Divorce – State FAQ – Connecticut
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Connecticut prior to filing for divorce in a Connecticut court?
A: A complaint for dissolution of marriage may be filed at any time after either spouse has established residency with the State of Connecticut. A decree of dissolution of marriage will not be issued by the court however, until:
1. At least one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of the state for one year prior to the filing of the complaint of the date of the decree; or,
2.One of the parties was domiciled in the state at the time of marriage and returned to the state with the intention of remaining indefinitely prior to the filing of the complaint; or,
3. The cause of the divorce arose after either party moved to the state.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is the Plaintiff, while the other party to the action is the Defendant.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Connecticut, proper venue for the divorce action is the Superior Court for the jurisdiction in which the defendant resides, or if the defendant lives out-of-state, in the county where the Plaintiff resides.
Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The document granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating dissolution of marriage proceeding is called a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage, while the title of the order granting the dissolution of marriage is referred ot as the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?
A: There is a ninety day waiting period from the date of return on the complaint for dissolution before the court will hear and grant a dissolution of marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Connecticut. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Connecticut?
A: A decree of dissolution of marriage shall be granted upon a finding that:
1. The marriage has broken down irretrievably;
2. The parties have lived apart due to incompatibility for eighteen months with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation;
4. Fraudulent contract;
5. Willful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty;
6. Seven years absence with no contact;
7. Habitual intemperance;
8. Intolerable cruelty;
9. Sentence to life imprisonment or conviction of infamous crime involving violation of conjugal duty punishable by more than one year in prison; and,
10. Legal confinement in mental institution for five years within the six years prior to filing.
Simplified divorce proceeding
Q: What is a simplified divorce proceeding?
A: The court may grant a request for dissolution of marriage if:
1. The parties execute a written stipulation that the marriage has broken down irretrievably; or,
2. The parties appear in court and stipulate that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and the parties have submitted an agreement covering all issues regarding the custody, care, education, visitation and support of any minor children and all issues relating to alimony and division of property.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: The court will award alimony, without regard to fault, in such amount and for such times as the court deems appropriate, after consideration of the factors listed in the Delaware Divorce Information Section on the Connecticut Divorce Main Page.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Connecticut is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. Each case will be decided on its facts, and the trial court’s discretion will not be disturbed on appeal without a showing of clear abuse. The court will consider the following factors:
1. The length of the marriage;
2. The cause of the dissolution, annulment or separation;
3. The age, health and station of each party;
4. The occupation, amount and source of income of each party;
5. The vocational skills and employability of each party;
6. The estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties;
7. The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital, assets and income; and,
8. The contribution of each party to the acquisition, preservation or appreciation of each party’s estate.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: The court may award custody to either parent, regardless of sex, subject to the best interests of the child. There is a presumption that joint custody is in the child’s best interests. If the child is of sufficient age and is capable of forming intelligent preferences, the court shall consider the child’s wishes as to custodial arrangements. The court may also take into account the causes of the dissolution if such causes are relevant.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: Connecticut has enacted child support guidelines which establish the presumptively correct amount of child support to be paid. Any deviation from the guidelines must be accompanied by a written finding that the application of the guidelines would be inequitable or inappropriate in the particular case.