There are generally two types of divorce available in most states: contested and uncontested. A divorce is "contested" when the spouses don't agree on some or all aspects of the divorce, meaning that a judge will hold a trial, examine the evidence, and call witnesses. The contested divorce process takes quite a while.
In contrast, in an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all of the issues required to end their marriage, so there's no need for the judge to hold a trial. An uncontested divorce is much faster and cheaper than traditional divorce—spouses can often use a DIY solution like an online divorce service. They do, though, also have the option of getting professional help.
Generally speaking, for a court to consider a divorce to be uncontested, the spouses need to have agreed on all the pertinent issues. These include subjects like:
Keep in mind that even if you disagree on some issues when the divorce starts, there's nothing to prevent you and your spouse from reaching an agreement down the road.
In order to get divorced in Connecticut, you'll have to meet the state's residency requirements. The one that most often applies is that one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least 12 months immediately prior to the date the divorce complaint is filed or the date the divorce will become final. (You can find the full list of requirements in Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-44.)
You'll also need to have "grounds" (a valid legal reason) for the divorce. No-fault grounds are that "the marriage is irretrievably broken," basically meaning the couple can no longer get along, and there's no reasonable prospect of that changing. There's another no-fault ground based on the spouses being separated for 18 months. In a fault-based divorce, one spouse must allege and prove that the other spouse engaged in a specific type of marital misconduct that caused the marriage to fail. These include adultery, desertion, and cruelty. (Conn. Gen Stat. Ann. § 46b-40.)
Most people who want to do a DIY divorce choose no-fault grounds because fault divorces typically take longer to complete and prove. In a no-fault divorce, because you're not saying your spouse did anything wrong, it's less likely that your spouse will contest the grounds for the divorce.
Connecticut provides ample online support for people seeking an uncontested divorce. But when you're representing yourself, ultimately it's your responsibility to make sure you've taken all the necessary steps for successful completion of the process. The sections below reviews some of the basic steps.
The spouse who starts the divorce is referred to as the "plaintiff." As plaintiff, your first order of business is locating the correct forms (known as "pleadings") and completing them. The Connecticut judicial branch provides forms on its website, or you can get them in person at your local Court Service Center.
To start the process, you need to prepare three forms: the divorce complaint, which provides the court with information about you, your marriage, and the relief you're seeking (what you're asking for, such as alimony and child support); a Family Actions Summons; and, a Notice of Automatic Court Orders.
Next, you have to bring your paperwork to the court clerk's office. The clerk will review the forms for any technical problems. Assuming your forms are in order, the court clerk will return them to you, so you can proceed to the next step. At the clerk's office, you'll also choose a "return date." This date will mark the formal beginning of the divorce action. (Usually, neither spouse has to appear in court on the return date.)
Once the clerk has reviewed your papers, you need to "serve" (deliver) them on the "defendant" (the other spouse). Service of the forms is usually done through the State Marshal's office. Contact the marshal's office in the judicial district where your spouse lives or works. After being served with the divorce papers, the defendant will usually file a form known as an "Appearance." If the defendant fails to submit a response, the court can enter a "default", and the case can proceed without the defendant's participation. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-45.)
Be aware that there are fees involved with starting the divorce. If you can't afford the fees, you can apply to the court for relief by filing an "Application for Waiver of Fees" with the clerk.
There are primarily two methods for obtaining an uncontested divorce in Connecticut. Both of these will allow you to bypass the usual 90-day waiting period (which starts on the return date) that Connecticut law requires before you can finalize the divorce.
The first method is known as "Non-adversarial Divorce." (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46b-44a.) If you're looking for a quick divorce in Connecticut, this is a virtual express train. If you qualify, you can usually obtain a divorce in approximately 35 days. And, as a bonus, you won't have to go to court and appear before a judge. You have to meet these conditions:
The second method is "Divorce With an Agreement – Waive 90." If you've settled all the issues in your divorce, you can typically proceed without having to wait the required 90 days. You'll have to file a motion (legal request) with the court in order to do this. This method is more complicated than the non-adversarial divorce route, because it requires you to complete several more forms, including financial affidavits. And if there are minor children involved, additional forms are needed, and you'll have to participate in a parenting education program. That said, it's still significantly faster than a traditional divorce where you're contesting one or more issues.
Note that when your spouse doesn't respond to the complaint (defaulted), you can request a waiver of the 90-day rule.
As stated above, for a court to consider your case truly uncontested, you need to have resolved all issues. You and your spouse might be able to do that on your own or with the help of an attorney or qualified mediator. No matter how you arrive at an agreement, it's likely that amicably resolving your differences will reduce your stress and possibly eliminate the need for a trial.
When you've agreed to terms, you should memorialize them in a divorce settlement agreement (sometimes referred to as a "property settlement agreement" or a "marital settlement agreement"). This agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse: Because the settlement agreement is legally binding, be sure that you understand the legal consequences of the agreement's terms, and that the document meets all legal requirements. At the time you finalize your divorce, you'll ask to have your agreement incorporated into the final judgment.
Be advised that there's nothing stopping you from entering into a property settlement agreement before you file for divorce. In fact, it's encouraged.
An uncontested divorce hearing in Connecticut is relatively uncomplicated. Try to get to the courthouse early, so you can check in and familiarize yourself with the surroundings. You might be required to meet with a member of the court staff prior to going into the courtroom, depending on the circumstances of your case.
At the hearing, the judge will look at your paperwork to make sure everything is in order. The judge will want to know that your agreement is fair, and likely will ask you some questions about it. When the judge is satisfied you've met all the requirements, you'll be issued a document granting the divorce, known as a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.