A Guide to Divorce in Connecticut
This is a complete guide to divorce in Connecticut.
In this guide, you’ll get educated on exactly how divorce works in Connecticut .
Specifically, we’ll cover the differences between divorce and legal separation, types of divorce, overview of the process, how much it costs, and a whole lot more.
So if you want to make sure you have a lay of the land (and steer clear of the landmines), we’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Connecticut?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Connecticut without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Connecticut?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Bifurcation of Marital Status in Connecticut
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Connecticut?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The differences between divorce, annulment and legal separation
Couples in Connecticut can end their marriages by divorce or annulment. Legal separation is also permitted, but a couple will still remain married after this action takes place.
Legal Separation. Legal separation is a court action that allows spouses to take many of the steps associated with a divorce, but they will still remain married.
Issues such as a division of assets, child custody, and support will be decided as if a marriage were actually being dissolved. Legal documents will be prepared and executed to enforce the decisions.
The separation may either be temporary or for an unlimited period. It can be dismissed if both sides want to reconcile. It can also be converted into a divorce at a later date as well.
Spouses may also choose legal separation for religious reasons. Some religions do not look favorably upon divorce and staying married though legally separated puts less pressure on a couple who might otherwise be in conflict with their church and religious beliefs.
In other cases, spouses may only be looking for a time-out to try and sort through issues without being held to a final decision about the status of their marriage.
Legal separation may also offer financial benefits as well, such as being able to keep health insurance, or by continuing to file as a married couple on tax returns.
Annulment. Annulments are allowed in Connecticut under certain circumstances, but overall they are uncommon. An annulment basically declares a marriage null and void, as if it never happened. A marriage is considered voidable if the marriage itself was never legal in the first place.
There are several reasons why this might be the case, such as one party was already married, marriage was entered into by minors, it was performed by someone not authorized to do so, and other similar situations.
Divorce. Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage in Connecticut. All ties are severed, assets are divided, custody and alimony issues are resolved, and each spouse is completely free to move on after a final decree has been issued.
What are the grounds for divorce in Connecticut?
Connecticut is a no-fault state and this means that spouses only need to state that their marriage is “broken down irretrievably” to dissolve their marriage.
Connecticut courts are allowed to consider if one spouse is the reason why a marriage broke down which can have an impact on other issues such as alimony, child support, visitation and a division of assets.
What kind of divorce is right for you?
You have several options you can pursue in Connecticut if you are contemplating a divorce. How you proceed will, in large part, depend on the relationship you have with your spouse. If you can agree to work together, chances are you can save a lot of money and move quicker through the process.
Once you have made the decision to divorce, determining what type of divorce you will pursue is the most important thing you’ll decide. This is because the nature of the divorce sets the framework for how all the elements of the divorce will play out.
Here are the types of divorce:
- Do-It-Yourself Divorce: What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
- Online Divorce: A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
- Litigation: The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids. Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
- Mediation: With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
- Collaborative Divorce: Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions. That’s what a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
To learn more about your divorce options in Connecticut, review our article What are the Types of Divorce? so that you can form an effective and appropriate strategy going forward.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Connecticut?
You do have several different ways you can proceed, but many of the basic processes are the same regardless of what you decide to do.
Gather important information.
Save time, money and stress in your divorce by approaching this step in a timely and thorough way. It will take time to pull together your information, but it is vital that you do this without cutting corners so you can make sure your legal rights are protected while also giving yourself the possibility of achieving the best possible final settlement with your spouse.
Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.
We’ve simplified the process for you by creating a Divorce Information Checklist you can access as part of our article The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: The Information You Need to Prepare for Divorce.
Complete the initial paperwork.
After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you need to fill out several forms and submit to the court.
You will need three forms to start your divorce action. They are:
This will be delivered by a state marshal to officially notify your spouse that you are filing for a divorce. After a spouse receives a summons, they need to file an Appearance form that allows them to respond to the divorce action. If your spouse fails to file the form, they will not receive critical information related to the divorce going forward and this will slow down the entire process.
This is the document that tells the court what you want from the divorce. You can request an end to the marriage, request alimony and child support, ask for custody and visitation issues to be resolved with your children, and request how assets and debts should be divided, among other things. A spouse who responds to this document will need to file a cross complaint.
Notice of Automatic Court Orders.
This document will protect you and your spouse by setting certain rules and framework that will apply during the divorce action. It may deal with child issues, or what assets can and can’t be touched while the divorce is taking place.
File your forms.
You must file forms at the county court where you live. You will need to sign the documents in front of the clerk who will act as a witness for you signing the summons and other paperwork. You will then receive copies of the documents to give to your spouse.
Completing proof of service in Connecticut
After you have filed your paperwork with the court, you must officially give your spouse a copy to make them legally aware of your intentions.
In Connecticut, a state marshal will serve the paperwork on your spouse in the judicial district where your spouse lives or works. Contact the marshal, bring the documents given to you by the courts and pay a $50 fee. You may get a list of state marshals from the court clerk or the Court Service Center.
