Connecticut Divorce Law

Divorce and Legal Separation in Connecticut

Divorce and Legal Separation in Connecticut

Connecticut Divorce Basics

Divorce in Connecticut is legally referred to as Dissolution of Marriage.

Residency Requirement:

To obtain a dissolution of marriage or legal separation one of the following requirements must be met:
  • One of the parties to the marriage must be a resident of Connecticut for at least the twelve months preceding the date of filing or the date of the decree;

  • One of the parties must be domiciled in the state at the time of the marriage and has returned to Connecticut with the intention of permanently remaining, before filing the Complaint; or
  • The cause for the dissolution of marriage arose after either party moved into the state.
Any person who has served or is serving with the armed forces or the merchant marine, and who was a resident of the sate at the time he/she filed will be deemed to have continuously resided in the state during the time he/she has served or is serving with the armed services or merchant marine.


The Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all complaints seeking a decree of annulment, dissolution of marriage or legal separation.

The Plaintiff (filing party) may file a Complaint for Dissolution of Marriage, Annulment or Legal Separation in the Superior Court of the judicial district where one of the parties resides. The Complaint shall be served on the Defendant (non-filing party).

The court may not proceed on a complaint for dissolution of marriage or legal separation sooner than 90 days from the day the Complaint was made returnable. However, when dissolution is claimed under cross complaint, amended complaint or amended cross complaint, the case may be heard and a decree granted after the expiration of the 90 days, plus 20 days after the cross complaint, amended complaint or amended cross complaint has been filed, with the following exceptions.

The addition 20 days will not apply if opposing counsel consents to the cross complaint, amended complaint or amended cross complaint; or the Defendant has not appeared and the amendment does not set forth either a cause of action or a claim for relief that was not in the original complaint.

Attempted Reconciliation:

In any action for dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment, at any time before final judgment any judge may require that either or both parties appear before any judge, referee or other disinterested person for the purpose of attempting a reconciliation or adjustment of differences between the parties.


On or after the return day of a Complaint for divorce or legal separation and before the expiration of the 90 waiting period, either spouse or the counsel for any minor children of the marriage may submit a request for conciliation to the clerk of the court.

The clerk will then enter an order that the parties meet with a mutually acceptable conciliator or, if the parties cannot agree to a conciliator, with one name by the court.

Within the 90 day waiting period, or within 30 days of the request, whichever is later, there shall be two mandatory consultations with the conciliator by each party to explore the possibility of reconciliation or of resolving the emotional problems which might lead to continuing conflicts following the dissolution of the marriage.

If either party fails to attend these consultations without good cause no further action may proceed on the complaint until after six months from the date of the return have passed; provided the court orders the termination of the stay, upon motion of either party, with a showing of good cause.

Further consultations may be held with the consent of both parties, or, if the conciliator recommends one or more additional consultations and either one of the parties agrees, the court may order them.

All communications during the consultations shall be absolutely privileged, except that the conciliator shall report to the court whether or not the parties attended the consultations. The fees for the service shall be paid by one or both of the parties as the court directs.

Spouse’s Name:

At the time of entering a decree dissolving a marriage, the court, upon request of either spouse, shall restore his/her birth name or former name. At any time after entering a divorce decree, if either spouse makes such motion, the court shall modify the judgment and restore the requesting spouse’s birth name or former name.

Civil Union and Same Sex Marriage

In 2009, the Connecticut legislature approved a bill redefining marriage as the legal union between two persons. As of October 1, 2010, this transformed Connecticut civil unions into marriages by operation of law, unless they had been annulled or the couple had either divorced, or was in the process of dissolving their relationship, where a proceeding for dissolution, annulment or legal separation was pending.

