Providing accurate and objective information to help make the right decisions during a divorce in Connecticut, this guide provides answers to 360 queries such as What is the mediation process in Connecticut and is it required? How quickly can one get a divorce? Who decides who gets the cars, the pets, and the house? What actions might influence child custody? How are bills divided and paid during the divorce? How much will a divorce cost? and Will a spouse have to pay some or all attorney fees? Structured in a question-and-answer format, this divorce handbook provides clear and concise responses to help build confidence and give the peace of mind needed to meet the challenges of a divorce proceeding.
About the Author
Reneé C. Bauer, Esq., attended Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts and earned an undergraduate college at the University of Connecticut where she was active in the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group and she was elected as legislative liaison for the state of Connecticut. She lives in Hamdem, Connecticut.
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Divorce in Connecticut
The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect
By Reneé C. Bauer
Addicus Books, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Renée C. Bauer
All rights reserved.
Understanding the Divorce Process
Going to court is daunting and the legalese you will read and hear throughout your divorce may be confusing and intimidating. At a time when your life can feel like it's been turned upside down and inside out, sometimes the smallest bit of predictability can bring a sense of comfort. The outcome of many aspects of your divorce may be unknown, but the divorce process is predictable.
Most divorces proceed in a methodical manner. Despite the unique facts of your divorce, you can generally count on the phases of your divorce following a standard sequence. Sometimes understanding the step-by-step process can reassure you that your divorce will reach an end.
If you develop a basic understanding of the divorce process you will lower your anxiety when your attorney starts talking about "pretrials" or "depositions." An understanding of the divorce procedure can reduce your frustration about the length of the process because you understand why each step is needed. Most importantly, understanding the divorce process will make your experience of the entire divorce easier. Yes, that is possible.
1.1 What should be my first step for getting a divorce?
Find a law firm that handles divorces as a regular part of its law practice. The best recommendations come from people who have knowledge of a lawyer's experience and reputation.
Even if you are not ready to file for divorce, call to schedule an appointment right away to obtain information about protecting yourself and your children. Even if you are not planning to file for divorce, your spouse might be.
Ask what documents you should take to your initial consultation. Make a list of your questions to take to your first meeting.
1.2 Must I have an attorney to get a divorce in Connecticut?
You are not required to have an attorney to obtain a divorce in Connecticut; however, if your case involves children, alimony, significant property, or debts, you should avoid proceeding on your own.
If your divorce does not involve any of these issues, call your local courthouse to see whether there is a self-help desk available to provide assistance. A person who proceeds in a legal matter without a lawyer is referred to as being pro se, on one's own.
If you are considering proceeding without an attorney, at a minimum, have an initial consultation with an attorney to discuss your rights and duties under the law. You may have certain rights or obligations you are unaware of. Meeting with a lawyer can help you decide whether to proceed on your own.
1.3 Is Connecticut a "no-fault" state or do I need grounds for a divorce?
Connecticut, like most states, is a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that neither you nor your spouse is required to prove that the other is "at fault" in order to be granted a divorce. Factors such as infidelity, cruelty, or abandonment are not necessary to receive a divorce in Connecticut. Rather, it is necessary to prove that the marriage has "irretrievably broken down" to have it dissolved.
At the final hearing, the testimony of either you or your spouse that your marriage has irretrievably broken down is sufficient evidence for the court to rule that the marriage should be dissolved.
1.4 How will the judge view my or my spouse's infidelity?
Because Connecticut is a no-fault divorce state, a spouse's infidelity is irrelevant if an agreement is reached between the parties; however, if a trial is necessary, a judge can determine whether one party was more at fault for the breakdown of the marriage than the other party. If fault is found to be a factor in the cause of the breakdown, a judge can adjust his or her orders accordingly.
The Divorce Process
Obtain a referral for a lawyer.
Schedule an appointment with an attorney.
Prepare questions and gather needed documents for the initial consultation.
Meet for the initial consultation with attorney.
Pay retainer to attorney and sign retainer agreement.
Provide requested information and documents to your attorney.
Take other actions as advised by attorney, such as opening or closing financial accounts.
Attorney prepares complaint for divorce and files complaint with the court.
Attorney has the other party personally served with the divorce papers or the other party (usually his or her attorney) acknowledges service of the complaint.
The other party files an appearance, answer, or answer and counterclaim to the complaint of divorce.
If there are minor children, parties attend parent education class, develop a parenting plan, or participate in mediation.
Both parties prepare financial statements, setting forth their incomes, assets, debts, and the budget for the family during the marriage.
The court schedules a case management conference for purposes of entering a scheduling order as to the time line of the case.
Motions are filed if the parties cannot agree on support, custody, and other temporary arrangements pending a divorce. The parties and counsel may meet for settlement conferences to resolve those issues.
