Connecticut Divorce & Separation
UPDATED: February 16, 2020
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Legal separation or divorce is, of course, common in every state. But you may not realize that the laws and rules governing the processes can differ significantly from one state to the next, and Connecticut is no exception. What are the requirements for getting a divorce in Connecticut? Do Connecticut courts allow legal separations? What is the law on Connecticut annulments? Find the answers to your Connecticut divorce questions here.
Connecticut Legal Separation:
Legal separations are allowed in Connecticut and granted on the same grounds as divorces, with the same residency requirements as well. See the “Grounds for Divorce/Fault – No Fault” section below for more detail on these grounds. The central difference between legal separation and divorce is that after a legal separation is granted, there is more time and flexibility in deciding on options. A declaration can be filed at any time that would resume the marriage, or a petition seeking to finalize the separation as a divorce can also be filed at any time. The right to divorce is not put at risk by a legal separation in Connecticut; in fact, when petitioning for a divorce decree during or after legal separation, only the petitioning party need even be present in court for the decree’s issuance. It is done right in your presence, regardless of the preferences of the responding party.
Grounds for Divorce/Fault – No Fault:
Connecticut has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce (though all grounds are cause-based, not all are fault-based). For no-fault divorces, the judge will grant a divorce where the marriage has clearly broken down irretrievably. This standard is largely synonymous with the more popular term, “irreconcilable differences.” On the other hand, fault-based grounds for divorce include considerably more specific sets of reasons, for instance: adultery, fraud, continuous willful living apart for the last 18+ months, a 7-year absence/total disappearance, intolerable cruelty and habitual intemperance, and extensive legal confinement (amounting to five years or more for mental illness crimes, or life imprisonment for most other potential causes, although if one party is sentenced for over a year and the crimes committed involved failed conjugal duty, then only that short period is necessary to function as effective grounds). In any case, if the court determines that one of the causes listed above occurred, then a divorce decree will be granted.
Residency/Where to File for Divorce:
To file for divorce, either 1) the plaintiff or defendant or both must have been a resident of the state for at least one full year before filing, or 2) one of the parties must have been domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the marriage and returned to the state with the good faith intention of residing there permanently, or 3) the grounds for the cause of the marriage dissolution must have occurred after either party moved to Connecticut. In Connecticut, the Superior Court has jurisdiction and it will hear all petitions for dissolution (complaints for divorce).
Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures:
Irretrievable breakdown is the simplest and typically the fastest means of getting a divorce in Connecticut. If both parties stipulate (i.e. voluntarily, jointly, and officially agree) that irretrievable breakdown has occurred, the judge will grant the decree. Similarly, if the parties are physically in court and stipulate the same before the judge, then as long as they have submitted an agreement to the court detailing how property, alimony, and all things related to child support will be handled, the court will treat that verbal testimony of either party as conclusive and sufficient on the issue.
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Divorce Mediation in Connecticut:
For marriages with children, the court has the right to order a reconciliation conference and/or counseling for the children, which would likely involve the services of a well-trained, court-appointed mediator. A mediation session might also be called for if there are issues that could be resolved and agreed upon amicably through a conference rather than forcing the parties, the children, and the court system to suffer through unnecessary litigation. The parties may also submit a request for conciliation to the clerk of the court, at which point the services of a mediator can be utilized voluntarily. Mediators are also useful in helping to draft fair and appropriate agreements like the ones described above for determining maintenance for spouse, child, and asset allocation. This minimizes interpersonal conflict, wasted time, and the costs of seeing a court hearing all the way through to the end.
An annulment is a court declaration that a marriage is legally invalid. In other words, rather than ending a marriage via divorce, an annulment is a declaration that the marriage was never valid to begin with, for reasons including: fraud, duress, defects in marriage license or ceremony, consanguinity (incest), or misrepresentation of facts/circumstances that are essential to the marriage in particular.
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