When a Connecticut couple chooses to end their marriage, they must obtain a divorce decree from a Connecticut court. A Connecticut divorce decree addresses items such as child custody and support, spousal support and property division, in addition to dissolving the marriage. If circumstances change after the initial divorce decree, the court may modify certain elements of the decree.
A Connecticut court cannot issue a divorce decree unless at least one of the spouses has been a resident of Connecticut for at least one year before the divorce is finalized by the court, either spouse was once a resident of Connecticut and has since returned to Connecticut to live, either spouse was a resident of Connecticut before military duty took the spouse out of state, or the cause of the divorce arose after the spouses moved to Connecticut.
Grounds for Divorce
Connecticut allows spouses to file for divorce on fault-based grounds, or reasons, but also offers no-fault grounds. No-fault divorce does not require one spouse to prove the divorce is the other spouse’s fault. While the court might consider fault when determining financial orders, like property division and alimony, it might also choose not to consider fault when making its determination.
Filing for Divorce
To begin the divorce process in Connecticut, a spouse must file a divorce complaint, which includes important information about your marriage along with your reason for divorce and proposed terms of the divorce. Once a spouse files the complaint, he must serve a copy of it on the other spouse, typically by asking the state marshal to serve the documents. If the other spouse chooses to file an answer in response to the complaint, he must do so within the time frame given by the court in the initial divorce papers.
If the responding spouse answers the divorce complaint and both spouses can reach agreement on the terms of the divorce, a Connecticut court can grant a divorce decree as soon as 90 days from the “return date,” which is the official start date of your case as set by the court; however, under the most ideal circumstances, the soonest a divorce is finalized is usually four months. If spouses cannot agree, the court will determine the terms of the divorce for them, extending the time it takes to obtain a divorce decree.
Divorce Decree by Default
If a spouse does not respond to the complaint, the filing spouse can seek a default divorce. Generally, to obtain a divorce by default, the filing spouse must request a default judgment from the court and provide notice of the request to her spouse. Typically, the court will schedule a default hearing. If the spouse doesn’t attend the hearing, a Connecticut judge is likely to grant the filing spouse’s request for a default divorce and grant the terms requested in her complaint.
Connecticut spouses can modify many terms of their divorce decree, including child custody and alimony, if their circumstances change after the court issues the original divorce decree. Since property distribution becomes effective immediately when the court issues the divorce decree, it is very difficult to modify property awards. To modify a divorce decree, the spouse requesting modification must file a petition with the court that issued the original decree, and the petition must specify which terms should be modified and describe the changed circumstances that warrant the modification.
References & Resources
- Susan K. Smith: A Connecticut Divorce Law Primer
- Connecticut Judicial Branch: Law Libraries: Dissolution of Marriages in Connecticut
- Connecticut Judicial Branch: Family Forms: Filing for a Divorce Without Children
- Connecticut Judicial Branch: Do It Yourself Divorce Guide
- Law Offices of Deborah R. Eisenberg: When the Original Divorce Agreement or Family Court Order Doesn’t Work Any More
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images