In Connecticut (as in most states), there are generally two types of divorce: contested and uncontested. A divorce is "contested" when you and your spouse can't agree on some or all of the issues involved in ending your marriage. Unless you manage to work out your disagreements along the way, you'll have to go to court to have a judge hold a trial, examine the evidence, call witnesses, and resolve the issues for you.
In contrast, there's no need for a trial when you have an uncontested divorce, because you and your spouse have resolved the issues for yourselves. And if you can reach that agreement before you before you file your divorce papers—or at least early in the process—an uncontested divorce will be much less expensive than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because you can avoid lengthy and expensive court battles over every disagreement. Many couples find that they can navigate the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers, and they can often use a DIY solution like using a service to file for divorce online.
In addition to lowering the cost of divorce, starting out with an agreement means that you can get your final divorce more quickly. You might even be able to bypass Connecticut's normal waiting period for divorce (more on that below).
To get an uncontested divorce (or "dissolution of marriage") in Connecticut, you have to meet a few basic requirements. (There are additional requirements for an even-more streamlined procedure known as "nonadversarial divorce," which are outlined later in this article.)
Although you may start the divorce process in Connecticut as long as either you or your spouse lives in the state, you must meet one of the following stricter residency requirements in order to get your final divorce:
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-44 (2022).)
When you file for divorce, you need to state the legal reason (or "ground) that your marriage is ending. One of the grounds for divorce in Connecticut is that your marriage is "irretrievably" broken, meaning there's no reasonable chance of getting back together. The easiest and quickest way to get an uncontested divorce is to agree with your spouse on this reason. Although Connecticut allows another "no-fault" ground—that you lived apart from your spouse for at least 18 months because you couldn't get along—that would basically defeat the goal of getting a quick uncontested divorce. (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46b-40, 46b-51 (2022).)
The main requirement for an uncontested divorce is an agreement with your spouse on all of the key issues, including:
If you're having trouble reaching agreement on these and any other matters you want to address in your divorce, mediation might help you work through the obstacles. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document as the basis for your written marital settlement agreement (or "dissolution agreement").
Once you and your spouse have signed the agreement, it's a binding legal contract between the two of you. Also, because the agreement will typically become part of your final disso decree, the court may use all of its legal enforcement tools if either you or your spouse don't comply with the provisions. So be sure you understand the legal consequences of the agreement. It might be a good idea to have a lawyer review the agreement before you sign it to make sure it's fair and covers everything it should.
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 fact, the Connecticut court system does everything it can to encourage settlements. But starting out with an agreement will speed up the divorce process and probably save you money.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch provides the basic forms, instructions, and FAQs on its Divorce, Custody and Visitation site. When you use an online divorce service, the service will provide you with the completed forms and basically walk you through the filing process. (And some services will handle the filing itself, for an extra charge.)
Still, when you don't have a lawyer to represent you, it's ultimately your responsibility to make sure you've taken all the necessary steps.
For most divorces in Connecticut, one spouse (known as the "plaintiff") starts the legal process. If that's you, your first order of business is to find and complete the correct forms for your situation. You can find all of Connecticut's divorce-related forms online, or you can get them in person at your local Court Service Center.
You'll need to prepare three main forms to start the process:
If you have children with your spouse, you'll also need an affidavit concerning those children (JD-FM-164). And if you can't afford to pay the court fees in your case (including the fees for filing and serving the papers, discussed below), you should include an application for a waiver of those fees (JD-FM-75).
Bring the paperwork to the Superior Court Clerks' office in the judicial district where you or your spouse lives. The clerk will review the forms for any technical problems and will help you choose a "return date," which marks the formal beginning of the divorce action. Assuming your forms are in order, the clerk will sign the summons and return the paperwork to you, so you can proceed to the next step.
Next, you'll serve the divorce papers on your spouse (called the "defendant" in Connecticut), along with a blank appearance form (JD-CL-12). If your spouse agrees to accept the documents directly from you, give your spouse a blank certification for waiver of service of process (JD-FM-249) to fill out and sign in front of a notary. Your spouse will also need to file the appearance form. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-45 (2022).)
Otherwise, service is usually done through the State Marshal's office. Contact the marshal's office in the judicial district where your spouse lives or works.
Once you've received proof that your spouse was served or waived formal service, you need to take (or mail) that proof, along with the rest of the original divorce papers, to the court clerk's office for filing. Unless you've received a waiver of court fees, you'll have pay a filing fee (currently $360 but subject to change).
After being formally served with the divorce papers, your spouse may—but doesn't have to—file an appearance in an uncontested divorce. The defendant's answer to the divorce complaint also isn't necessary in these cases.
Note that the forms and procedures are different for a nonadversarial divorce, as discussed below.
Even with an uncontested divorce, there are a few more steps you'll need to take before you can get to the final divorce hearing (or, rarely, a divorce decree without a hearing). These include:
If you've requested a waiver of the waiting period, the court will usually schedule a hearing on your motion. At the hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant your waiver request. If the answer is yes, the judge may immediately proceed to review your paperwork to make sure that you've met all the requirements and that your agreement is fair. You'll probably have to answer some questions. If everything is in order, the judge will make your written agreement part of the final dissolution decree and sign the decree.
In limited situations, the judge may grant the motion to waive the waiting period and sign the final decree without a hearing. But this will happen only if:
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-67 (2022).)
If you qualify for Connecticut's simplified procedure for nonadversarial divorce, you'll use different forms and can skip some of the steps required for regular uncontested divorces. And you may get your final divorce in as little as 30 days.
Along with meeting the basic residency requirements and agreeing that your marriage has broken irretrievably, you must meet all of the following conditions for a nonadversarial divorce:
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-44a (2022).)
When you meet these requirements, you and your spouse will start the divorce process together, by completing and filing the following forms:
(You might also have to submit an additional form if you or your spouse ever received public assistance.)
Since you'll be completing the paperwork jointly, there's no need for service of the forms. You'll simply take the documents to the court clerk for filing and pay the filing fee (unless you applied for and received a waiver.)
You won't need to go to a hearing to receive your final decree in a nonadversarial divorce. You'll be assigned a "disposition date" that's at least 30 days after you filed the joint petition. On that date, the judge will review your agreement and other forms. If your agreement is fair and you've met the other requirements, the judge will enter your final dissolution decree (either immediately or within the next five days). However, you might be required to attend a hearing if the judge can't determine whether your agreement is fair and equitable. (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46b-44a, 46b-44c, 46b-44d (2022).)