Divorce in Connecticut is legally referred to as “dissolution of marriage”. Connecticut is considered a “no fault” divorce state, which means that a spouse seeking a divorce need not prove fault in order to obtain a divorce. However, “fault” may be considered by the Court when making a financial award, as further discussed below.
A complaint for divorce may be filed in Connecticut as soon as one of the residency requirements is satisfied: "A decree dissolving a marriage or granting a legal separation may be entered if: (1) One of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of this state for at least the twelve months next preceding the date of the filing of the complaint or next preceding the date of the decree; or (2) one of the parties was domiciled in this state at the time of the marriage and returned to this state with the intention of permanently remaining before the filing of the complaint; or (3) the cause for the dissolution of the marriage arose after either party moved into this state." C.G.S. Section 46b-44(c).
Grounds for Divorce
There are ten grounds for dissolution of marriage in Connecticut which are set forth in Connecticut General Statute Section 465-40(c). In most cases, “irretrievable breakdown” is the only ground alleged, and is legally sufficient to obtain a divorce. The grounds are:
1. Irretrievable breakdown;
2. Living separate and apart for 18 months with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation;
4. Fraudulent contract;
5. Willful desertion for one year;
6. Seven years absence;
7. Habitual intemperance;
8. Intolerable cruelty;
9. Life imprisonment or conviction of an infamous crime violating conjugal duty;
10. Legal confinement for mental illness for five of the last six years.
While irretrievable breakdown is often the sole ground alleged, multiple grounds may be alleged because “marital fault” may be considered by the Court when assigning division of property and making an alimony award under Connecticut General Statute Section 46b-81. It should be noted, however, that proof of “fault” may be considered by the Court even when irretrievable breakdown is the only ground alleged.
Temporary (Pendente Lite) Orders
Connecticut imposes a 90-day “cooling off period” after commencement of the action and before a final judgment can be rendered. C.G.S. § 46b-67. This 90-day period is the minimum time in which you can obtain a divorce. The time between filing of the divorce and entry of a final judgment of divorce is called the “pendente lite” period. During this period, before a divorce is finalized, the Court may grant temporary relief, including alimony, child support, child custody and parenting time arrangements, and, if necessary, a restraining order against abuse, exclusive possession of the marital residence, and an order that one spouse pay the other’s attorney’s fees.
During the pendente lite period, the rules also provide “standing orders” (often referred to as the “automatic orders”) mandating that each party maintain the “status quo” while the divorce is pending (such as prohibiting the transfer of assets, the charging up of credit lines, the changing or canceling of health or life insurance, and the relocating of minor children). The standing orders are “automatic” and set forth case management procedures, automatic discovery and alternative-dispute resolution procedures:
Neither party shall:
• Sell, mortgage, or give away any property without written agreement or a court order.
• Go into unreasonable debt by borrowing money or using credit cards or cash advances.
• Permanently take your children from Connecticut without written agreement or a court order.
• Take each other or your children off any existing medical, hospital, doctor, or dental insurance policy or let any such insurance coverage expire.
• Change the terms or named beneficiaries of any existing insurance policy or let any existing insurance coverage expire, including life, automobile, homeowner's or renter's insurance.
• Deny use of the family home to the other person without a court order, if you are living together on the date the court papers are served.
Both parties shall:
• Complete and exchange sworn financial affidavits within thirty days of the return date.
• Participate in a parenting education program within sixty days of the return date or, for a custody or visitation case, within sixty days from the filing of the Application (if you share children under 18 years old).
• Attend a case management conference on the date specified, unless you both agree on all issues and file a Case Management Agreement form with the court clerk on or before that date.
• Tell the other person in writing within forty-eight hours about your new address or a place where you can receive mail if you move out of the family home (if you share children under 18 years old).
• Help any children you share continue their usual contact with both parents in person, by telephone and in writing.
Disclosure of Finances
In any action for Divorce, Annulment, or Legal Separation, each party must make complete disclosure of his or her income, expenses, assets and liabilities. A “Financial Affidavit” is signed by each party and made under oath. There also is a Mandatory Disclosure provision. If a party serves a notice of mandatory disclosure on the other, the party served must provide the following within 30 days:
(1) all federal and state income tax returns filed within the last three years, including personal returns and returns filed on behalf of any partnership or closely-held corporation of which a party is a partner or shareholder;
(2) IRS forms W-2, 1099 and K-1 within the last three years including those for the past year if the income tax returns for that year have not been prepared;
(3) copies of all pay stubs or other evidence of income for the current year and the last pay stub from the past year;
(4) statements for all accounts maintained with any financial institution, including banks, brokers and financial managers, for the past 24 months;
(5) the most recent statement showing any interest in any Keogh, IRA, profit sharing plan, deferred compensation plan, pension plan, or retirement account;
(6) the most recent statement regarding any insurance on the life of any party;
(7) a summary furnished by the employer of the party's medical insurance policy, coverage, cost of coverage, spousal benefits, and COBRA costs following dissolution;
(8) any written appraisal concerning any asset owned by either party.
Additional discovery tools which may be utilized in a divorce include taking depositions, serving discovery demands called “Interrogatories” and “Requests for Production of Documents” not covered by the Mandatory Disclosure. In some cases it may be necessary to hire accountants, actuaries or other experts to discover and analyze corporate books and records. Hiring experts may be necessary in cases where one party owns his/her own business and there is a concern that the party is hiding assets. In such situations, the discovery process may become expensive.