Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about getting a divorce in Connecticut:
Yes. In most cases at least one spouse must have been lived in Connecticut for the past 12 months before the court can grant a divorce (called “dissolution” in Connecticut). The 12 months can be either before one spouse files a complaint or before the court enters a final decree. There are a few exceptions to this general rule. For example, if one spouse lived in Connecticut at the time of the marriage, moved out of the state during the marriage, and then moved back with a plan to stay permanently before filing for divorce, the 12 month requirement won’t apply.
It’s always a good idea to get legal advice. A divorce can have important consequences that aren’t immediately obvious. You and your spouse can’t use the same lawyer either, even if you agree on everything. You can represent yourself, however. This is called proceeding "pro se." The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch has a “Do It Yourself Divorce Guide” to help self-represented parties work through the dissolution process. You can get a printed copy of this guide from any Connecticut superior court.
Yes. Most divorces in Connecticut are "no-fault" divorces. To obtain a no-fault divorce, one spouse must simply state a belief that the marriage has broken down “irretrievably,” meaning that there is no realistic chance of a reconciliation.
Yes. Fault grounds in Connecticut include:
If you believe there may be a benefit to choosing a fault ground in your case, contact an attorney for advice.
The person seeking the divorce (the "plaintiff") files a document called a “complaint” in the superior court for the judicial district where at least one of the spouses lives. The complaint includes information about current living arrangements, the reason for the divorce, and any children of the marriage. In addition to asking that the marriage be terminated, the plaintiff can ask the court to divide marital property and debts, award alimony or child support, determine child custody, and restore a previous name. The plaintiff usually has the state marshal serve the complaint on the other spouse (the “defendant”), along with a required Summons and Notice of Automatic Court Orders.
(Learn more about Filing for Divorce in Connecticut)
Automatic orders are restraining orders that go into effect automatically at the beginning of a dissolution case. They prevent either spouse from taking actions that would drastically affect the couple’s property or children without the other spouse’s consent, such as spending a large amount of money, changing life or medical insurance beneficiaries, mortgaging or selling a home, locking the other spouse out of the home, or taking children out of the state. The court can modify (change) these orders in an appropriate case.
The Connecticut dissolution process takes a minimum of about four months; in a complicated case it may take much longer. The court sets two dates when a complaint is filed. The first is the “return date,” which is at least four weeks away to give the defendant a chance to answer the complaint, file a cross complaint, or simply enter a “pro se” appearance. The second date is the “case management date,” which is at least 90 days after the return date and is the earliest date a divorce can be finalized. The court takes no action before the case management date so that the spouses have some time to settle issues out of court. Couples with children must also complete a court-approved parenting education program within 60 days of the return date.
You can file paperwork (called a “motion”) asking the court to make temporary decisions regarding child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, possession of property, or payment of debts at any time during your case. You can even file and serve a motion with your complaint.
There is a fee of $350 to file a complaint and $50 for service of the court papers. The fee for the mandatory parenting education class is $125. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may have to pay additional fees for things such as publishing a notice in a newspaper (if you can’t locate your spouse) or filing a counterclaim or motion in court. The Connecticut judiciary maintains an up to date list of court fees. Fees for attorneys, mediators, and any experts you may need in your case are unpredictable due to wide variations in rates and time required. Generally speaking, if your case is simple, and you and your spouse can resolve your issues with little difficulty, costs will be lower. If your case is complex or you have trouble reaching agreements, it could become very expensive.
If you wish to limit conflict in your divorce, but still have some disagreements, you can ask a neutral third party (called a “mediator”) to help you settle your case in a confidential proceeding called mediation. The mediator provides information rather than legal advice and helps a couple understand all available options. There are both court-sponsored and private mediation options available in Connecticut. The Connecticut judiciary’s Mediation Programs / Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) webpage includes additional information about these options.