Reviewed by Carmina Tessitore

Carmina Tessitore
Contributor

Parties may seek a no-fault divorce (dissolution of marriage) in the State of Connecticut.  A no-fault divorce means that the couple is choosing not to allege fault grounds for the breakdown of the marriage, and instead wish to proceed on the grounds that the marriage has broken down irretrievably with no hope of reconciliation. This article serves as an informational tool for parties seeking a no-fault divorce, and provides helpful tips and tools on the legal, procedural, and other requirements that must be met before your divorce can be finalized via an uncontested hearing.
 

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.


Residency Requirements


A party seeking a no-fault divorce in Connecticut must meet a residency requirement by indicating which of the following applies when filing the divorce complaint:  1) the Plaintiff (the spouse filing the divorce complaint) or the Defendant (the non-filing spouse) has lived in Connecticut for at least the twelve months immediately prior to the filing of the divorce complaint or before the divorce becomes final; 2) the Plaintiff or the Defendant lived in Connecticut at the time of the marriage, moved away, and then returned to Connecticut, planning to live there permanently; and/or 3) the marriage broke down after the Plaintiff or the Defendant moved to Connecticut.

Once the residency requirement has been met, you can proceed to filling out your forms.  

Fill Out your Forms


To initiate a divorce action in Connecticut, there are several forms to be filled out and steps that must be taken before the case exists with the court.  You cannot file the paperwork to start youru divorce until the forms have been properly filled out and served on your spouse.

To start, you will need to fill out a Summons (judicial branch form JD-FM-3) and a Complaint (judicial branch form JD-FM-159).  The Summons and Complaint must be accompanied by the Notice of Automatic Court Orders (judicial branch form JD-FM-158).  If you have children, you must also fill out and serve along with the Summons, Complaint, and Notice of Automatic Orders, an Affidavit Concerning Children (judicial branch form JD-FM-164). 

You as a couple can fill the forms out together, or one party can do it.  It does not matter which spouse chooses to be listed as the Plaintiff or the Defendant when filling out the Summons and Complaint.  You together can decide whom should be listed as which designation, but legally the onus for moving the case along is placed on the party listed as Plaintiff.  

NOTE: In matters where one spouse wishes to get divorced and the other spouse does not, the divorce action can nonetheless be initiated and proceed to judgment, even if the Defendant does not participate or appear in the divorce action. 

  • The Summons:  The Summons serves as a notice to the Defendant that he/she is being sued with a divorce.  The heading of the Summons calls for information such as the judicial district where the divorce proceeding will be filed, the court information, the name and address of the Plaintiff, the name and address of the Defendant, the case type (in accordance with the case codes list atop the form), the return date, and the case management date. 

The return date is not a date you physically return to court – it is the date that starts the countdown to the first available date that your divorce can become finalized (or what's known as the "90 day waiting period") which will be discussed in greater detail below.  The return date also serves as a timeframe for other steps you must take, which includes service of process and the filing the summons and complaint with the court. 

The case management date, which will be discussed in greater detail below, serves as the first available date that your divorce can become finalized via an uncontested hearing, as well as a timeframe for other steps you must take and forms you must file.

In order to help determine the appropriate return date and corresponding case management date, the Connecticut Judicial Branch provides a chart (judicial branch form JD-FM-165) that can assist you in selecting the appropriate dates for your judicial district.  You want to select a return date that is several weeks out to allow time for your marshal to serve your spouse and return same to be filed with the court.  So for example, if you are drafting your summons and complaint during the week of May 1, 2014, and your judicial district is in Fairfield (the Superior Court located in Bridgeport), then it would be prudent to select the return date of June 3, 2014 to give the marshal time to serve your spouse and file same with the court by the deadline.  This return date carries a case management date of September 2, 2014, or the first possible date your divorce can be finalized.

