If you are having marital problems, you may be contemplating whether to legally separate or divorce. In Connecticut, these are two distinct legal options with their own procedures. However, there are also similarities between the two which causes many people to get confused. If you are deciding between divorce and legal separation in Connecticut, there are several facts you should know.
What Is the Difference Between a Legal Separation and Divorce?
Both legal separation and divorce involve filing an action in court. While the proceedings are different, the parties must still go through the same steps to resolve financial and custody issues. The final terms of their agreement are then incorporated into a separation agreement as discussed below. Since the steps are virtually the same, a separation may not be faster or less expensive than a divorce and can be more costly if you later decide to divorce.
Accordingly, the most significant difference between a legal separation and divorce is that parties to a legal separation are not permitted to get remarried. If you want to remarry, you must go back to court and have the separation converted into a divorce.
Are You Required to Legally Separate Before Getting a Divorce?
You do not have to legally separate in order to obtain a divorce. Connecticut is a no-fault state, so spouses only have to claim that their marriage has irretrievably broken down with no hope of reconciliation to get divorced. There is no additional requirement that the parties first file for legal separation or live apart for some period of time.
Notably, the grounds for legal separation are the same as for divorce. You only need to state that your marriage has irretrievably broken down for a judge to grant a legal separation.
Why Is There a Separation Agreement Signed in Both Divorce and Legal Separation Proceedings?
Although legal separation and divorce are different legal proceedings, both actions can result in a document called a “separation agreement.” In a divorce or legal separation, the parties will first attempt to negotiate terms such as alimony, child support, property division, life insurance, health insurance, medical expenses, taxes, and a custody and parenting schedule, if applicable. These terms are then incorporated into a separation agreement which is signed at the end of the divorce or legal separation matter. The agreement must then be approved by a judge and entered as a court order.
If you legally separate in Connecticut and later decide to divorce, you can petition the court to convert the legal separation to a decree of dissolution. As part of that, the court will determine whether or to what extent the terms of the legal separation agreement will be incorporated into the decree of dissolution.
Choosing separation versus divorce boils down to your personal circumstances. However, regardless of the path you take, it is important to have strong legal representation. Our experienced Connecticut divorce attorneys can help you make well-informed decisions and advocate for your best interests in negotiations and in court. Contact us for a consultation.