The divorce process can often seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional and practical changes that come with ending a marriage, you also have to navigate a legal system that's probably unfamiliar to you. Add to that the money worries that are almost always in the picture. But you can find answers to your questions about divorce laws in Connecticut, as well as the help you need.
You may file your initial divorce papers in Connecticut any time after either you or your spouse has established a residence in the state. However, you won't be able to finalize your divorce unless:
(Learn more about how to file for divorce in Connecticut.)
Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.
Connecticut allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse blames the other for the end of their relationship.
With a fault-based divorce, in contrast, one spouse must show that the other caused the failure of their marriage by engaging in misconduct (one of the legal reasons, or "grounds" for divorce, such as adultery or intolerable cruelty). Because the spouse accused of wrongdoing is more likely to fight the claims, pursuing a fault-based divorce can prolong the divorce process and significantly increase the expenses and anomosity.
For that reason, most spouses opt for a no-fault divorce. The easiest no-fault ground to pursue in Connecticut is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This basically means you and your spouse can no longer get along, and there's no reasonable prospect of that changing.
(Learn more about the grounds for divorce in Connecticut.)
Connecticut doesn't require spouses to separate before divorce. But many spouses do separate, or at least consider it. If separation is something you're thinking about, you need to look into whether moving out of the family home—either before or during divorce—is in your best interest.
Note that Connecticut offers "legal separation" as an alternative to divorce. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-40(c) (2022).)
When you file your initial divorce paperwork with the court, you'll need to pay a filing fee. As of September 2022, the fee is $360, but that amount is subject to change. If you can't afford to pay court fees, you can ask the judge to waive them by filing an "Application for Waiver of Fees".
Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:
Connecticut has a mandatory waiting period before a judge may sign your final divorce decree. The minimum wait time depends on the type of divorce you're seeking. If you and your spouse file for a "non-adversarial" divorce, you may finalize your divorce after 30 days from when you signed the joint petition. But note that there are several restrictions on qualifying for this type of divorce. For example, you have to have been married nine years or less, and have no children.
For a standard divorce, Connecticut normally has a waiting period of at least 90 days before you can have a hearing and get your final divorce. The 90-day countdown starts on the "Return Date" you receive from the court clerk when you file your original divorce papers. However, if your spouse hasn't entered an "Appearance" in the case and you have a written settlement agreement (more on that below), you may file a formal request (a "motion") to waive the 90-day waiting period. Still, you must wait at least 30 days after the Return Date to file the motion.
As with cost, the actual amount of time your divorce will take depends on the circumstances in your case. If your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months to the process. And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point, going to trial will require even more time—usually more than a year. Court backlogs can also make the entire process take longer.
Courts in Connecticut distribute marital property based on the theory of "equitable distribution." This means judges will divide property based on what they believe is fair under the circumstances of each case.
Attributing a value to each asset is usually pretty straightforward. But dividing some property can be tricky at times. You'll often see this with a family-owned business, where you may need the input of a forensic accountant. Another example is splitting retirement accounts, which usually requires hiring an expert.
All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in Connecticut must be based on what would be in the children's best interests.
Judges will consider several factors when they decide which custody arrangements would be best for the children (or when they decide whether to approve the parents' agreement on that issue). Those factors include the child's and parents' physical and mental health, each parent's ability to be actively involved in the child's life, and any history of domestic violence. Judges may also consider the custody preferences of children, particularly when they're older and are making an intelligent choice.
Like all states in the U.S., Connecticut has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn all about how child support is calculated in Connecticut, including when support amounts may depart from the guidelines.
In determining whether to award alimony in a Connecticut divorce, as well as the amount and duration, the court will consider a list of factors. These include items such as the length of the marriage, the causes of the divorce, and the spouses' age and health.
Temporary ("pendente lite") alimony is available while the divorce is in progress, if the judge believes it's warranted.
Yes, you and your spouse may agree how you'll handle the issues in your divorce at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial. In fact, courts strongly encourage settlements.
Once you've worked out all your issues, you'll normally spelled out the terms in a written divorce settlement agreement, which will become part of the final divorce decree. If you've already reached an agreement before you've filed your divorce papers, the court will consider your case to be uncontested. Then you may get your divorce decree once the mandatory waiting period has expired.
Usually, you'll need to attend a final hearing, at which the judge will review your paperwork and ask you a few questions about your agreement.
If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about one or more of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Any time you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's in your best interest to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair to both you and your spouse.
If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the narrow grounds for voiding a marriage. Learn more about annulment in Connecticut, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of annulling a marriage.
You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Connecticut.
Here are some other resources: