Divorce is the legal process through which a couple separates their lives in order to end their marriage. It may involve dividing property, determining child custody and support issues, and severing any other legal connections between spouses. Here are a few things you should know about divorce in Connecticut.
You do not necessarily need an attorney to get a divorce, especially if you and your spouse agree on most issues. There can be a lot of paperwork involved, however, and even an amicable divorce can be stressful. At the very least, it is wise to have a divorce attorney review your paperwork to make sure you have not made any serious mistakes.
Starting The Divorce Process in Connecticut
The first step toward legally ending your marriage involves filing forms that notify the court of your intentions:
The Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage outlines what you want the court to do or decide for you, such as dissolve your marriage, determine child support and distribute property.
The Notice of Automatic Court Orders protects both spouses and their children from unreasonable actions, such as selling property without the other spouse's consent or moving out of state with the children. These orders also require parenting classes if you have children.
The Summons Family Actions requests that an officer notify your spouse of your divorce filing. It tells your spouse how to respond to your lawsuit.
Connecticut has specific residency requirements that you must meet before you can file for divorce. You can file in the judicial district where either you or your spouse resides.
Types of Divorce
You can choose either a fault or no-fault divorce in Connecticut. No-fault means that nobody is to blame; you simply cannot be married anymore. You will need to show the court that your marriage is broken and can't be saved, or that you and your spouse have lived apart for at least 18 months.
A fault divorce alleges that one spouse has done something wrong that has ended the marriage. Fault grounds for divorce in Connecticut include adultery, intolerable cruelty, or the absence of one spouse from the marriage for at least seven years. The state imposes a 90-day waiting period before your divorce can be finalized. Depending on your situation and whether you and your spouse are contesting issues, the divorce process can take much longer than this.
Contested or Uncontested Divorce
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement, outside of a courtroom, on how to handle division of property and all other matters relating to your marriage. You can avoid appearing in court, except for a final hearing.
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse are unable to agree on issues so the court must rule on your differences according to state law.
Property and Debt Distribution
Connecticut uses the equitable distribution model to determine who gets what in a divorce. This means the court can divide assets and debts in a way that the judge feels is fair, and this is not necessarily the same as equally. Courts can consider various factors when determining fairness:
The grounds cited in the divorce petition.
The financial position of each spouse, such as current income and potential earnings capacity.
How long the marriage lasted.
The state can include property acquired before the marriage as marital property if separate assets have been joined with other marital assets, or if they have been used during the marriage to benefit both spouses. Property that has always been controlled by only one spouse is not subject to distribution.
Finalizing the Divorce
After the terms of your divorce have been determined, you will attend a hearing where you will sign the final judgment and the judge will enter it into the court records.
Divorce laws can be complicated, and each case is unique. Unless you have few assets and no children, it is a good idea to speak with a Connecticut divorce lawyer who can work toward getting you a fair outcome.