Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal termination of a marriage. In Connecticut, divorce is known as the “dissolution of marriage.” Although married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a dissolution of marriage, states commonly issue divorces because to force a couple to stay married would go against public policy.
“No-fault” and “fault” are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, no-fault is the only viable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds exist within the marriage. Other states, including Connecticut, allow the individuals involved to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. Lawyers.com gives a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in the state of Connecticut.
The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all states presently allow for some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, one another for the divorce. Some examples of grounds for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” In Connecticut, the grounds for a no-fault divorce are 1) the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and 2) because of incompatibility, the spouses have lived apart for at least 18 months prior to filing for divorce with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Many states require a “cooling-off” period of separation for a certain period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live apart from each other with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. In Connecticut, this waiting period is 90 days from the time the complaint is filed until the final judgment can be made. Although a divorce in Connecticut will not usually be finalized until one of the spouses has been a resident of the state for at least one year, there are several exceptions to this rule, including the following: if one spouse was a Connecticut resident at the time of the marriage and returned with the intent of establishing permanent residency, and the grounds for divorce arose in Connecticut
Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. In the state of Connecticut, the grounds for a fault divorce include adultery, fraudulent contract, willful desertion and a total neglect of duty for one year, seven years of continual absence during which time the absent party was never heard from, habitual intemperance, intolerable cruelty, a life-sentence to prison or commission of an “infamous” crime that is punishable with over one year in prison, and legal confinement in a hospital or other institution because of mental illness totaling five years within the period of six years prior to the filing of the divorce complaint. It is considered sufficient justification if habitual intemperance is proven to have existed until the parties separated. In the case of willful desertion and a total neglect of “duty,” financial support alone is not considered to fulfill the duty requirement.
Simplified divorce procedures are available in Connecticut if irretrievable breakdown of the marriage can be proven in at least one of several ways, which include the following: the spouses sign an agreement stating that their marriage is irretrievably broken, and the spouses testify in court that their marriage is irretrievably broken and provide an agreement which sets forth alimony, property division, and arrangements regarding support and care of their children, if they have any. For the full text of Connecticut law regarding dissolution of marriage, legal separation, and annulment, go to Connecticut Volume 12, Title 46b, Ch. 815j.
Grounds for the dissolution of marriage vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association offers an extensive amount of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Connecticut, can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of a Connecticut Divorce Settlement Agreement can be seen on Free Legal Aid.