I Want a Divorce!—Now What?

Frequently Asked Questions by People Looking to get Divorced in Connecticut

If you are thinking of filing for divorce (or your spouse has recently filed for divorce), you likely have numerous questions about the process and what your rights are. Below please find a collection of some of our most frequently asked questions about divorce in Connecticut.

What are the grounds for divorce in Connecticut?

Connecticut (and every other state in the US) is a “no fault” state, meaning that the court does not need to find fault but only that the marriage has “broken down irretrievably” in order to enter into a dissolution of the marriage. However, the court may take into account who is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage when awarding alimony and dividing assets.

The court also needs to find that it has jurisdiction in order to enter a final judgment of divorce in Connecticut and therefore, you must meet one of the following requirements: (1) one of the parties has lived in Connecticut for at least 12 months prior to filing for divorce; (2) one of the parties lived in the state at the time of the marriage and returned to the state with the intention of permanently living here before filing for divorce; or (3) the cause for the divorce occurred after either party moved to Connecticut.

How do I file for divorce?

In order to file for divorce, you must fill out and complete a Summons, Divorce Complaint, and Affidavit Concerning Children (if you have children). These documents must be signed by a Court Clerk and together with the court’s Automatic Orders must be given to a State Marshal to serve on your spouse. Once your spouse has been served, the marshal will give you a Return of Service which together with the rest of the documents must be filed with the court.

How quickly can I get divorced?

If you and your spouse agree on all of the terms of the divorce, you can enter into an uncontested dissolution on the case management date for your case. The case management date is 90 days after the return date. The return date is at least four weeks after you file your paperwork with the court after your spouse has been served. Although many people talk about the 90 day waiting period, in reality, the absolute quickest time period to get divorced is 4 months after papers have been served.

What is a legal separation?

Legal separation is essentially getting a divorce without the divorce. With a legal separation, you will have a court judgment regarding distribution of property, support (alimony and child support), and child custody, but continue to be legally married and maintain certain benefits only available to married spouses (such as health insurance, filing joint taxes, and accrual of social security benefits).

You can go to court and convert a legal separation into a divorce judgment so long as you and your spouse do not resume marital relations.

My spouse controls all of the money, how will I support myself if I file for divorce?

In many marriages, one spouse is the “breadwinner” or “monied spouse” while another party is a lower earner or “non-monied spouse”. Before filing for divorce, “non-monied spouses” are often worried that after filing for divorce, the monied spouse will prevent access to the joint bank accounts and marital funds. The court system has remedies to prevent this.

First, whenever a couple files for divorce, both spouses are subject to the court’s Automatic Orders. The Automatic Orders prevent changes to bank accounts or insurance and prevent parties from removing funds or spending money outside the ordinary course of conduct of the parties during the marriage.

Second, you can file a motion for pendente lite alimony and if granted, your spouse will be ordered to pay you alimony throughout the divorce process. You do not need to wait for the divorce to be finalized to receive alimony.

What type of divorce planning should I do?

Before filing for divorce, clients often want to know what divorce planning they can do. This sometimes involves desires to hide assets or transfer them to family members in order to avoid sharing these assets with their spouse. Any type of divorce planning that involves hiding or transferring assets in an attempt to defraud your spouse is not looked kindly upon by the court and can cost you far more than you think you can save. However, there is some divorce planning that is permissible.

Most of divorce planning that you should do is emotional planning. If you believe that you will have a contentious divorce, be sure that you are emotionally prepared and that you have a support system in place. If you think your spouse could become violent, have a place to stay when your spouse is being served divorce papers. If you think that you will have an amicable divorce and don’t want to start off on the wrong foot, speak with your spouse before having him/her served with papers.

From a financial perspective, while you cannot and should not transfer assets or make any changes to insurance policies. if you do not already have one, open a bank account in your name only. You and your spouse will want to stop using joint accounts and use separate bank accounts throughout the divorce process and after the divorce is finalized.