After the marshal serves your spouse, they will file a Return of Service as proof that this action was completed. Either you or the marshal will then file this document with the court.
If, after diligent attempts to serve your spouse, they cannot be located, it may be possible to have them served by publication, which entails running a legal notice in a publication as a means of satisfying this requirement.
Can you file for divorce online in Connecticut?
You can complete much of the paperwork to start your divorce in Connecticut online. There are several firms and legal aid societies that may be able to help you with this task.
I recommend using 3 Step Divorce. an incredibly comprehensible platform to handle your online divorce.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
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Can you file for divorce in Connecticut without using a lawyer?
Yes. If you and your spouse agree to settle on all the issues related to your divorce, you can go through the legal proceedings pro se, which means without legal counsel. You and your spouse will be responsible for filing all paperwork and speaking to the judge on your own behalf.
If you can’t agree on how to divide assets, whether or not you should pay alimony, or if you have children and you need to come up with an equitable parenting plan, you should probably hire an attorney to guide your efforts. A contested divorce can turn ugly and complicated and you want to make sure your rights are protected if this happens.
How much will it cost?
To file for a divorce in Connecticut, you will need to pay a $350 filing fee, a $50 fee for having the court papers served, and if you have children, you’ll also need to pay $125 for a mandatory parenting education class.
In addition, if you can’t find your spouse and must make service by publication, you will need to pay an additional $350 to publish the divorce notice in a local publication.
If you are not able to go through an uncontested divorce, meaning you and your spouse have outstanding issues to be resolved, expect to pay a family law attorney anywhere from $200 to $500 per hour depending on the complexity and nature of your issues. You may also need to pay a retainer up front to get the legal process started.
If you decide to use a mediator or an arbitrator, expect your costs to be somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000, and possibly more.
As you can guess, fully contested divorces are far and away the most expensive and take the longest time to resolve. Your case could go on for more than a year and you could rack up tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Connecticut?
Connecticut has a mandatory 90-day waiting period after you start your divorce action before you can get a final judgment. If you can reach an agreement with your spouse on all issues during that period, you and your spouse can complete a Dissolution Agreement Form and submit it to the court to help expedite a final settlement and approval.
You and your spouse should also complete a Case Management Agreement Form as well. This will tell the court if you are choosing to go through a contested or an uncontested divorce. If you can’t come to an agreement on all issues, after you turn in the Case Management Form, the court will set a hearing date for your divorce.
The final step in a Connecticut divorce is a divorce hearing. On the day of your hearing you will appear before a judge who will review your forms. If the divorce is uncontested, then he or she will quickly review them and approve them if everything is in order.
If you are going through a contested divorce, the judge will give you additional instructions on what comes next. Some issues may be decided that day, or possibly at a later date.
Should I retain a certified divorce financial analyst?
Divorcing spouses in Connecticut often retain a family law attorney to help them through the process. In many cases, an attorney can handle all aspects of the divorce, including financial and tax implications.
But when considerable or complicated types of assets are involved, there are times when you may need other specialists to ensure your rights are protected. In cases like this, you will definitely benefit from working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Bifurcation of marital status
Bifurcation of marital status means that both parties can legally divide their divorce into two stages.
Some courts do not like to grant bifurcated marriages because it is judicially inefficient requiring two trials and a lot more legal costs while also dragging out a divorce for a much longer period of time.
The first half of the bifurcation satisfies the grounds for divorce. The second part deals with things that may have become sticking points such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony or other issues that are keeping the divorce from being finalized.
Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Connecticut?
No. If your spouse wants to divorce you, then it’s not possible to stop them.
But if your divorce action has started and you both have a change of heart, it is possible to file a motion with the court to have the divorce complaint dismissed. This will end the pending divorce action. However, if the final divorce decree has been issued and you change your minds about being married and together, then if you reconcile, you will need to get married again.
What is a divorce decree?
A final divorce decree in Connecticut spells out the conditions on the divorce in detail.
It covers the rights and responsibilities of each party, including a division of assets, child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and any other issues that were a part of the action.
It is a legal and binding document and both parties must comply with the instruction in the decree. If either party fails to do so, the other party can take legal action to correct any deficiencies that may result in penalties, fines or in some cases, jail time.
What is a divorce certificate?
A divorce certificate in Connecticut only contains basic information about a divorce, such as when and where it took place. It does not contain specifics related to the details of a settlement.
Changing Your Name
You will be presented either an option to restore your former name or request a court order for changing names when preparing your divorce forms.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or else have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Either of these documents are accepted with all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Just because you have a court order does not mean your name change has taken effect. You need to contact all your organizations to request your records are updated.
It’s time-consuming to contact each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.
Recommended Divorce Resources
There are a ton of divorce resources that make big, sweeping claims about their abilities. We’ve tested a bunch of them and many fall short.
Lucky for you, we’ve found the few that stand out above the rest.
These are the tools we’re excited to share with you because we know they can help you have a better divorce:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more