Legal Grounds for Divorce

A decree of dissolution of a marriage shall be granted upon a finding that one of the following causes has occurred:
      1. The marriage has broken down irretrievably;

      2. The parties have lived apart by reason of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least the 18 months immediately prior to the service of the complaint and that there is no reasonable prospect that they will be reconciled;

      3. Adultery;

      4. Fraudulent contract;

      5. Willful desertion for one year with total neglect of duty;
      6. Seven years' absence, during which time the absent party has not been heard from;

      7. Habitual intemperance;

      8. Intolerable cruelty;

      9. Sentence to imprisonment for life or the commission of any infamous crime involving a violation of conjugal duty and punishable by imprisonment for a period in excess of one year; and
      10. Legal confinement in a hospital or hospitals or other similar institution or institutions, because of mental illness, for at least an accumulated period totaling five years within the period of six years immediately preceding the date of the complaint.
In any action for dissolution of marriage or legal separation the court shall make a finding that a marriage breakdown has occurred in either of the following situations:
  • The parties (not their attorneys) execute a written stipulation that their marriage has broken down irretrievably; or
  • Both parties are physically present in court and stipulate that their marriage has broken down irretrievably and have submitted an agreement concerning the custody, care, education, visitation, maintenance or support of their children, if any, and concerning alimony and the disposition of property.
    The testimony of either party in support of that conclusion shall be sufficient.
    In any case in which the court finds, after hearing, that one of the grounds for divorce exists, the court shall enter a decree dissolving the marriage, or granting a legal separation.
    When entering the decree, the court may either set forth the cause of action on which the decree is based or dissolve the marriage or grant a legal separation on the basis of irretrievable breakdown. In no case shall the decree granted be in favor of either party.


An annulment shall be granted if the marriage is void or voidable under the laws of Connecticut or of the state in which the marriage was performed.

Void and Prohibited Marriages:
  • Marriages between parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, siblings, niece or nephew and aunt or uncle, stepparent and stepchild;
  • Either party is already a party to another marriage, or to a relationship that provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage, entered into in Connecticut or another state or jurisdiction with a different party;
  • Either party is under 18 years of age, but at least 16 years of age and does not have the consent of his/her parent or guardian;
  • Either party is under 16 years of age and does not have judicial consent from the district in which the minor resides; and
  • Either party is under the supervision or control of a conservator, and does not have the written consent of the conservator.
Grounds for annulment of voidable marriages:
  • Duress or undue influence;
  • Fraud;
  • Mental incompetence;
  • Physical incompetence; and
  • Misrepresentation, concealment.
Additionally, when any spouse has been convicted in any court of an offense against chastity, the aggrieved party may petition the Superior court within four months of the conviction and upon notice to the convicted party, the court may grant an annulment or other relief the court determines.
A proceeding for annulment shall be commenced by the service and filing of a complaint in the Superior Court for the judicial district where either of the parties resides. The complaint may also be made by the Attorney General in a proceeding for annulment of a void marriage. The complaint shall be served on the other party.

Property Division

Connecticut is an equitable distribution state.

When entering a decree of annulment, dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the Superior Court may assign to either husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other. The court may pass title to real property to either party or to a third person, or may order the sale of the real property, without any action by either spouse, when the court find that it is the proper mode to carry the decree into effect.

When determining the nature and value of the property, if any, to be assigned, the court, after hearing the witnesses, if any, of each party, shall consider the following criteria:
  • Length of the marriage;
  • The causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation;
  • The age and health of each party;
  • The station and occupation of each party;
  • The amount and sources of income of each party;
  • The vocational skills and employability of each party;
  • The estate, liabilities and needs of each party;
  • The contribution of each of the parties to the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates; and
  • The opportunity of each party for future acquisition of capital assets and income.

Alimony and Support

At the time of entering the decree, the Superior Court may order either spouse to pay alimony to the other, in addition to or in place of a property award.

In determining whether alimony should be awarded, and the duration and amount of the award, the court will consider most of the same criteria that are reviewed in determining a property award:
  • Length of the marriage;
  • The causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation;
  • The age and health of each party;
  • The station and occupation of each party;
  • The amount and sources of income of each party;
  • The vocational skills and employability of each party; and
  • The estate and needs of each party.
The court will also consider any property award that has been made. Additionally, in the case of a parent who has been awarded custody of a minor child, the court will consider the desirability of that parent securing employment.

Child Custody and Support/Maintenance

In any controversy before the Superior Court regarding the custody or care of minor children, and at any time after the return day of any complaint for divorce, annulment or legal separation, the court with jurisdiction may make or modify any proper order regarding the custody, care, education, visitation and support of the children.