How much child support will I receive?/How much child support will I have to pay?

Child support in Connecticut is calculated based upon the child support guidelines. The calculation is determined based upon each parents’ income and the number of children.

Will I get alimony?/Will I have to pay alimony?

Alimony in Connecticut is rehabilitative. Its goal is to help a non-monied spouse get on his/her feet. As a result, the courts are moving further and further away from lifetime alimony awards and instead awarding alimony for a certain number of years. In situations where both spouses are employed and capable of supporting themselves, the court will likely not award alimony. However, if one spouse was the primary breadwinner and the other spouse stayed home or had a job with minimal income, an alimony award is likely. The amount of alimony and duration of alimony will be particular to your case and based upon a number of factors.

When awarding alimony the court can consider a number of factors when determining amount and duration, including: the length of the marriage, the causes of the dissolution, age, health, “station”, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills and employability, assets, and liabilities and needs.

How will our property be divided?/What property am I entitled to?

The division of property in a divorce is unique to each case. Connecticut has equitable distribution which does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split, but rather a division of the assets that is fair given all of the circumstances. In Connecticut, all assets regardless of how they are titled or how they were acquired are considered marital property and subject to distribution. However, the court can consider numerous factors including how the property was acquired and how it is titled.

When dividing assets, the court can consider the following factors: length of the marriage, causes for dissolution, age of the parties, health of the parties, “station” of the parties, occupation of the parties, amount and sources of income of the parties, vocational skills and employability, assets of the parties, liabilities and needs of the parties, opportunity of future acquisition of assets and income, contribution of each party to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of assets, dissipation of assets, and tax implications.

Will I be responsible for my spouse’s debts?

Technically in Connecticut all assets and debts are part of the marital pot and up for distribution. However, the court can take into account how and when the debt was incurred and for whose benefit. If there are sufficient assets in the marital estate, the court may order all debts be paid as part of the dissolution. The court could also order whoever incurred the debt be responsible for the debt. The court could also order the parties share responsibility for debts in some manner. If you and your spouse reach a settlement agreement for your divorce, debts can be resolved in any manner that is mutually agreeable to the two of you as part of the larger settlement agreement.

What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

Legal custody is the right to have information about and make decisions regarding your children and generally applies to educational, medical, and religious decisions. Generally, parents share joint legal custody of their children.

Physical custody is what most people think of when they think of “custody”, it is who the children live with. However, gone are the days of the children living with one parent and visiting the other parent every other weekend and the occasional holiday. The trend is now a 50-50 split with the children splitting their time between both parents.

How often will I get to see my children?

A frequent concern of parents entering a divorce is how often they will get to see their children. You go from spending everyday with your children to having to share your time with them with your former spouse. Many fathers worry that they will only see their kids for an occasional weeknight dinner and every other weekend.

The trend in child custody is moving towards a 50-50 breakdown with each parent having the same amount of parenting time with the children.

Custody schedules, however, vary greatly from family to family depending upon the age of the children, residences of each parent, and what works best based upon each family’s personal circumstances.

Will I still have health insurance if I file for divorce?

Yes, when you file for divorce (or are served with divorce papers), the Court’s Automatic Orders take effect. One of the many orders is that neither party can make any changes to insurance. Therefore, all health insurance, life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, car insurance, etc… must stay in place throughout the pendency of divorce.

When the divorce is finalized, if you had health insurance through your spouse’s employer, you will most likely not be able to stay on that insurance plan. However, you should be eligible for COBRA.

What is a financial affidavit?

A financial affidavit is a statement made under oath that reflects all income, assets, expenses and liabilities of each person getting divorced. When getting a divorce in Connecticut, you will likely have to complete a financial affidavit multiple times. At a minimum, you will need to file a financial affidavit with the court on or before the case management date and if your case is settled, at the uncontested hearing date or if you go to trial, at the start of the trial.

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