  • The Complaint:  Accompanying your Summons is your Complaint.  The judicial branch standard divorce complaint requires certain information to be indicated in its various sections.
  • The header calls for you to indicate which judicial district you'll be filing the complaint, and contains sections 1-4 which ask for your name, birth name, and address, your spouse's name, birth name, and address, the date of marriage or date of civil union that merged into marriage, and the town/state/country where the marriage took place.  The header also calls for the return date and a docket number.  The return date will match the return date listed on your summons; the docket number is the number assigned by the court for your case, so that the court can track your case.  This number will be provided to you by the court clerk upon filing your summons and complaint, so can be left blank for the time being.
  • As stated above, you must indicate in the complaint which residency requirement(s) apply to you in section 5.
  • Fault or no-fault?  Section 6 asks the filer to indicate whether the divorce is being sought due to the marriage having broken down irretrievably (ie. No-Fault) or whether grounds for divorce are alleged (in accordance with section 46b-40(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes). 
  • Any Children?  Sections 7-10 concern whether there are any children to be considered during the dissolution process - if children were born on or after the date of the marriage, and are under the age of 23, you must list the names and birth dates of each child, and indicate whether they are to be considered children of this marriage.
  • Section 11 requests the filer to tell the court whether there are any court orders regarding custody or support of any child listed, and the relevant parties thereto.
  • Section 12 requires the filer to disclose whether either party to the marriage or any children of the marriage have received state assistance in the form of financial assistance or Husky medical coverage.  If yes, you must also send the Attorney General a copy of the Summons, Complaint, Notice of Automatic Orders, and any other forms filed with them to the address listed in the complaint, and file the Certification of Notice (JD-FM-175) with the court.
  • Section 13 requires disclosure of whether a party to the divorce action is pregnant, the expected due date, and whether the current spouse is or is not the biological parent of the unborn child.
  • Section 14 requires the filer to disclose whether either party to the marriage received city or town assistance.  If yes, you must also send your City or Town Clerk a copy of the the Summons, Complaint, Notice of Automatic Orders, and any other forms filed with them, and file the Certification of Notice (JD-FM-175) with the court.
  • The next section asks the filer to tell the court what you want the court to order, by selecting all of the following that apply:
    • A divorce
    • A fair division of property and debts
    • Alimony
    • Child Support
    • An order regarding the post-majority educational support of the child(ren)
    • Name change to:___________________
    • Regarding parental decision making: Orders seeking
      • Sole custody
      • Joint legal custody
      • A parenting responsibility plan which includes a plan for the parental decisionmaking regarding the minor child(ren)
      • Regarding physical custody: Orders seeking
        • Primary residence with: ______________________
        • Visitation
        • A parenting responsibility plan which includes a plan for the schedule of physical care of the minor child.
  • The person identified as Plaintiff must then sign the complaint and certify that a copy has been sent to all parties.

 

Note:  If you do not address alimony during the dissolution process, you waive the right to ever request alimony in the future.

 

  • Notice of Automatic Court Orders:  The automatic orders list what a divorcing couple can and cannot do during the pendency of the divorce, like selling items or moving money.  The automatic orders help keep the marital estate intact while the couple works to effectively dissolve it.  If children are involved, it also helps to effectuate effective co-parenting between the couple as they work to address custody and visitation issues.  If parties violate an automatic order, the violating party can be penalized. 
  • Affidavit Concerning Children:  The affidavit wants to know information about the children of the marriage, including where they have lived and with whom, starting from the present going back in time to their birth.  If there are any other past or pending civil or criminal actions relevant to the children, you must disclose same and provide the case information. 
Note: If you have children, both parties must take and complete a parenting education course prior to the divorce becoming finalized.  The list of approved programs is available online (judicial branch form JDP-FM-151), as well as the certificate of results for completing the program (judicial branch form JDP-FM-149), which must be filed with the court.  Many of these programs have waiting lists, so it's important to sign up and complete the course as soon as possible.

Service of Process


After you've filled out your forms, you must next serve the Summons, Complaint, Notice of Automatic Court Orders, and the Affidavit Concerning Children if applicable, on your spouse by a state marshal. You can obtain the listing of state marshals on the court's website or at the court clerk's office, and you must provide your marshal with the original plus one copy of all the forms. 

The marshal must serve your spouse at least two weeks prior to the return date.  Then the forms must be filed with the clerk's office at the Superior Court in the appropriate judicial district at least six days prior to the return date, along with the filing fee and the return (or affidavit) of marshal service.  You should discuss with your marshal whom will be responsible for filing the forms with the court.

