There are many steps involved in filing for a divorce. You might feel overwhelmed by all of the things that you need to do in order to go through this process. Here, I will discuss the important things that you need to do if you want to get a divorce in Connecticut.
Filing a Divorce First
One of the most frequently asked questions for a person facing a divorce is: “Should I file first?”
There is no legal advantage to being the first to file. Sometimes, one initial advantage to the person who files first is that they have adequate opportunity to consult with various attorneys before choosing one and prepared for the financial cost of filing for a divorce. Other than that, there is no real legal advantage of filing first.
I hope this answers that question, but I’m happy to answer more.
What to Do After Served with Divorce Papers
If served with paperwork for a divorce, do not panic. Although most people might suspect that they could face divorce, receiving the paperwork can still feel like a shock. Receiving divorce paperwork will seem stressful, but you can take certain steps to get yourself ready for the next few months – which don’t have to be torture.
First, you must take an inventory of your assets and liabilities immediately because your spouse may have been taking inventory well in advance of serving you with your divorce paperwork. Next, contact us – by online chat or a call, so we can sit down with you and talk about what the next steps are. Seeing your name as “defendant” can be scary and disappointing, but it’s not a judgment on who you are as a person – it is just necessary because that is how the courts work.
Serving Divorce Papers
If you want to serve your spouse with divorce papers, here are the steps that you will have to take in Connecticut in order to file for divorce.
Before you do anything you should consider if you’re going to discuss filing for divorce with your spouse. In the state of Connecticut, you don’t have to inform your spouse that you want to file for a divorce before the divorce papers get served. However, you should consider the repercussions of blindsiding your spouse with divorce papers. You might provoke your spouse to become angry by keeping your true feelings from them, which could result in their desire to be vindictive over the course of the divorce.
If you and your spouse have children, maintaining a relationship with your spouse for their sake can seem difficult if your spouse feels hurt by the way you went about getting the divorce. Talking to your spouse about the divorce before you file and serve the papers is an individual decision and it will depend on your personal situation. If you are looking for advice, you can always contact a divorce lawyer. It does not matter who files for divorce, but the person who ultimately files must pay the cost of the court filing fee and the marshal fee for service of the divorce paperwork on your spouse.
Prepare the necessary paperwork. There are two forms that you have to fill out in order to begin the divorce process in Connecticut. These forms are the Summons Family Actions form (form number JD-FM-3) and the Divorce Complaint/Cross Complaint form (form number JD-FM-159). If you and your spouse have children, you will have to fill out an additional form – the Affidavit Concerning Children form (JD-FM-164). This form tells the court where your children have lived and whom they have lived with for the five years leading up to the divorce and outlines prior visitation or custody cases involving your children if there are any.
The Summons form is the one that your spouse will receive, explaining the divorce proceedings and telling them when to appear in court. The Complaint form contains information about you and your family and lists the reason why you are seeking a divorce (you can make a no-fault claim, or an at-fault claim here).
Attached to the complaint form, you should have the Notice of Automatic Orders (JD-FM-158). This form tells your spouse about the orders that go into effect at the start of each Connecticut divorce case. These orders prevent you and your spouse from taking actions concerning your property or your children without the knowledge and consent of the other spouse. For example, neither of you can take your children out-of-state or sell your home without the consent of the other spouse while your divorce is pending.
File the paperwork. When you are confident that you have correctly filled out each form, and you are sure that you want to go through with the divorce, you should bring all of the paperwork to the Superior Court Clerk’s office. There are several Superior Court Clerk’s offices in Connecticut – you should go to the one that serves the district where you live. The clerk’s offices in the state of Connecticut are located at:
- Ansonia-Milford Judicial District
- 14 West River Street, Milford, CT 06460
- Danbury Judicial District
- 146 White Street, Danbury, CT 06810
- Fairfield Judicial District
- 1061 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604
- Hartford Judicial District
- 90 Washington Street, Hartford, CT, 06510
- Litchfield Judicial District
- 80 Doyle Road, Bantam, CT 06750
- Middlesex Judicial District
- 1 Court Street, Middletown, CT 06457
- New Britain Judicial District
- 20 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT, 06051
- New Haven Judicial District
- 235 Church Street, New Haven, 06510
- Meriden Judicial District
- West Main Street, Meriden, CT 06451
- New London Judicial District
- 112 Broad Street, New London, CT 06320
- Norwich Judicial District
- 1 Courthouse Square, Norwich, CT 06360
- Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District
- 123 Hoyt Street, Stamford, CT 06905
- Tolland Judicial District
- 20 Park Street, Rockville, CT 06066
- Waterbury Judicial District
- 300 Grand Street, Waterbury, CT 06702
- Windham Judicial District
- 155 Church Street, Putnam, CT, 06260
The Clerk’s Office
When you get to the clerk’s office, you should hand in all of the paperwork that you have filled out. In addition, there is a filing fee that you should give the clerk. The filing fee is currently $350, but you can get a waiver of fees signed by a judge if you can prove that you cannot afford to pay this fee. To have the fee waived, you need to fill out the Application for Waiver of Fees/Appointment of Counsel Family form (JD-FM-75). When you get to the clerk’s office, a clerk will help you determine a Return Date. This is the date that the divorce papers have to be served and filed by.
