Legal Separation in Connecticut FAQs

Divorce is a legal process that permanently ends your legal marriage. If your relationship isn't to the point where you want to terminate it altogether, you might benefit from knowing there are alternatives. Learn how a legal separation differs from traditional divorce in Connecticut.

By , Attorney · Cooley Law School
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Is There a Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation?

Yes. Although both legal methods change your relationship status, only a legal divorce can terminate your marriage. At the end of a legal separation, both parties are free to live life without the other, but are still technically married, and can't remarry unless they get a divorce.

The process for divorce and separation are nearly identical, both beginning when one spouse files a motion (request) with the court. The couple will work together to negotiate the terms, and if either spouse objects to a specific condition, the court will evaluate the case and settle the dispute.

Divorced spouses can remarry without further court intervention, but regardless of how long you're separated, if you'd like to remarry, you will need to take the extra step to ask the court to convert your separation into a divorce.

Unlike a divorce, which is permanent, couples can ask the court to "undo" the separation if they reconcile later.

Why Do People Choose Separation Instead of Divorce?

There's no right or wrong way to decide which legal process is best for your family. For some long-term marriages, the financial benefits of staying married, like military or social security benefits, may be more attractive than a divorce. For others, one spouse may need the other's medical insurance, which is usually not available after the couple divorces.

Some other common reasons couples choose a separation rather than divorce include:

  • using separation as a trial run for a divorce
  • legal separation can be "undone," meaning the couple can separate but continue to work on reconciliation
  • the couple's adopted religion prohibits divorce
  • to continue to receive valuable tax benefits offered by the federal government to married persons, or
  • to provide each parent with the security of court-ordered custody and support agreements while separated.

What Does Legal Separation Mean in Connecticut?

Like most states, Connecticut offers legal separation to couples as an option for ending a relationship. The process begins when one spouse files a motion (request), which should include the date of the wedding and separation and a statement that at least one spouse has lived in the state for a minimum of 12 months.

Your request for separation must also include a legal reason or ground. The grounds for legal separation are the same as a divorce in Connecticut, which means you can use no-fault or fault-based grounds. Couples can allege:

  • the marriage is irretrievably broken
  • the parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of 18-months, and there's no chance for reconciliation, or
  • any of the eight fault-based grounds.

There's a 90-day waiting period from the time you file your motion until the court can take any action on your case. The waiting period is the perfect time for you to negotiate the terms of the separation, like child custody and support, property division, and spousal support. If you can agree, you can present a separation agreement to the court, and the judge will approve it if it is fair to both parties. If you can't decide, the court will hold hearings after the waiting period expires, and the judge will create a separation agreement for you.

One the judge approves your separation, each spouse will be free to move on independently. There's no timeframe for a legal separation in Connecticut, meaning you can remain separated indefinitely or you can ask the court to terminate the agreement by filing a "declaration of resumption of marital relations."

If you can't reconcile with your partner, or if either spouse wishes to remarry, the spouse would need to ask the court to convert the separation into a divorce.

Why Is It Important to Follow the Rules About Separation?

If you submit a request for separation using the grounds of living separate and apart for 18-months, you'll need to demonstrate that you and your spouse have physically separated during that time.

If the court discovers that you and your spouse cohabitated (had sexual relations), lived in the same home, or reconciled for a period during the 18-months, the judge will deny your request, and you will need to do the following:

  • refile your application using a different legal ground, or
  • wait until 18-months pass before filing a new motion.

What Is a Trial Separation?

Although you can easily convert a legal separation into a divorce or terminate it later due to reconciliation, the legal process can be overwhelming for couples, especially if there's uncertainty about the direction of the relationship.

A trial separation is a good way for undecided couples to live apart while reassessing the relationship, before asking the court for intervention. During the trial separation, which can be indefinite or have an expiration date, the couple can orally agree to the terms of custody, financial support, and other matters.

What Is a Separation Agreement?

Like divorce, the terms of a legal separation must be in writing before the judge grants your request. A separation agreement is a legally binding document that contains detailed information on how the couple will allocate parental rights and responsibilities, child support, spousal support, and property and debt division.

Separation agreements are valid until the court states otherwise. In cases where spouses convert the separation into a divorce, the court will often (but not always) merge the arrangement with the final judgment of divorce.

Does Separation Affect Custody?

In any legal process involving minor children, the court's only concern is what's best for the children. The court will evaluate this using a set of factors that assess each parent's ability to further the child's well-being.

Regardless of whether you file for separation or divorce in Connecticut, the court requires both parents to attend and complete a parenting education program before finalizing the case.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

While the law doesn't require you to hire an attorney for a legal separation, it's always best to talk to an experienced family law attorney that understands your state's law before beginning the legal process.

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