If your spouse is willing to waive service, a waiver of service form must be executed and filed with your paperwork and the filing fee with the court clerk (and you can skip marshal service).   You should appear together to file the forms with the court clerk if service is being waived.

The person identifying as Defendant must also fill out and file an Appearance Form (judicial branch form JD-CL-12).

The 90 Day Wait Period and the Subsequent Negotiations


During the 90 day waiting period, (the timeframe starting from the return date to your case management date) the couple should be negotiating the terms of the divorce, and if an agreement is reached, the divorce can become finalized via an uncontested hearing on your case management date. 

In order to have your divorced finalized on your case management date, you must submit a Case Management Form (judicial branch form JD-FM-163) at least two weeks prior to your uncontested hearing date/case management date.  Along with your case management agreement, you must also file a Financial Affidavit, one for each party (judicial branch form JD-FM-6-Long or JD-FM-6-Short depending on which applies to your circumstances), signed and notarized by each party. 

  • Case Management Form for Uncontested Hearing Date: You must indicate in section 1 the case type (ie. divorce), and that you'll be proceeding uncontested as you've reached an agreement on all issues.  Submit this form to your court clerk's office two weeks prior to your case management date to have your divorce finalized on your case management date. 
  • Uncontested Hearing: Your uncontested hearing will be a brief session held in the courtroom before the Judge on your case management date.

If you do not have children, you must provide the following on your uncontested hearing date to the clerk in the courtroom to which your case has been assigned:

  • An executed separation agreement
  • A re-certification of your completed signed and notarized Financial Affidavit, one for each party (judicial branch form JD-FM-6-Long or JD-FM-6-Short depending on which applies to your circumstances), which can be conducted by the clerk in the courtroom
  • An Advisement of Rights Form (judicial branch form JD-FM-71)
  • A Dissolution of Marriage Report (judicial branch form JD-FM-181)

If you do have children, you must provide the following on your uncontested hearing date to the clerk in the courtroom to which your case has been assigned:

  • An executed separation agreement
  • A re-certification of your completed, signed and notarized Financial Affidavit, one for each party (judicial branch form JD-FM-6-Long or JD-FM-6-Short depending on which applies to your circumstances), which can be conducted by the clerk in the courtroom
  • An Advisement of Rights Form (judicial branch form JD-FM-71)
  • A Dissolution of Marriage Report (judicial branch form JD-FM-181)
  • A Parenting Responsibility Plan
  • Affidavit Concerning Children
  • Child Support Guidelines, which can be run by the family relations officers in the courthouse on the day of the hearing.

Note: If your spouse (the Defendant) chooses not to participate in the uncontested divorce hearing, and has not previously filed an appearance in the matter, you must also file an Affidavit Concerning Military Service (judicial branch form JD-FM-178) with the clerk on your hearing date. 

If the state or city/town has an interest in your divorce (ie. if you've received financial or other assistance from them in the past), you may need to meet with an attorney representing the state or city/town on the date of your hearing to discuss their interest. 

At your hearing, both the Plaintiff and Defendant will be sworn in, and the person identifying as Plaintiff will be asked to take the stand and answer certain questions by the Judge.  The Judge will ask questions of both parties (what's known as a canvass), and review all your paperwork to ensure the documents are in order.  If the Judge is satisfied that your documents are in compliance and that your agreement is fair and equitable under the circumstances, your divorce will become finalized and a divorce decree will be issued. 

If you're not able to reach agreement on all issues in time for the first date your divorce can become finalized (or your case management date), you can still request an uncontested hearing to occur at a later date when you have resolved all the issues. 

Whether or not you and your spouse are in agreement about the terms of your divorce, you might want the help of a lawyer to review your separation agreement and advise you on your rights, and/or to represent you in the divorce.  You can use Rocket Lawyer to Find a Lawyer who's right for your situation and needs.

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.


About Carmina Tessitore

Carmina Tessitore is focused on the practice of family and matrimonial law, civil matters, foreclosure, business law, and mediation services. Her mission is to provide excellence in service and quality, tailored to the unique circumstances of each client's matter.