FAQ: Family Law
- If I move out, can I be charged with abandonment?
- What is a legal separation?
- Do I need to get a legal separation in order to separate?
- What is a no fault divorce?
- How is child support determined?
- What will happen if one of us wants to relocate with the kids?
- Can the court order child support for college education?
- Am I entitled to a share of my spouse's pension and 401(k) plans?
- How long will it take to get a divorce?
- Do we have to go to court if we agree on everything?
Connecticut courts recognize that it is often more comfortable for divorcing couples to live apart and do not punish people simply for moving out of the marital residence. The person who moves out is neither abandoning the family nor giving up rights to the home or contents by moving. However, parents and spouses do have obligations of support which must be considered when couples separate. It is possible to financially abandon a spouse or children and that can be alleged as an element of fault in a divorce complaint. Also, in cases where residential custody is at issue, a parent who leaves the home where the children reside may put him or herself at a disadvantage and should consult with a lawyer before making the move.
A legal separation is a separate court action in which the court can enter orders for property division, alimony, custody and support in the same manner as a divorce. The only distinction between legal separation and divorce is that when a judgment of legal separation is entered, the marriage is not dissolved. A legal separation judgment can be converted to a dissolution of the marriage by either party petitioning the court without having to revisit any of the original orders entered at the time of the legal separation. A legal separation can also be undone by both parties filing a declaration of resumption of marital relations.
No. A legal separation in Connecticut is not a normal step in the divorce process. Couples can separate whenever one of both of them choose to live apart. (see abandonment)
A "no fault" divorce is one in which the plaintiff does not have to prove fault on the part of the defendant in order for the court to dissolve the marriage. Fault grounds such as intolerable cruelty or habitual drunkenness or adultery were once required to be proved by the party seeking the divorce. With no fault divorce, that requirement was abolished. The plaintiff must only testify that the marriage has broken down irretrievably with no prospect for reconciliation. Fault grounds may still be claimed but it is rarely done because of the added burden of proving the fault. In a no fault divorce, evidence about someone's fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage can be introduced at a trial and may affect the courts orders of alimony, division of property and sometimes custody.
Every state has Child Support Guidelines which are formulated by a commission and adopted by the legislature every few years. The Guidelines include a formula for calculating child support on the basis of the net incomes of both parents and other factors. Judges are required to apply the Guidelines except in a very few circumstances.
Relocation is one of the toughest issues that come up for parents, children and judges. The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled in one case that each parent has the burden of proving certain things in order to win in a relocation case. However, that decision does not apply to all cases and the fact of each case affect the outcome. The Connecticut Legislature is also likely to address this issue during its next regular session. It is important to get legal advice about this issue, before you get divorced if possible.
Whether a court can order payment of college expenses depends on the date your divorce judgment was entered. See "Post-Majority and College Education Support in Connecticut – Timing Matters" for more information.
Retirement benefits are treated as property subject to division by Connecticut courts. One of the leading cases on this issue is Krafick v. Krafick, a 1995 Conn. Supreme Court decision. Some retirement plans are easier to divide and transfer than others. It is important to understand the specific type of retirement plan and to determine its value before agreeing on a final settlement or going to trial.
Connecticut has a 90-day waiting period for divorce or legal separation. The 90 days start about two weeks after the papers are served on the defendant by the marshal. So, if all goes well, the final hearing can be held about four months after the action is started by the plaintiff. If the case is not settled within the 90 days, there will be one or two pre-trial conferences and ultimately a trial which could add months. Very few cases last more than two years.
Currently, at least one party must go to court for a final hearing. Usually, both parties are at the final hearing so that the judge can be sure they understand their agreement and have signed it voluntarily. A final hearing in a case which is settled by agreement takes only 10-15 minutes.