Both sides conduct discovery to obtain information regarding all relevant facts, and obtain valuations of all assets, including expert opinions, if needed.
Each party confers with his or her attorney to review facts, identify issues, assess strengths and weaknesses of case, review strategy, and develop proposal for settlement.
Spouses, with attorneys, attempt to reach agreement through written proposals, mediation, settlement conferences, or other negotiation.
If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the parties attend an early settlement and receive a recommendation as to a fair settlement in their case. The recommendation of the early settlement pretrial is nonbinding.
The parties attend economic mediation to resolve any financial disputes for which there is no agreement.
The parties reach an agreement on all issues and the agreement is memorialized in a document signed by both parties and the attorneys for both parties.
The parties try their case before a trial court judge who makes a decision on all disputed issues in the case.
1.5 Do I have to get divorced in the same state I married in?
No. Regardless of where you were married, you may seek a divorce in Connecticut if the jurisdictional requirements of residency are met. The jurisdictional requirements are discussed in the following question.
1.6 How long must I have lived in Connecticut to get a divorce in the state?
Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Connecticut for at least one year before the filing or before the dissolution will become final, to meet the residency requirement for a divorce in Connecticut. However, if you married in Connecticut, moved away, and then returned to Connecticut less than a year ago but plan to stay in Connecticut permanently, the court would also have jurisdiction.
1.7 My spouse has told me she will never "give" me a divorce. Can I get one in Connecticut anyway?
Yes. Connecticut does not require that your spouse agree to a divorce. If your spouse threatens to not "give" you a divorce, know that in Connecticut this is an idle threat without any basis in the law.
Under Connecticut law, to obtain a divorce you must be able to prove that your marriage is "irretrievably broken." This is a legal term meaning that one sees no possibility of reconciliation between you or your spouse. In short, it is not necessary to have your spouse agree to the divorce or to allege the specific difficulties that arose during the marriage to obtain a divorce in Connecticut.
1.8 Can I divorce my spouse in Connecticut if he or she lives in another state?
Provided you have met the residency requirements for living in Connecticut, you can file for divorce even if your spouse lives in another state.
Discuss with your attorney the facts that will need to be proven and the steps necessary to give your spouse proper notice to ensure that the court will have jurisdiction over your spouse. Your attorney can counsel you on whether it is possible to proceed with the divorce.
1.9 Can I get a divorce even when I don't know where my spouse is currently living?
Connecticut law allows you to proceed with a divorce even if you do not know the current address of your spouse. First, take action to attempt to locate your spouse. Contact family members, friends, former coworkers, or anyone else who might know your spouse's whereabouts. Utilize resources on the Internet that are designed to help locate people.
Let your attorney know of the efforts you have made to attempt to find your spouse. Inform your lawyer of your spouse's last known address, as well as any work address or other address where this person may be found. Once your attorney attempts to give notice to your spouse without success, it is possible to ask the court to proceed with the divorce by giving notice through publication in a newspaper.
Although your divorce may be granted following service of notice by publication in a newspaper, you may not be able to get other court orders, such as those for alimony without giving personal notice to your spouse. Talk to your attorney about your options and rights if you don't know where your spouse is living.
1.10 I just moved to a different county within the state of Connecticut. Do I have to file in the county where my spouse lives?
You may file your divorce complaint either in the county where you reside or in the county where your spouse resides.
1.11 I immigrated to Connecticut. Will my immigration status stop me from getting a divorce?
If you meet the residency requirements for divorce in Connecticut, you can get a divorce here regardless of your immigration status. Talk to an immigration attorney about the likelihood of a divorce leading to immigration challenges.
1.12 I want to get divorced in my Indian tribal court. What do I need to know?
Each tribal court has its own laws governing divorce. Requirements for residency, grounds for divorce, and the laws regarding property, alimony, and children can vary substantially from state law. Some tribes have very different laws governing the grounds for your divorce, removal of children from the home, and cohabitation.
Contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about the law in your tribal court for legal advice on pursuing a divorce in your tribal court or on the requirements for recording a divorce obtained in state court with the clerk of the tribal court.
1.13 Is there a waiting period for a divorce in Connecticut?
Yes. Connecticut has a mandatory ninety-day waiting or "cooling-off" period. This waiting period begins on the "return date" on the complaint. The return date is a date selected by your attorney soon after the summons and complaint are served upon your spouse. Each court requires that the return date occur on a specific day of the week. Your attorney can advise you which day that would be for the court in your judicial district.
1.14 What is a divorce complaint?
A divorce complaint, also referred to as a "complaint for dissolution of marriage," is a document signed by the person filing for divorce and filed with the clerk of the court to initiate the divorce process. The complaint will set forth in very general terms what the plaintiff is asking the court to order.
