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Can I get divorced in Connecticut?

April 14, 2017

Our office frequently receives inquiries from potential clients who, because of their particular set of circumstances, are uncertain as to whether Connecticut is the appropriate jurisdiction to handle their divorce from a spouse. Sometimes the person lives in a different state and is physically separated from a spouse who continues to reside, or now resides, in Connecticut. In other situations, the spouses in question were married in Connecticut but have never resided in this state or, alternatively, were married in another state (or perhaps even abroad) and moved to Connecticut only recently. Another common scenario that leads to jurisdictional questions from clients is where parties maintain multiple residences. For example, many of our Fairfield County based clients maintain second residences in Manhattan and we also meet or speak with many clients who live out of state but maintain second homes in towns like Greenwich or Westport.

Just like all states, Connecticut has its own set of laws (commonly referred to as “residency requirements”) which dictate whether a Connecticut court will have jurisdiction over a divorce. Connecticut’s divorce residency requirements authorize courts here to grant a divorce if any one of the three (3) criteria discussed below are met.

1. Twelve (12) Month Continuous Residence Requirement

Subsection (c)(1) of C.G.S.A § 46b-44 provides that a decree dissolving a marriage (or granting a legal separation) may be entered by a Connecticut court if one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of Connecticut for at least twelve months next preceding the date of the filing of the Complaint or the date of the decree.

There are several important points to keep in mind in considering the scope and the limitations of this residency provision. First, there is the question of what constitutes “residency” in this state. Courts have interpreted the term “residence” to require that a party be “domiciled” in Connecticut in order to be considered a resident of the state. To be “domiciled” within the state requires maintenance of an actual residence in Connecticut, coupled with the intention of permanently remaining (as opposed to an intention to use the actual residence in quest for a temporary or special purpose). Notably, the issue of whether a party is domiciled in Connecticut for purposes of divorce jurisdiction, if and when it arises, is an issue of fact that a Court must determine, and not one for which there is a bright-line rule to be applied.

A second element of the “12-month residency requirement” portion of C.G.S.A § 46b-44(c) which is important to understand is that the statute only requires that one party meet the residency requirement and does not limit the court’s jurisdiction to cases where the plaintiff meets that requirement. Accordingly, a divorce action may be brought in Connecticut by a person who lives in a different state, so long as the defendant-spouse satisfies the residency requirement.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that although C.G.S.A § 46b-44(c)(1) requires that either party has met the 12-month residency requirement before a final judgment can be entered, the statute does not require that either party has resided in Connecticut for the preceding 12 months in order to file for divorce. Accordingly, as long as either spouse is currently domiciled in Connecticut, either spouse may legally commence an action for divorce against the other in Connecticut even if the Court’s authority to actually grant a divorce has not yet been triggered. This provision allows Connecticut courts to grant important temporarily relief — such as temporary child support or alimony — to litigants who may be domiciled in Connecticut, but have not yet been domiciled here for twelve months.

2. Jurisdiction Based upon Domicile at Time of Marriage

Subsection (c)(2) of C.G.S.A § 46b-44 provides that a decree dissolving a marriage or granting a legal separation may be entered if one of the parties was domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the marriage and returned to this state with the intention of permanently remaining before filing the Complaint. Notably, this provision requires a party to have been domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the actual marriage (regardless of whether the marriage occurred in Connecticut) and it is not sufficient that her or she resided in or traveled to Connecticut at some earlier time.

3. Jurisdiction Based upon Cause of Dissolution Arising in Connecticut

Finally, subsection (c)(3) of C.G.S.A § 46b-44 provides that a decree dissolving a marriage or granting a legal separation may be entered if the cause for the dissolution of the marriage arose after either party moved into the state.

At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, we are well-versed in jurisdictional issues that relate to divorce and can help clients navigate through the requirements.

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