Parenting Education Program:

A parenting education program refers to a course designed by the Judicial Department to educate persons, including unmarried parents, on the impact on children of the restructuring of families. The course shall include, but not be limited to, information on the developmental stages of children, adjustment of children to parental separation, dispute resolution and conflict management, guidelines for visitation, stress reduction in children and cooperative parenting.

The court shall order any party to an action related to family matters, except actions related to family abuse and juvenile issues, to participate in a parenting education program whenever a minor child is involved in the action, unless the following is true:
  • The parties agree, subject to court approval, not to participate in this program;

  • The court, on motion, determines that participation is not deemed necessary; or

  • The parties select and participate in a comparable parenting education program.

The court may assign parental responsibility for raising the child to the parents jointly, or may award custody to either parent or to a third party, according to its best judgment upon the facts of the case and subject to such conditions and limitations as it deems fair. There is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of a minor child when the parents have agreed to an award of joint custody and if it declines to do so, the court shall state in its decision the reasons for denial of joint custody.

Joint custody awards legal custody of the minor child to both parents, providing for joint decision-making by the parents and provides that physical custody will be shared by the parents in such a way as to assure the child of continuing contact with both parents. The court may award joint legal custody without awarding joint physical custody when the parents have agreed to only joint legal custody.

The court may also make any order granting the right of visitation of any child to a third party to the action, including, but not limited to, grandparents.

When making or modifying any custody order, the court shall consider the best interest of the child and while doing so may consider one or more of the following factors:
  • The temperament and developmental needs of the child;
  • The capacity and the disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
  • Any relevant and material information obtained from the child, including his/her informed preferences;
  • The wishes of the child's parents regarding custody;
  • The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child's siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders;
  • Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents' dispute;
  • The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the child’s life;
  • The child's adjustment to his/her home, school and community environments;
  • The length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity in such environment, provided the court may consider favorably a parent who voluntarily leaves the child's family home pending the ongoing litigation, in order to alleviate stress in the household;
  • The stability of the child's existing or proposed residences, or both;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;
  • The child's cultural background;
  • The effect of the actions of an abuser on the child, if any domestic violence has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual or the child;
  • Whether the child or a sibling of the child has been abused or neglected; and
  • Whether the party satisfactorily completed participation in a parenting education program.
The court is not required to assign any weight to any of the factors that it considers. As part of a decision concerning custody or visitation, the court may order either or both parents and the child of the parents to participate in counseling and drug or alcohol screening, provided that this participation is in the best interests of the child.

When making its determination, the court shall consider the rights and responsibilities of both parents and shall enter orders that serve the best interest of the child and provide the child with the active and consistent involvement of both parents in proportion with their abilities and interests.

These orders may include the following:
  • Approval of a parental responsibility plan agreed to by the parents;
  • The award of joint parental responsibility of a minor child to both parents which shall include provisions for residential arrangements with each parent in accordance with the needs of the child and the parents, and provisions for consultation between the parents and for the making of major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and religious upbringing;
  • The award of sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting for the noncustodial parent where sole custody is in the best interests of the child; or
  • Any other custody arrangements as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.
The proposed parental responsibility plan shall include, at a minimum, the following information:
  • A schedule of the physical residence of the child during the year;
  • Provisions allocating decision-making authority to one or both parents regarding the child’s health, education and religious upbringing;
  • Provisions for the resolution of future disputes between the parents, including the involvement of a mental health professional or other parties to assist the parents in reaching a developmentally appropriate resolution to the disputes, when appropriate;
  • Provisions for dealing with the parents’ failure to honor their responsibilities under the plan;
  • Provisions for dealing with the child’s changing needs as the child grows and matures; and
  • Provisions for minimizing the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict, encouraging the parents in appropriate circumstances to meet their responsibilities through agreements, and protecting the best interests of the child.

In determining whether a child is in need of support and, if in need, the respective abilities of the parents to provide support and the amount needed, the court shall take into consideration the following factors:
  • Age and health of each parent;
  • Station, occupation and earning capacity of each parent;
  • The amount and sources of income of each parent;
  • The vocational skills and employability of each parent; and
  • The age, health, station, occupation, educational status and expectation, amount and sources of income,
Connecticut uses the Income Shares Model in determining child support. The formula uses the net monthly income of the parents and the number of children for whom support will be ordered, with adjustments for health insurance payments and child support paid by either parent for other children.

