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How to File For Divorce in Connecticut

For whatever reasons couples in Connecticut decide to end a conjugality, the dissolution must follow state laws, just as the union was done under established statutes. At 6.8 per 1000 residents in 2018, the divorce rate in Connecticut does not differ significantly from the national rate of 7.7 per 1000 Americans, according to the United States Census Bureau. All divorce filings in the state begin and end in the family court division of the judiciary. Generally, the Connecticut courts finalize divorces within six (6) months, but granting a divorce may take longer depending on the caseload and the nuances in the proceeding.

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Connecticut?

No. Connecticut broadly classifies the bases for divorce into two categories viz: divorce after death and divorce by decree. Regarding the latter, the state enumerates ten (10) grounds for divorce. Of these, an intending divorcee may file on no-fault grounds, i.e., the marriage has broken down due to irreconcilable differences. A petitioner need not provide additional information when filing on this ground (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b–40(c))..

Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

Without mincing words, an intending divorcee needs a lawyer because anything could go wrong. Granted that most civil filings—divorce is a civil filing—are not complicated: the plaintiff files a complaint, notifies the defendant, and schedules a hearing date with the court. However, divorce is unique among civil filings due to the myriad of forms to fill, the steps to follow, and the unpredictable nature of human behavior. Divorce proceedings tend to be adversarial, and it is common for parties to employ underhanded tactics for financial or custodial advantage. Thus, a defendant should strongly consider hiring an attorney if the other party hires one.

If one cannot afford to hire a divorce lawyer, one should at least consider consultations where the lawyer examines the case and proffers legal advice. While not a universal law, one of the worst decisions to make in a divorce filing is to seek legal advice from individuals who have gone through a divorce. No two divorces are the same for the same reasons discussed in this section.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in Connecticut?

Before going to court to file a complaint, there is an important requirement that a petitioner must meet under Connecticut laws. Per Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b–44, one or both parties must be permanent residents in Connecticut or established residence for at least twelve months. The state understands this requirement may be impractical in some scenarios, e.g., domestic violence. Therefore, it allows a person to initiate a divorce proceeding and request temporary relief pending meeting the residency requirement. Also, the law exempts petitioners whose spouses were residents of Connecticut before enlisting in the armed forces.

The steps for filing a divorce in Connecticut involve:

  • Court filings: Here, the plaintiff must fill out a set of court forms regarding divorce and file them with the clerk of Superior court. These include the divorce complaint and the other documents depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce. The judiciary provides a description of forms to file per case on the family forms section on the webpage. Furthermore, the plaintiff must pay the associated filing fees via the payment method accepted by the court and make photocopies of all filings.
  • Completing service: Known as the Service of Process (SOP), this involves serving the defendant with a copy of the divorce complaint, a summons, and other court documents through a server. The server is often a state marshal, the local sheriff, a private process server, or an indifferent party. All servers will provide the plaintiff and the court with proof of service. If the divorce is uncontested, the defendant may complete an acceptance/waiver form, and the case proceeds to a court hearing.
  • Discovery: Discovery applies in contested divorces, i.e., both parties do not agree on the grounds for divorce. Here, both parties must share evidence and information with the other. Hoarding information or evidence in a divorce results in court sanctions and may jeopardize the hoarder’s position.
  • Mediation: Mediation also applies to contested divorces, and it is often mandatory before hearing. Here, both parties attend mediation sessions to work out disputes such as child custody, support, and alimony, as well as asset and debt division.
  • Going to court: Upon completing the steps above, the plaintiff must schedule a date and time of hearing on the court calendar with the clerk. Most courts allow scheduling over the phone, but in-person scheduling may be necessary. Ask the court clerk about this policy when submitting the petition. Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, a person may skip the last two steps and schedule a temporary hearing, where the court issues orders pending the final hearing. Also, if both parties agree on all matters, a court hearing is unnecessary.

How to File for Divorce in Connecticut without a Lawyer?

Self-represented plaintiffs will also go through the above stages in a divorce filing. Nevertheless, there are official resources for self-represented plaintiffs in the self-help section of the judiciary website. Furthermore, most district courthouses have court service centers that provide services for self-represented litigants. The Connecticut Network for Legal Aid also has several self-help booklets for certain family matters including divorce, child custody, and support. Information at law libraries is also helpful.

How Does Connecticut Divorce Mediation Work?

Also known as alternative dispute resolution, parties in a divorce often have to complete a court-ordered mediation before the case proceeds to a court hearing. In a nutshell, mediation does not attempt to restore a marriage; it aims to help couples reach a middle ground regarding disputes with the help of a mediator. The mediator, an indifferent party, holds sessions with the parties separately and together to work out differences. Depending on the outcome, the mediator then prepares a divorce agreement or written summary of the points agreed on and presents it to the parties. The intending divorcees will then review the contents of the agreement or summary alone or with the help of a lawyer if represented. If there are any changes, reviews, or corrections, the mediator will work with the parties to update the document. After concluding mediation, the case moves on to a court hearing before a judge. An advantage of mediation is that: if successful, the parties can avoid a protracted divorce, save legal fees, and move on faster. Nevertheless, it is important to know that the agreement or summary is not legally binding until revision and adjudication by a judge.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Connecticut?

It depends on how complicated the divorce is and the time taken for spouses to reach an agreement. Mediation may be over in a few sessions spanning days or take several weeks depending on how soon the couple reaches a middle ground on all or some disputes. When mediation fails, the case will eventually go to court, but the judge will have sole discretion in deciding the disputes.

Are Divorce Records Public in Connecticut?

Yes, divorce records are public documents under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, these records are subject to statutory and court-ordered restrictions if the contents of the record are deemed sensitive, confidential, or potentially injurious to the parties. In this case, the public requester cannot access divorce records without a court order; only authorized court personnel and eligible individuals can access sealed divorce records.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get Connecticut Divorce Records?

A requester must visit the Superior court where the divorce suit was filed and adjudicated in person and during business hours. The address and contact information of courts in Connecticut is available on the judicial directory. The requester must submit a request describing the records sought with sufficient information to help court staff perform a search. This information includes the name of the parties, their attorneys, date of filing or adjudication, case number, and the name of the presiding judge. Courts also allow mail-in requests for divorce records that are available in the public domain. In most cases, the requester will find information on how to request records via mail on the court or county website.

Meanwhile, record custodians charge a nominal fee for searching and reproducing the divorce records sought. The requester must pay these associated fees via the payment method accepted by the court. Furthermore, information on divorce filings is available to interested members of the public online. Visit the online repository and perform a search using the aforementioned required parameters.

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