Both you and your spouse should know about this date, but you will not have to appear in court on that day. As the clerk will explain, the Return Date should be set for a Tuesday and you must return the served papers at least 6 days prior to this date. This gives your spouse the proper notification before they have to respond to the divorce papers.
Serve your spouse. Once you file the paperwork at the clerk’s office, you will have to contact a Connecticut State Marshal, as it is a State Marshal who is responsible for serving divorce papers. State Marshals charge a fee to serve divorce papers, but if you have an Application for Waiver of Fees signed, the court will waive this fee. The court can assign a state rate of $50.00 flat for service by a Marshal if you qualify. The Marshal that you hire will fill out a document referred to as the “Return of Service”. This document proves that the Marshal served the divorce papers to the right person. Once the Marshal fills out this document, you will have to mail it or bring it to the clerk’s office. When you return to the clerk’s office, be sure to bring all of your original paperwork with you.
Getting Divorce Papers
Collect yourself and review the papers. While this is undoubtedly a stressful and emotional time for you, it is important not to let your emotions get out of control. Give yourself some time to process and deal with the prospect of getting a divorce, but try not to fall into a spiral of depression. You should also refrain from contacting your spouse at a time when your emotions will get the best of you. Yelling at or threatening your spouse will only make this situation worse. If you feel that you need professional help to deal with this event, consider contacting a therapist. Keeping yourself mentally healthy at this time is essential.
Within the first few days of receiving the divorce papers, you should look over the papers and especially note the due date for response. Once you get served papers, you have a finite amount of time to respond to them. Once you know this due date, you can begin planning what you need to do and create a timeline in order to respond to the divorce papers in a timely manner. Read through the papers and note any inaccurate descriptions, questions that you have, and steps that the papers are asking you to take.
Consider your representation. Responding to divorce papers is just the beginning of a confusing and time-consuming process. You should decide as soon as possible if you want to hire legal representation or try to go through the divorce representing yourself. Both of these are viable options, but you need to make the right decision for yourself. Keep in mind that in the long run, hiring a divorce attorney will likely save you time, money, and a lot of stress. You will have someone who understands the divorce process walking you through everything step-by-step.
If you are unsure if you should hire a lawyer or not, consider setting up a meetings with a few different lawyers. Many attorneys offer free consultations in which you can meet, discuss your case, discuss fees, and get your questions answered. This is a good option if you are on the fence about hiring legal representation.
Take inventory of your assets and debts. This is an important step to take early on because it will make the rest of the divorce process smoother. Consider which assets you are invested in keeping after the divorce and consider what you would be willing to give up. Document all of the joint and individual debt that you have, as this will be reviewed in the divorce process. You should also locate documents such as birth certificates and tax information because once the divorce is filed, you will have to present these to the court. You might want to think about cancelling joint accounts that you have with your spouse and putting your individual finances in a personal account.
Start preparing for the divorce. Now is the right time to start making lifestyle changes. Will this divorce affect your financial situation? Be proactive and start saving some money, looking for a job if you aren’t currently working (or a job that pays more money) and make sure that you have good credit if in the future you will be looking for a new apartment or home. Now is also the time to start researching individual health care plans. Taking these steps now will ensure that the divorce process and your life after divorce will go as smoothly as possible.
Talk to your children. If you have kids, it is important that you (and your spouse, if possible) have a straightforward conversation with your children about what is happening. It is extremely common for children to blame themselves when they learn that their parents are getting divorced, so it is important that you directly address these fears. You want to put their anxiety to rest and tell your children that they have done nothing wrong. It is also important to keep your children in mind throughout this process. Maybe you want full custody of your children, but you have to ask yourself if this is truly right for them or if it is a selfish desire.
You might want to badmouth your spouse or fight with them in front of your children, but is that really going to foster a healthy relationship between you and your children, and your children and your spouse? This is not the time to be selfish. As a parent, you need to consider how your actions will affect your children.
What Happens if Your Spouse Doesn’t Cooperate?
Most people are law abiding citizens and follow court orders. If your spouse disobeys the court order (for example, the orders about custody, visitation, child support payments, health insurance, or selling property), you may ask the court to help enforce the order. You may first want to try to talk to your spouse and work out the problem. You may also ask a family relations counselor at your local court to help you try to mediate or solve the problem. If you cannot work out the problem, you may ask a judge to enforce a court order by filing a written motion for contempt. A motion is a request in writing. Contempt is a court decision that someone disobeyed a court order on purpose. There is a Motion for Contempt ( JD-FM-173), which can be obtained from any Judicial District clerk’s office.
The most traditional way to get a divorce is through a process called litigation. Although this process is very difficult, it is best to get a divorce lawyer involved in order to aid you in divorcing your spouse so all of the steps involved go as smoothly as possible.
