5 Things To Do Before Filing For Divorce
Few people think about divorce before they are confronted with one. As such, divorcing spouses are unsure what they need to do and learn before officially filing for a separation. The following provides a key elements you should consider before filing for divorce in the state of Connecticut.
1. Understand Your Divorce “Grounds” Options
Connecticut allows for both “No-Fault” and “Fault” divorce. One of the two options is chosen by the Plaintiff spouse in the filing of the Divorce Complaint. A “No-Fault” complaint simply states an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage is the reason for the divorce. No blame is assigned. A “Fault” divorce, on the other hand, lays blame. Nine categories of fault are enumerated in the Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-40(c). These categories reflect the following circumstances:
-Because of compatibility issues, the spouses have lived separately from one another for a continuous period of at least 18 months before the service of the Divorce Complaint, and it is unlikely that they will be able to reconcile;
- Fraudulent conduct;
- Intentional desertion for 12 months with complete neglect of marital duty;
- Seven years’ absence, throughout the entirety of which the absent party has not been heard from;
- Ongoing intemperance;
- Intolerable cruelty;
- Sentence to prison for life, or the commission of a crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment of more than 12 months;
- Legal confinement in a hospital or similar institution as a result of mental illness, for a sum period of at least 5 years during a 6-year period preceding to the date of the Divorce Complaint.
2. Learn About the Connecticut Divorce Residency Requirements
Not just anyone can file for a divorce in the state. Most of the time, at least one spouse must been living in Connecticut for 12 months prior to filing of the Divorce Complaint, Notice of Automatic Court Orders, and Summons. There are a few exceptions, however. In some instances, the 12 months may be counted up to the time of court’s decree rather than the filing of the Divorce Complaint. In such instances, it is the end of the divorce process, rather than the beginning, which is used the time marker. This is significant because, in Connecticut, the divorce process typically takes at least 4 months. Some divorces may take markedly longer, particularly if there are disputes regarding child custody or support, and the division of the spouses’ assets and liabilities. A second exception is applicable to the scenario in which spouses marry in Connecticut, then one or both spouses move out of state, and then again back in state with the intent to remain indefinitely prior to filing of the Divorce Complaint or issuance of the Court’s decree.
3. Familiarize Yourself with the Divorce Process
The divorce process in Connecticut begins with the filing of three forms: 1) the Divorce Complaint, 2) the Notice of Automatic Court Orders, and 3) the Summons. The Divorce Complaint is filed by the Plaintiff spouse (the spouse initiating divorce) with the Connecticut State Superior Court. It is also known as a “dissolution of marriage.” It includes basic information about the spouses, as well as any children under the age of 23. To file the Divorce Complaint with the Superior Court, a $350 fee must be paid.
In addition, the Plaintiff spouse must also file a Notice of Automatic Court Orders. This notice imposes certain legal obligations and prohibitions with regard to the spouses’ children, assets and liabilities. For the Plaintiff spouse, the Notice is effective upon filing of the Divorce Complaint. For the Defendant spouse, the Notice is effective upon service of the Summons.
The Summons informs that Defendant spouse that he or she is being sued for divorce, and requires that an Appearance form be filed with the Superior Court. This Appearance form must be filed by the “return date” – a date set by the Court upon the filing of the Divorce Complaint, usually 4 weeks from the filing of the complaint. Failure to file an Appearance form may result in the Court entering a judgment granting the relief sought by the Plaintiff spouse. Relief, in the divorce context, frequently pertains to the distribution of the spouses’ assets and liabilities, as well as child custody and support.
After the Complaint and Appearance stage, the next part of the process is this setting of the “case management date.” This date is set at least 90 days after the return date, and represents the earliest point at which a divorce may be finalized. Obviously, the more the Plaintiff and Defendant spouse are in agreement regarding the terms of the divorce – and especially if no children are involved – the faster the divorce may be finalized.
4. Analyze the Benefits of Divorce Mediation
For divorcing spouses who wish to minimize conflict in the divorce process, mediation may prove fruitful. Mediation occurs in a less formal setting than the courtroom, and may serve to present a neutral understanding of the divorce options available in the state of Connecticut. At the end of the divorce process in Connecticut, the Plaintiff and Defendant spouse attend a scheduled court hearing date. Filing of the Divorce Judgment completes the process.
5. Hire a Divorce Attorney
You may proceed pro se in the Connecticut divorce process. To proceed pro se is to represent oneself. While you have the legal right to self-representation, it is not, however, necessarily your best course of action.
A divorce naturally has long-term effects, especially for divorcing spouses who have children. Time-sharing, parental decision-making, and the distribution of a marriage’s assets and liabilities (e.g. property and debt) are all at stake in the divorce process. Retaining the services of a skilled Connecticut divorce attorney can make a big difference in obtaining the divorce outcome you are seeking. Your legal counsel will ensure that the procedural complexities are followed correctly, preventing costly and time-consuming mistakes. In addition, as your advocate, an attorney can ensure that your interests are represented in all contested matters, so that you never get the short end of the stick.