Do Both Parties Have to Be at Court for a Divorce Hearing in CT?

By Wayne Thomas

High angle view of courtroom

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When you think of divorce, images of couples battling every step of the way often come to mind. However, when spouses can agree on the major issues regarding the ending of their marriage, finalizing the divorce is often relatively painless. Although Connecticut law does not require both spouses to attend the final hearing if they are in agreement, it’s often in a party’s best interest to attend.

Residency Requirement

To file for divorce in Connecticut, you have to first meet the residency requirements. You can do this in one of three ways: The first way is if one of the parties lived in the state for at least 12 months prior to the filing for divorce. Another way is if one party lived in the state at the time of the marriage and returned with the intention of permanently staying before the divorce was filed. Finally, residency exists if the grounds for divorce arose after either party moved into the state.

Filing Requirements

To start the divorce process in Connecticut, you must fill out a Divorce Complaint along with a summons. You must then serve the documents on your spouse, which may be done by a state marshal. The summons notifies your spouse that a divorce action was started and how he needs to respond. The Divorce Complaint includes the names and addresses of both parties, grounds for divorce, names of any minor children and whether you are requesting joint or sole legal and physical custody. Once your spouse is served, you need to bring proof of service to the superior court clerk’s office and file any other necessary paperwork. Alternatively, you can use an online legal documentation service to prepare and file your paperwork.

Dissolution Agreements

After service, you are free to reach an agreement with your spouse on the major issues related to the divorce, including custody, child and spousal support, and property division. If you are able to agree, the matter can proceed as an uncontested divorce and you and your spouse file your agreement with the court.

Waiting Period and the Hearing

There is a 90-day waiting period for a Connecticut divorce that begins on the return date -- which is the date on which the served spouse must file his paperwork. The return date is indicated on the documents served on him. After 60 days pass, you can schedule the hearing, but the actual hearing can’t take place until 90 days lapse from the return date. Parties who are in agreement as to the terms of the divorce can generally forgo meeting with a family relations counselor and instead go straight to the hearing. While only one spouse is required to attend the hearing in an uncontested divorce, it’s often a good idea for both to attend because the judge will typically ask questions to ensure the parties both understand their individual obligations going forward.