1.15 My spouse said she filed for divorce last week, but my lawyer says there's nothing on file at the courthouse. What does it mean to "file for divorce"?
When lawyers use the term "filing" they are referring to filing a legal document at the courthouse, such as delivering a complaint for divorce to the clerk of the court after it is served upon the other party. Sometimes a person who has hired a lawyer to begin a divorce action uses the phrase "I've filed for divorce," although no service has occurred and the papers have not yet been taken to the courthouse to start the legal process.
1.16 If we both want a divorce, does it matter who files?
Probably not. In the eyes of the court, the plaintiff (the party who files the complaint initiating the divorce process) and the defendant (the other spouse) are not seen differently by virtue of which party filed. The court, as a neutral decision maker, will not give preference to either party. Both parties will be given adequate notice and each will have a chance to be heard and present argument.
1.17 Are there advantages to filing first?
It depends. Discuss with your attorney whether there are any advantages to you filing first. Your attorney may advise you to file first or to wait until your spouse files, depending upon the overall strategy for your case and your circumstances. The person who files will need to pay the court filing fee as well as the marshal service fee so sometimes individuals want to wait so their spouse pays these fees. Also, if you are separated from your spouse but have a beneficial temporary arrangement, your attorney may counsel you to wait for your spouse to file. If you believe your case will end in trial because it is extremely adversarial, there may be an advantage to filing first so at the trial you can present your case to the judge first.
1.18 Can I stop the newspaper from publishing details of my divorce?
Documents filed with the court, such as a divorce complaint or a final decree, are matters of public record. Newspapers have a right to access this information, although unless it is a high-profile case, this is not newsworthy information. Certain documents such as your financial affidavits will be "sealed" so that the general public cannot view this sensitive information.
1.19 Is there a way to avoid embarrassing my spouse and not have the state marshal serve him with the divorce papers at his workplace?
Talk to your lawyer about the option of having your spouse sign a document known as a waiver. The signing and filing of this document with an Appearance Form with the court can eliminate the need to have your spouse served by the state marshal.
If your spouse is aware that you are filing for divorce, then you can request the state marshal contact your spouse directly to arrange for service at your spouse's convenience. For example, your spouse could agree to meet the state marshal at a local coffee shop to avoid service at home in front of the children or at work.
1.20 Why should I contact an attorney right away if I have received divorce papers?
If your spouse has filed for divorce, it is important that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible. Even if you and your spouse are getting along, having independent legal counsel can help you make decisions now that could affect your divorce later.
After your spouse has filed for divorce, a temporary or pendente lite motions hearing can be scheduled at any time. It is possible you will receive only a few days' notice of a temporary hearing. You will be better prepared for a temporary hearing if you have already retained an attorney.
RETURN DATE : JANUARY 1, 2014
BARBARA ROSE : J.D OF MIDDLESEX
V. : AT MIDDLETOWN
OLIVER ROSE : JANUARY 1, 2014
WAIVER OF SERVICE
I, OLIVER ROSE, HEREBY WAIVE MY RIGHT TO SERVED BY A PROPER OFFICER WITH THE FOLLOWING MOTION/ PLEADINGS:
1. Summons, Complaint and Notice of Automatic Court Orders.
I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I HAVE BEEN PROVIDED A COPY OF THE SUMMONS, COMPLAINT AND NOTICE OF AUTOMATIC COURT ORDERS AND AGREE TO HAVE THE MATTER ADDRESSED BY THE COURT ON JANUARY 5, 2014.
Personally appeared before me, Oliver Rose, who acknowledged that the above captioned documents were provided to him on this 9th day of August, 2013.
RENÉE C. BAUER
Commissioner of the Superior Court
1.21 What is an ex parte court order?
An ex parte court order is obtained by one party going to the judge to ask for something without giving prior notice or an opportunity to be heard by the other side.
Judges are reluctant to sign ex parte orders. Ordinarily the court will require the other side to have notice of any requests for court orders, and a hearing before the judge will be held.
Excerpted from Divorce in Connecticut by Reneé C. Bauer. Copyright © 2014 Renée C. Bauer. Excerpted by permission of Addicus Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Understanding the Divorce Process 1
2 Coping with Stress during the Divorce Process 21
3 Working with Your Attorney 30
4 Attorney Fees and Costs 46
5 The Discovery Process 6l
6 Mediation and Negotiation 71
7 Emergency: When You Fear Your Spouse 82
8 Child Custody 89
9 Child Support 114
10 Alimony 127
11 Division of Property 134
12 Benefits: Insurance, Retirement, and Pensions 151
13 Division of Debts 158
14 Taxes 165
15 Going to Court 173
16 The Appeals Process 185
17 What Happens after the Divorce? 189
In Closing 197
About the Author 225