Divorce Law June 2010

A complaint for dissolution of marriage or legal separation may be filed at any time after either party has established residence in Connecticut. A complaint for legal separation may later be amended to become a complaint for divorce.

In order to actually obtain a divorce, one party must have resided in Connecticut for at least twelve months preceding the filing of the complaint or preceding the date of the actual decree; or one of the parties must have been domiciled in the state at the time of or the marriage and returned to the state with the intention of permanently remaining before the filing of the complaint; or the cause for the divorce arose after either party moved into this state. If a party was a member of the armed services or the merchant marine and was a resident of Connecticut at the time of his or her entry, he or she shall be deemed to have continuously resided in Connecticut during the time of service.

The process of divorce is commenced by the service of documents upon the other party by state marshal and the filing of the documents in the superior court for the judicial district in which one of the parties resides along with a filing fee. Although there are many grounds for divorce in Connecticut, the most commonly recited ground is that of irretrievable breakdown. Simply put, that means that the parties had irreconcilable differences. While Connecticut does not require fault to file for divorce, fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage is a factor in a court's determination of property distribution and alimony.

Generally, there is a waiting period of ninety days from the return day before a divorce may be granted. In certain circumstances, a stay of six months may be imposed in a situation where a plaintiff or defendant fails to attend conciliation sessions pursuant to the other party's request for conciliation.

Once a party is divorced, he or she is free to remarry. Under a decree of legal separation, a party is not free to remarry. It is important to note that a party cannot provide health insurance benefits for an ex-spouse. Under a decree of legal separation, a party may be ordered to cover health insurance of the other party. However, a court may order an ex-spouse to pay alimony to cover the cost of health benefits. When and if a decree of legal separation is converted into a divorce, the issues of property and support may be revisited.

In either a divorce or legal separation, the importance of a carefully written Separation Agreement cannot be emphasized enough. It is that document that will spell out the rights and responsibilities of each party. Each party must fully understand all of the implications to which he or she agrees. The consequences of less than perfect understanding are potentially enormous and increase exponentially where there are children involved.