Connecticut Divorce Timeline
In Connecticut, the divorce process typically takes anywhere from a few months up to several years. Some divorces take markedly more time, depending on the factors at play. The following post explores the key junctures in the Connecticut divorce timeline.
1) Paperwork Begins The Divorce Process in Connecticut
In Connecticut, either spouse can elect to file for divorce. To do so, one must first complete a Divorce Complaint with the State of Connecticut Superior Court. The Divorce Complaint is also known as a “Dissolution of Marriage.” The form first requires the Plaintiff (the spouse filing for divorce) to provide basic information such as the spouses’ names, birthdates, the date of the marriage, and the town, state, or county where the marriage took place. Next, the form requires the plaintiff to identify the spouses’ ties to the state of Connecticut. Ties include living or having lived in Connected at any time during the marriage, from its inception to its dissolution. The Divorce Complaint then requires that the Plaintiff spouse cite the reason for seeking a divorce. The reason may be as simple and as vague as an “irretrievable breakdown.” In other words, the marriage is broken beyond repair. Other reasons, may be stated, so long as they are enumerated in the Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40(c).
After a reason for the dissolution of the marriage has been stated, the Plaintiff spouse must detail whether the spouses have any children under the age of 23. All such children must be listed on the Divorce Complaint, whether they are biological or adoptive.
In addition, if there is a court order concerning custody or support for any child listed on the Divorce Complaint, information must be provided. Specifically, the Plaintiff spouse must list 1) the child’s name, 2) the person or agency awarded custody, and 3) the name of the person ordered to pay child support.
After all of the above areas have been covered, the Plaintiff spouse must formally ask the court to order a divorce. This is done by marking “X” in the appropriate box, and signing the Divorce Complaint.
2) A Divorce Complaint Must Be Accompanied By A Summons
In Connecticut, the Divorce Complaint and Notice of Automatic Court Orders must be accompanied by a Summons. As with the other two forms, the Summons is filed with the State of Connecticut Superior Court. This document is a notice to the Defendant spouse that the Plaintiff spouse is filing for divorce. In terms of legal effect, the Summons requires the Defendant spouse to respond to the complaint by filing an Appearance form with Superior Court Clerk. Failure to timely file an Appearance form may result in the Court entering a default judgment in which the relief requested by the Plaintiff spouse is granted.
3) Fee Must Be Paid To File the Divorce Complaint
When the Plaintiff spouse files the Divorce Complaint, a $350 filing fee must be paid. After the fee has been paid, the Summons must be served to the Defendant spouse. From there, case management, financial affidavits, and appearance court are the next steps in the timeline. No two Connecticut divorces are identical, but parties can expect a minimum 4-month process duration.
4) The Case is Opened
After all of the paperwork is finalized, the case is officially opened by the court. This triggers the formal SUperior Court process. It is at this point that the matter is public record.
5) Notice Of Automatic Court Orders
Once the case is opened, certain court orders are automatically in place. A Plaintiff spouse filing a Divorce Complaint must file a Notice of Automatic Court Orders with the complaint. The notice imposes a number of obligations on both the Plaintiff and Defendant spouse with regard to the spouses’ assets and children. In terms of prohibitions, the Notice of Automatic Court orders forbids either spouse from:
- Selling, mortgaging, or gifting any property absent a written agreement or court order
- Going into unreasonable debt via loans, credit, or cash advances
- Removing one another or the spouses’ children from any existing medical, hospital, doctor, or dental insurance plan, or allowing any such policy to expire
- Modifying the terms of named beneficiaries of any current insurance policy or allowing any such plan to lapse, including life, auto, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
- Disallowing use of the family home to the other spouse absent a court order, if the spouses are still living together on the date that the Divorce Complaint is served.
In addition to prohibitions, the Notice of Automatic Court Orders requires that both spouses take certain actions. Specifically, both the Plaintiff and Defendant Spouse must:
- Complete and trade sworn financial affidavits detailing assets and liabilities (e.g. property, debt) with 30 days of the date of return;
- Participate in a parenting education program within 60 days of the date of return or, for a case involving custody or visitation, within 60 days of the filing of the Application;
- Attend a case management conference unless there is written agreement on all custody or visitation issues;
- Inform the other spouse in writing within 48 hours of a change in address if there is a move out of the family home;
- Assist any of the spouses’ children in their customary contact with both parents, whether in person, by telephone, or in writing.
These prohibitions and requirements are to be taken with the utmost seriousness, as failure to obey them is punishable by a contempt in court charge.
6) Case Management & Parenting Study
A case management agreement is created by the parties and approved by the court. This agreement acts as a schedule to guide the deadlines for the rest of the process. Dates are set and generally kept to ensure the process moves along as swiftly as possible.
7) Fact Gathering Process
It is at this point that your attorney will continue the detailed task of gathering evidence about the family situation in preparation for negotiations and potential trial. In most cases, the evidence collecting process is the most time-consuming portion of the divorce. Information about the couple’s background will be analyzed, assets will be documents, debts will be added up, custody preferences will be determined, and a plan crafted to guide the future talks.
The ultimate goal of both parties is always to reach an agreement that both sides find fair. The attorneys for each side will enter negotiations in an attempt to reach a settlement. If that happens, then a final hearing is held by the court, the agreement becomes a court order, and the couples are officially divorced.
9) Trial (if necessary)
If no agreement can be reached in negotiations or pretrial sessions, then a contested hearing must be held by the court. Both sides will present arguments and evidence in the case, and a judge will officially reach a decision on the issues.