Grounds for Divorce in Connecticut

Continue reading to learn more about the different divorce options in Connecticut.

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.

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 provide 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. In Connecticut, couples can state either of the following reasons to the court:

  • irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, or
  • spouses lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least 18 months before either spouse files for divorce.

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 change the couple will get back together. If at least one spouse doesn’t want the marriage to continue, it’s usually enough for the court to assume that there’s no chance for reconciliation.

For example, in one Connecticut case, a wife filed for divorce and the husband denied that the marriage was irretrievably broken. In the past, the wife filed for divorce on multiple occasions but withdrew her request after the parties reconciled. The husband argued that this divorce was no different, and he expected to get back together. However, the wife argued that the only reason she dismissed her previous divorce petitions was due to her husband’s negative influence. The judge agreed that because the wife was clear that she no longer intended to remain married, there was no chance of reconciliation and as a result, the court granted the divorce.

What If My Spouse’s Actions Caused Our Divorce?

No-fault divorce is the most common type of divorce in Connecticut because it’s less expensive, requires less time in court, and allows couples to keep a civil relationship intact. However, if your spouse’s marital misconduct caused your marriage to fail, you have the option to ask the court for a “fault-based” divorce. Parties sometimes use this type of divorce to gain an advantage over a spouse in other aspects of divorce, like property division, custody, or alimony.

The acceptable fault grounds in Connecticut include:

  • adultery
  • fraudulent contract
  • willful desertion for at least 12 months with a total neglect of duty
  • at least 7 years absence from the marriage, without any communication
  • habitual intemperance (alcohol or drug addiction)
  • intolerable cruelty
  • imprisonment of one spouse, or
  • one spouse is mentally ill and legally confined to a mental institution for a minimum of 5 years within the past 6 years.

Unlike the no-fault divorce process, parties 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 last had last spent time with her.

Are There Alternatives to Divorce?

Yes. In addition to the traditional divorce process, couples can request a legal separation or annulment. Both have specific requirements that are different than divorce.

In a legal separation, the petitioning spouse provides the same proof and the court decides the same issues it would decide in a divorce, such as property division, child support, custody, and alimony. But, in the end, the couple is still legally married. This might sound like an unorthodox option, but for parties whose religion prohibits divorce, or in cases where an absolute divorce is best for the family, it’s an excellent option. If the couple would like a divorce in the future, the court can convert the separation into a divorce, if the spouses have not lived together as a married couple since the legal separation.

Annulment is rare, and unlike divorce and legal separation, the annulment process renders a couple’s marriage void, as though it never existed. The grounds for annulment are specific and include:

  • bigamy
  • fraud
  • duress or force
  • mental incapacity of one spouse
  • spouses are too closely related, or
  • the state didn’t authorize the person who performed the ceremony.

Sometimes, annulment may be the only option to end a marriage. In one case, a woman told her boyfriend that she was pregnant with his baby, but knew it wasn’t his child. The husband discovered the truth after the couple married, but soon asked the court to void the marriage based on fraud. This was important because in many states the court presumes that the husband is the baby’s father, which would mean 18 years of responsibility for someone else’s child. The court agreed that the marriage was based on the wife’s fraudulent behavior and granted the husband’s request for an annulment.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

Most divorces are uncontested, which means that the couples agree on all the major legal issues in a divorce. Connecticut calls uncontested divorces “uncontested dissolution of marriage,” but both terms mean the same thing. To obtain an uncontested divorce, you must meet the following requirements:

  • at least one spouse must reside in Connecticut for 12 months before filing
  • both parties must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or to one of the other grounds for divorce
  • neither spouse can have an open case involving the couple’s children
  • both spouses submit a sworn financial statement to the court, and
  • the spouses have resolved every issue in the divorce, including spousal support, child custody, child support, and property division.

You can ask for an uncontested divorce using the fault-based grounds, like cruelty or abandonment, but it’s easier for both parties to agree on the no-fault grounds for divorce because neither spouse must admit misconduct.

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