Connecticut Uncontested Divorce
This information is an overview of the uncontested Connecticut divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Connecticut.
To divorce or legally separate in Connecticut, 1) either spouse must live there for at least twelve months before beginning the action, or 2) either spouse must be a resident for at least twelve months before the final divorce judgment is entered, or 3) either spouse must have been domiciled in the state and have returned with intention to permanently reside there before filing the complaint, 4) the cause of the action happened after either spouse moved into the state. In cases involving support, the dissolution of marriage is filed in the county where the plaintiff resides; in all other cases, the action may be filed in the county most convenient to both spouses.
Divorces happen in the Connecticut Superior Court. State courts in the state are organized in judicial districts and each district has at least one Superior Court. In divorce actions, the person filing is called the Plaintiff; the person responding is called the Defendant.
In Connecticut, grounds for divorce include No-Fault: 1) Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and 2) incompatibility and voluntary separation for 18 months with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
Fault grounds for divorce include 1) adultery, 2) life imprisonment, 3) confinement for incurable insanity for a total of five years, 4) willful desertion and nonsupport for one year, 5) seven-year absence, 6) cruel and inhuman treatment, 7) fraud, 8) habitual drunkenness, 9) commission/conviction of an infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and imprisonment for one year.
Connecticut permits legal separation, and all the procedures that apply to divorce must be followed to obtain one. A legal separation means that the person is separated from his or her spouse, but neither party is free to remarry.
Connecticut permits a summary divorce when both spouses agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken and submit an agreement "concerning the care, custody, visitation, maintenance, support and education ... and concerning alimony and disposition of property."
In a divorce, the Plaintiff needs to prepare and file some or all of the following forms:
> The Summons, which informs the Defendant of the divorce action and stipulates a return date by which he or she must enter an appearance if he or she desires to participate or contest the divorce action. The Summons and the Complaint must be served on the Defendant at least 12 days before the return date. The Complaint must be filed in the Superior Court at least six days before the Return Date. The Return Date marks the beginning of a 90-day "cooling off" period. Even if the spouse agree, the divorce cannot be entered for 90 days.
> The Complaint, which gives the grounds for the divorce. The Complaint identifies the parties, their children, and stipulates what relief is sought. The Complaint and Summons are delivered together and are attached to a Notice of Automatic Orders, which prohibit dissipation of assets and stipulate that the parties exchange "complete [and] sworn financial statements within 30 days of the return date." The clerk of the court assigns the Complaint a docket number, which is used on all other forms.
> Motion for First Order of Notice and Order of Notice, which is filed if the Defendant is out of state or if he or she is served by registered or certified mail or publication.
> The Appearance, which the Defendant may file in answer to the Complaint. By signing and filing the Summons, the Plaintiff enters his or her Appearance. The Defendant may or may not file an appearance but does if he or she plans to contest the action.
> The Cross Complaint, which is filed on the same form as the Complaint. Even in a cooperative divorce, the Defendant may elect to file a Cross Complaint if 1) he or she wants a divorce; 2) the factual data on the Complaint is incorrect; 3) the Defendant seeks a different outcome than the relief sought by the Plaintiff; 4) the Defendant wishes to allege different reasons for the breakdown of the marriage; and/or 5) he or she disagrees that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
> Application for Waiver of Fees, which is used when the Plaintiff cannot pay the filing fees, the sheriff’s cost of service and other required fees.
> Affidavit Concerning Children, which is used in compliance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA). The affidavit identifies the parents and/or anyone who has had legal custody in the last five years, anyone who is involved in custody actions, and anyone who seeks custody or visitation.
> Motions for Temporary Orders, which may be filed in connection with temporary spousal and child support when the parties cannot reach agreement by the themselves.
> Case Management Agreement, which is used to track and schedule the divorce judgment hearing.
> Judgment, which is signed by a judge and is the instrument that ends the marriage.
> Financial Affidavits, which are filed by each spouse unless the Defendant spouse does not participate in the case.
> Child Support Worksheet A, which is used when the combine net income of the mother and father are $1,750 a week or less.
> Withholding Order for Support, which is used when child support and/or alimony are to be paid by means of wage withholding.
> Advertisement of Rights, which is used if there is an order of child or spousal support whether or not there is third-party withholding.
> Health Department form, which records the divorce for record keeping.
> Military Affidavit, which is used by the Defendant if he or she does not enter an appearance. This affidavit certifies that the Defendant is not in the military and therefore not entitled to any protection of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
> Parenting Education Program - Order, Certificate and Results, which is used when the divorcing spouses have children and the court does not excuse the parents from mandatory parenting education requirement.
> The Separation Agreement, which stipulates the terms and conditions of the division and distribution of the marital estate, its assets and liabilities.
> Qualified Domestic Relations Order, which directs a plan administrator to pay a portion of a pension or profit sharing plan to the alternate payee.
In Connecticut, the Defendant may be served the Summons and Complaint in one of three ways. The are as follows:
> Personal Service, which happens when the divorce papers are served by the High Sheriff in the county where the spouse resides. The Sheriff then returns the Return of Service, which is filed with the court and proves that the Defendant was properly served.
> Service by certified or registered mail, which is used when the Defendant lives outside of the state. To use this method, the Plaintiff must receive permission of the court. This is accomplished by filing a Motion for First Order of Notice and Order of Notice. After receiving this order, the Plaintiff files the Complaint and Summons with the sheriff in his or her county of residence, and the sheriff in turn does the actual mailing to the Defendant.
> Service by Publication, which can be used when the Defendant cannot or will not be located. This required a Motion for First Order of Notice and Order of Notice. After receiving the order, the Plaintiff may publish it in a newspaper once a week for two successive weeks. The newspaper may be in the area where the Defendant is likely to be living or his or her last known address. If Service by Publication fails to locate the missing spouse, the Defendant must file a Motion to Dispense with Further Notice.
During the 90-day "cooling off" period, the couple may continue to negotiate with each other. If they reach agreement, the action is uncontested, and the couple will obtain a judgment of dissolution of marriage. The couple negotiates a separation agreement stipulating the terms and conditions of asset and liability division, spousal and child support and visitation. This agreement becomes part of the record and is a court order. During the 90-day period, the Plaintiff may schedule an uncontested divorce hearing by filing a Case Management Agreement. If the Plaintiff does not file a Case Management Agreement before the case management date, both spouses have to appear for a case management conference, at which time the judge will set a hearing date. Both spouses need not appear at the divorce hearing, but it is recommended that they do to deal with any complications that may arise.
If the Defendant has not filed an Appearance and/or Cross Complaint, the marriage ends in a default judgment for the Plaintiff.
A divorce is said to be limited contested when only financial and property issues are in dispute and contested when visitation or custody are in dispute. The spouses must attend at case management conference where the judge will enter case management and schedule orders.
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