Litigation takes time, so if you want your divorce to end quickly, litigation might not work for you. The first step in getting a divorce from your spouse is to petition for divorce. This simply is the filing of the divorce papers and serving them to your soon-to-be ex spouse. They then must file an answer to the documents that they receive. The petitions may also contain temporary orders. These orders are only in place during the time that the case is pending and outline the “ground rules” that both parties must follow.
Next comes the discovery process, which acts as a time in which both parties document any fact that will pertain to the case. Financial records, assets, and liabilities are all looked at and assessed for each party during this time. If after the discovery process is over with, you and your spouse wish to end your divorce in mediation, that would be easier than going to court.
Mediation is more cost efficient than going to trial and you and your spouse will be in complete control on how decisions are to be made and what the terms of the divorce will be. Mediation allows you and your soon to be ex to end things on a rather positive note. In order for mediation to work, you and the other party must find common ground and make agreements.
If mediation does not work, then it is time to prepare for trial. An experienced attorney may do depositions. It requires the deposed person to answer questions under oath. Before the trial date, documents must get submitted to the court. Those documents may include your wishes for the divorce including custody of the children, finances, and property division. At the actual trial, each party must present evidence in order to sway the judge’s opinion in favor of their claims. The judge may then make a decision as to what will happen to the assets and liabilities of you and your spouse. If you or the other party does not like the Court’s decision then you may submit an appeal.
How long divorce will take depends on if you are settling divorce outside of court or in court will be one of the major factors in how long the divorce will take. Custody battles can also affect the divorce process. If you file for divorce and want to know roughly how long your particular case will take, ask your attorney for an estimation. Divorce attorneys have a lot of experience with cases and they will be able to tell you roughly how long your case will take.
No matter how your divorce process differs from other cases, you must participate in a 90-day “cooling off” period, no matter what. Once a complaint gets served by one spouse against the other, the divorce process will start. This complaint must get filed if you or your spouse wants to file for divorce. Once the complaint gets filed on the Return Date, the Court Case will begin, starting the 90 day time period. The Connecticut state law requires this cooling off period in all divorce cases. At any time after the 90 day period a divorce can enter.
A fairly accurate estimate of how long the divorce process will take is 6 months to a year. If you and your spouse are considerably amicable and find a way to settle your disagreements outside of court, this 6-month to a year estimate will probably be accurate. The more you and your spouse can agree on in the divorce, the smoother the process will go. However, if you go through a custody battle, the process can take a year or longer. Similarly, if you have a lengthy divorce case fought in the court, this process can take longer than a year.
Divorce is never easy, but some divorce cases are more stressful than others. If you go through an uncontested divorce, the process becomes shorter and less stressful. However, in a contested divorce case on property issue grounds or custody issues, the process can take much longer and get messy.
Common Mistakes Made During the Divorce Process
The first mistake that you should avoid is rushing your divorce. If you try to hurry through the process, chances are you will make a lot of financial and legal mistakes. Determining the best course of action with your divorce lawyer before you sign any documentation can ensure that there will be no problems later on, and that you get what you want in the divorce. In addition to not rushing the divorce, you should try to avoid making big decisions when you feel depressed or upset. You want to be thinking clearly when you make decisions concerning your finances and children, not decisions made out of spite, anger, or sadness. If you feel overwhelmed, you can discuss your options with family, friends or a divorce lawyer.
Going it Alone
Keep in mind that hiring a divorce lawyer can be extremely helpful. While you ultimately have to make the right decisions for you during your divorce, a lawyer can advise you on the divorce proceedings and fight to help you get what you want. You might feel overwhelmed by divorce, so having a sympathetic yet levelheaded lawyer consult with you on important matters will make the process easier.
While your friends and family can give you advice, they might not have the knowledge to assist you in your divorce. A lawyer is much more qualified to help you make the tough choices than friends or family, even if they have been through their own divorces.
When facing a divorce, you should also fight for what is fair. You should avoid arguing over inconsequential aspects of the divorce, but when it comes to alimony or child support, child custody, or division of property, fight for what you want. Prioritize what you want most out of your divorce and fight for it. You can concede the smaller things that don’t mean a lot to you in order to keep the divorce as amicable as possible.
In the sake of amicability, you should also consider using mediation instead of taking your divorce to court. This can save you time, money, and keep your privacy intact. If faced with a divorce, one of the most important things that you can do is hire a divorce attorney.
Connecticut Pre Divorce Alimony and Child Support
Many women find themselves in a tough situation before filing for divorce. They rely on their husband for income and help with the children, and they cannot file for divorce because they think they can’t afford to support themselves while the divorce is pending. Here, you can file an order of alimony and child support pendente lite. Pendente Lite is Latin for “Pending Litigation.”
An order for alimony and child support pendente lite means that your spouse will be ordered by the court to pay you the statutory child support amount (Connecticut Divorce Child Support Guidelines) during the pendency of the divorce before it is final. The order can also grant you pre-divorce alimony so you can afford to live on your own as well. Finally, you can have the court enter an order giving you possession of the marital home while the case is pending, This way you have the money you need and a place to live while the divorce is pending. We can file these motions when we file the divorce action for you, and it can mean that you are safe and secure and can afford to live while your divorce is pending. You are not trapped by your husband’s wallet!