, same-sex marriage is legal)
  • no children were born to or adopted by the spouses prior to, or during, the marriage
  • neither spouse has any interest or title in real property
  • the total combined fair market value of all property owned by either spouse, less any amount owed on such property, is less than $80,000
  • neither spouse has a defined benefit pension plan
  • neither spouse has a pending petition for relief under the United States Bankruptcy Code
  • no other action for dissolution of marriage, dissolution of a civil union, legal separation, or annulment is pending in Connecticut or in any other jurisdiction
  • there are no restraining orders or protective orders in effect between the spouses, and
  • the spouses have met the divorce law residency requirements. (C.G.S. § 46b-44a (b).)

Be aware that, as with all statutes, any of the above requirements are subject to change, including the property fair market value amount.

You can find the "Nonadverserial Dissolution of Marriage" forms and additional divorce information on the Connecticut Judiciary website.

Are There Alternatives to Divorce?

Yes, you can request a legal separation in Connecticut. Couples sometimes pursue this if they want to live apart and resolve their marital issues, but don't want to formally end their marriage. For example, couples who practice a religion that frowns upon divorce may decide to legally separate instead.

In some cases, a spouse might have grounds for an annulment of the marriage. An annulment may be warranted where the circumstances surrounding the marriage render the marriage void (not valid). An example would be where a spouse was still legally married to someone else at the time of the marriage (bigamy). The law regarding annulment can be quite complex, so it's best to consult with a local divorce lawyer before taking any action.

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