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What To Expect in the Divorce Process in Connecticut

Once they decide to divorce, many people are unsure of exactly how the process will work. Every divorce is unique, but divorces in Connecticut follow the same general roadmap. Below is an outline of the main steps of a divorce in Connecticut and what you can expect at each phase.

Initial Divorce Paperwork Is Filed 

To get the process started, either you or your spouse (the “plaintiff”) must prepare the initial divorce paperwork and have it served on the other (the “defendant”). This paperwork includes a summons and a complaint, which sets forth the factual background about the parties and what the plaintiff wants the court to do in terms of orders regarding child custody, the parenting plan, child support, alimony, and property division, as applicable. 

Initial Paperwork Is Served

In Connecticut, divorce paperwork is generally served by a marshal. If you are both in agreement, the marshal requirement can be waived by having the defendant sign a form through their lawyer. This helps avoid unnecessary fanfare and sets a respectful tone from the onset. The paperwork will have a Return Date, such as three weeks after service, which is the defendant’s deadline to file a written form that notifies the court of their intention to participate in the process. Once the defendant’s response is received, the case is officially open. Note that if the defendant refuses to file a response and will not participate, the court will allow you to get divorced without their participation. 


Once the case is open, the court’s goal is to have it resolved within one year. The timeline can be shorter, such as when you and the other party are largely in agreement, or longer, such as in the case of a complicated custody or financial dispute.

Financial Affidavits

The court expects you and the other party to promptly complete and file a financial affidavit that details your financial picture, including income, expenses, assets, and debts. You are expected to complete this before your first court date.  

Temporary Orders

In some divorces, parties will file motions early in the process to seek temporary orders that will remain in effect during the pendency of the divorce. These may relate to the parenting plan, financial support to cover ongoing bills, the use of the martial home, and other matters. 

First Court Date: Resolution Plan Date

The first court date – which is called the Resolution Plan Date – is scheduled for 30-45 days after the Return Date. You, the other party, and your attorneys will meet with the court’s Family Relations Counselor, who will assess the needs of your case and recommend an action plan to the court based on your needs. A judge will set future court dates and assign your case to a track – A, B, or C – to make sure the case moves forward and gets the attention it needs. Track A is for divorces in which the parties are in full agreement on the issues. With Track B, the parties are exchanging information and working diligently to move forward; the court will check in and track the case’s progress, but the case does not need any immediate intervention at this point. Track C is for highly contested cases, particularly regarding custody, that will require significant court intervention. 

Custody Assessments

If parents do not agree on a parenting schedule or who should have custody, they can ask the court’s family relations arm to conduct an assessment to make recommendations on these issues; alternately, the parents can have this done by a private individual. The investigator will meet with both parents, other parties such as doctors, teachers or therapists, and potentially the child in addition to analyzing relevant documents, such as school or health records, to make a recommendation. Custody assessments, which typically take at least three (3) to four (4) months, usually result in concrete recommendations, which are submitted to the trier of the court.

Financial Assessments

To get a complete financial picture to determine fair distribution of marital property, certain assets owned by you and the other party may need to be valued. This may include appraising real estate and other assets and valuing any businesses that you or the other party owns. We also may consult with a financial professional or vocational expert to better understand a party’s income or potential income for support purposes. While some of the fact-gathering is straightforward, some matters, such as business valuations, are more involved and can take several months – or longer, if the other party is noncompliant. 

Case Date

The court will schedule a Case Date for 30-60 days after the Resolution Plan Date. Case dates are a way for the court to keep tabs on the case and to make sure progress is being made. Case dates also allow the parties to address discovery issues and/or interim custody and/or financial matters. There may be a second case date in another 2-3 months. These check-ins also allow the court to see how it can assist you in settling and resolving your case.  

Consider Options, Including Negotiating a Settlement

Once we have all relevant information on finances and the results of the custody evaluation, if applicable, we will generate options based on your goals and interests. We will assess your best outcome and worst outcome if the case were to go to trial. We try to resolve cases as much as possible for families. When you negotiate a settlement, you are retaining control and negotiating an outcome that is acceptable. You can be more creative in the negotiation and settlement process and tailor it to your family’s needs, while saving time and money. If you don’t reach a settlement, you will wind up with a trial or hearing, which requires additional money and time, and which puts the decision-making in the hands of someone else. The outcome may be what you asked for, what the other person asked for, or none of the above. We will give you our best estimate of how likely each potential outcome is to help you decide. We try to negotiate a resolution of as many issues as possible with the other side; if this process is not successful, the next step is a pre-trial conference. 

Pre-trial Conference

Before heading to trial, there is a pre-trial in which a judge will listen to the facts of the case and each side’s settlement proposal, and tell you what they would do if they were deciding your case. The pre-trial judge is not and cannot be the same as the trial judge who would be assigned to your case. But getting the pre-trial judge’s perspective helps many people make a decision about whether they should settle or proceed to trial. You can also opt for a private pre-trial conference or mediation, which may allow you more time to engage in the process and get more context and nuance. However, unlike the judicial pre-trial, which is free (except for attorney fees), there are fees for a private pre-trial. After a pre-trial, whether private or through the court, some parties choose to go the settlement route.

Final Resolution

Final resolution can be reached by an agreement between the parties or by a judge after a trial or hearing. An agreement between you and other party that addresses asset division, financial support, custody and the parenting schedule may be considered and approved by the court at any scheduled court date, or an earlier hearing date if you requested one. You can also ask the court to consider and approve your agreement without the need for a hearing. 

If you are unable to reach a resolution by agreement, the case will proceed to trial. The court will assign a judge, who will hear arguments and consider evidence from both sides in a trial or hearing and then render a final judgment.  

When navigating the steps in a divorce process or child custody matter, you will want a trusted advisor to help chart your course. The family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt serve as trusted advisors and represent clients in divorce – in the conference room and courtroom – and appeals in Connecticut. If you are considering a divorce or seeking a modification or appeal of your divorce or child custody orders, contact our family law attorneys at 860-206-9096 or online.