Connecticut Divorce FAQs

Get answers to the most common questions about divorce in Connecticut.

By , Retired Judge

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.

Who can file for divorce in Connecticut?

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:

  • you or your spouse lived in Connecticut for the 12 months just before you filed for divorce or before the judge signs the divorce decree
  • you or your spouse moved away from Connecticut after being married in the state and then returned (with the intention of staying) by the filing date, or
  • the cause of your divorce happened after either of you moved to Connecticut.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-44 (2023).)

(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.

What are the legal grounds for divorce in Connecticut?

Connecticut allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. To file for a no-fault divorce, you'll simply claim that:

  • your marriage has broken down irretrievably, with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation, or
  • your and your spouse have lived apart for at least 18 months because of incompatibility, and there's no reasonable chance that you'll get back together.

If you're filing for an uncontested divorce (meaning you've already agreed about all the legal issues in your divorce), you'll both have to agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken. Otherwise, your spouse doesn't necessarily have to agree that your marriage is over. As long as you clearly want a divorce, the judge will usually assume there's no reasonable chance of reconciliation.

When you file for a fault-based divorce, you'll need to claim (and prove) that your spouse caused the failure of your marriage by engaging in one of the following types of misconduct:

  • adultery
  • fraud
  • willful desertion for at least a year, with a "total neglect of duty" (such as not providing any financial support during that time)
  • absence for at least seven years, without any communication
  • alcohol or drug addiction
  • intolerable cruelty, or
  • imprisonment for life or for a certain type of "infamous" crime.

Although mental illness isn't a form of misconduct, you may also file for a fault-based divorce on that ground, as long as your spouse has been legally confined to a psychiatric institution for at least five years just before you start the divorce proceedings. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-40 (2023).)

Does Connecticut require separation before divorce?

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) (2023).)

How much does divorce cost in Connecticut?

When you file your initial divorce paperwork with the court, you'll need to pay a filing fee. As of 2023, 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:

  • whether you can file for an uncontested divorce, which would make it easier to get a DIY divorce, and
  • whether you'll need to hire a lawyer to handle your divorce—and, if you do, how much the attorney charges per hour and how long it will take to resolve the disputes in your case.

How long will it take to get a divorce in Connecticut?

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.

How is marital property divided in Connecticut?

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.

How is child custody decided in Connecticut?

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.

What are the child support guidelines in Connecticut?

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.

How does alimony work in Connecticut?

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.

Can we agree to an out-of-court settlement in our Connecticut divorce?

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.

What happens if we can't agree on a divorce settlement?

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.

When can I get an annulment in Connecticut?

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.

Where can I get more information and help with my Connecticut divorce?

You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Connecticut.

Here are some other resources:

  • Court services. You can find divorce information and court forms on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website.
  • Mediation. If you want the cost-and-time advantages of an uncontested divorce but are having trouble agreeing with your spouse about all of the issues, divorce mediation can help you find solutions and common ground. At the end of the process, it's typical for the mediator to prepare a written divorce settlement agreement.
  • Online divorce. If you've reached a complete settlement but need more help with the uncontested divorce forms than you can get through the court's website, you might try an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms, based on your answers to a questionnaire.
  • Lawyers. Of course, there are some divorces that require a lawyer's help. If that's true in your case, here are some questions to ask before hiring a divorce attorney.