The court shall include a provision for the health care coverage of the child in each support order. This provision may include an order for either or both parents to provide this coverage by any or all of the following methods:
  • As a beneficiary of any medical or dental insurance or benefit plan carried by the parent or available to the parent at a reasonable cost;
  • Apply for and maintain coverage on behalf of the child under the HUSKY Plan, Part B, or provide cash medical support, only if the cost to the parent is reasonable; and
  • An order for payment of the child’s medical and dental expenses that are not covered by insurance or reimbursed in any other manner, in accordance with the child support guidelines.
If there is an unmarried child of the marriage who has attained 18 years of age and is a full-time high school student, the parents shall maintain the child according to their respective abilities if the child is in need of it until he/she completes 12th grade or reaches the age of 19 years, whichever occurs first.

Educational Support Order:

An education support order is an order requiring a parent to provide support for a child or children to attend an institution of higher education or a private occupational school for up to a total of four full academic years to attain a bachelor’s or other undergraduate degree, or other vocational instruction.

This type of order may be entered with respect to any child who has not attained 23 years of age and will terminate no later than the date that the child attains 23 years of age.

Jurisdiction over Nonresident:

In a proceeding to establish or enforce a support order, the Connecticut court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident individual if one of the following occurs:
  • The individual is personally served with process within Connecticut;
  • The individual submits to the jurisdiction of Connecticut by consent in a record, by entering a general appearance and failing to object to jurisdiction in a timely manner, or by filing a responsive document having the effect of waiving any contest to personal jurisdiction;
  • The individual resided with the child in Connecticut;
  • The individual resided in Connecticut and provided prenatal expenses or support for the child;
  • The child resides in Connecticut as a result of the acts or directives of the individual;
  • The individual engaged in sexual intercourse in Connecticut and the child may have been conceived by that act of intercourse; or
  • There is any other basis consistent with the Connecticut and U.S Constitutions for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.

Legal Separation

A decree of legal separation has the same effect as a decree dissolving the marriage, except that neither party is free to marry.

Grounds for a decree of legal separation are identical to those for dissolution of marriage.

In all cases where the parents of a minor child live separately, the Superior Court for the judicial district where either or both parties resides may, on the application of either party and after notice given to the other, make any order as to the custody, care, education, visitation and support of any minor child of the parties. Proceedings to obtain these orders shall be commenced by service of an application, a summons and an order to show cause.

If a couple who have obtained a decree of legal separation reconcile and wish to have the decree vacated and the complaint dismissed, they may file a written Declaration of Resumption, signed, acknowledged and witnessed, with the clerk of the Superior Court in the district where the separation was decreed.

If there has been no Declaration filed and one of the parties petitions the Superior Court at any time after the entry of the separation decree, in the district where it was entered, the court may enter a decree dissolving the marriage in the presence of the party seeking the dissolution.

Links to State Resources

  • Child Support

    Links to information and resources for Connecticut Law about Child Support.

  • Connecticut Family Forms

    Divorce forms and Dissolution of Civil Union forms.

  • Connecticut Practice Book

    Publication (2011 edition) with the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct; Code of Judicial Conduct; Rules for the Superior Court; Rules of Appellate Procedure; Appendix of Forms; Index of Official Judicial Branch Forms; and Appendix of Superior Court Standing Orders. Chapter 25 covers Procedures in Family Matters, such as divorce and dissolution of civil unions.

  • Connecticut Statutes, Title 46b – Family Law

    Links to text of Connecticut Statutes regarding Marriage, Civil Unions, Juvenile Matters, Paternity Matters and Support. (Revised to 1/1/2009)

  • Divorce Guide

    “Do-it-Yourself” Divorce Publication by the Connecticut Judicial Branch designed to help people without formal legal training use Connecticut’s state courts, with instructions and information regarding the divorce process.

  • Divorce Guide Supplement

    Supplement to the Divorce Guide providing forms and instruction for “Do-it-Yourself” divorce in Connecticut.

  • Supplement to the Connecticut Statutes, Title 46b – Family Law

    Links to text of Connecticut Statutes regarding Family Law, which have been revised since the 2009 version. (Revised to 1/1/2010)

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