Know the Laws: Connecticut
UPDATED January 10, 2017
Basic information about divorce in Connecticut.
back to topWhat are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Connecticut?
A divorce complaint (petition) can be filed in Connecticut at any time after either spouse establishes residency in Connecticut.* However, a divorce can only be granted if one of the following are true:
- Either spouse has had residency in Connecticut for at least 12 months before:
- the divorce was filed; or
- the date of the divorce decree; (In other words, you can file for the divorce before 12 months of residency but the judge will not grant the final divorce until the 12 months of residency are completed);
- Either spouse was domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the marriage and returned to Connecticut with the intent to live there permanently before filing for divorce** (Note: “Domicile” requires actual residence plus the intention of permanently remaining in the state);*** or
- The reason you are seeking a divorce (the grounds) happened after you or your spouse moved into Connecticut.** (Note: Although the law doesn't mention anything about 12 months of residency here, the majority of judges will still require completion of 12 months' residency before granting the divorce).
A member of the armed forces will be considered a resident of Connecticut for the length of his/her service if s/he was a resident of Connecticut before entering into the military.****
* C.G.S. § 46b-44(a); see also Jungnelius v. Jungnelius, 133 Conn. App. 250 (2012)
** C.G.S. § 46b-44(c)
*** See Mills v. Mills, 119 Conn. 612 (Supr. Ct 1935)
**** C.G.S. § 46b-44(d)
back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Connecticut?
Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce. The judge can grant you a divorce (or legal separation) in Connecticut if:
- the marriage has broken down permanently; (Note: This "irretrievable breakdown" ground can generally be proven just by one spouse testifying that the marriage has broken down, even if the other spouse says it has not. The rest of the grounds, below, often require a more complex trial in which additional evidence needs to be presented to prove the ground);
- you and your spouse have lived apart because of being incompatible for a continuous period of 18 months before service of the divorce complaint, and there is no reasonable expectation that you and your spouse will reconcile;
- adultery (your spouse cheats on you);
- your spouse intentionally deceived you to enter into the marriage (referred to as a “fraudulent contract” under the law);
- your spouse purposely deserted/abandoned you for 1 year;
- your spouse is absent for 7 years without any contact;
- your spouse habitually abuses alcohol;
- your spouse is intolerably cruel to you;
- your spouse is sentenced to life in prison;
- your spouse committed a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of more than a year and involves a “violation of a conjugal duty”* (which courts have interpreted to be crimes of a sexual nature);** or
- your spouse is confined to a hospital, mental hospital, or other similar institution because of mental illness for at least 5 years within the 6-year period before you filed for divorce.*
* C.G.S. § 46b-40(c)
** See Sweet v. Sweet, 21 Conn. Supp. (1957); Swanson v. Swanson, 128 Conn. 128 (1941)
Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse and can be awarded when a divorce, legal separation, or annulment is granted. If you request alimony and the judge decides to award it in your case (or if you and your spouse agree that it should be ordered), the order can be for either an indefinite period of time (with no specific end date), or it can be a time-limited award (with a specific end date).* In addition, it's possible to get temporary alimony (known as pendente lite) while the case is going on (in addition to temporary child support and temporary "exclusive use" of the family home).**
If the parties do not agree upon alimony and it is up to the judge to decide, the judge will hear evidence presented by you and your spouse and consider certain factors to determine a fair amount to award. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- the length of the marriage;
- the cause of the divorce, legal separation, or annulment;
- the age, health, education of both spouses; and
- the economic status, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, work skills, employability, estate and needs of you and your spouse.*
Note: If you have been granted custody of your children, then the judge will also consider how desirable/reasonable it is for you to become employed (if you are not working).*
* C.G.S. § 46b-82(a)
** C.G.S. § 46b-83(a)
back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow to obtain a divorce:
- First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse - for the exact rules for serving the papers, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side. In his/her response, the other party may express his/her opinion challenging the divorce, asking that it be granted under different grounds or letting the judge know that s/he agrees to the divorce. If your spouse contests the divorce, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce.)
- Fifth, if there are property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues. The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce. Custody and child support may also be decided as part of your divorce.
back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce laws in Connecticut?
The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch has the following information:
- court forms for your divorce proceeding;
- a video on how to file for divorce; and
- a do-it-yourself divorce guide, which includes topics like what you should do if you are experiencing domestic violence and considering divorce, a glossary of common words you may encounter in your divorce, the divorce procedure, and alimony.
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. We provide these links for your information only.
WomensLaw.org thanks Lorraine Carcova, Managing Attorney of the Family Law Unit at Connecticut Legal Services for her input on this page.
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