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Legal Education

Family Matters

Thinking about starting a divorce? Not getting your child support payments? Need to modify a court order? Have questions? We have answers. 

You can contact CWEALF's I&R service online or by calling (860) 524-0601 in the Greater Hartford Area or toll-free at 1-800-479-2949. CWEALF's I&R line is open Monday through Thursday from 9am to 2pm and Fridays from 9am to 1pm.

If you are seeking support because you are representing yourself in your court case, we also have advocates who can meet with you in person in Hartford or New Haven, call (860) 247-6090 to schedule an appointment.

By calling and speaking to one of our representatives you can learn more about the legal process and potentially receive referrals to attorneys for consultations and other agencies if necessary.

Booklets

CWEALF publishes informational booklets on many legal topics.  Please call the I&R line if you are interested in receiving booklets. Some of our booklets are also available to download here.

   

FAQs 

Divorce

How can I get a divorce?

In Connecticut there are three ways to get a divorce. You can:

  1. Hire an attorney
  2.        
  3. Do the process pro se (represent yourself)
  4.        
  5. Start the process pro se and then hire an attorney Pro se generally works best if the parties agree on most of the issues around the children, the finances and the property. You must file an action in court and can get a "Do It Yourself Divorce" guide packet also known as "Dissolution of Marriage" from the Court Service Center or online at www.jud.state.ct.us. The divorce process can take from 6 months or more depending on what is involved.
  6.    

What is the cost of the divorce?

The cost of the divorce will vary greatly depending on the circumstances and whether or not you hire an attorney. There are, however, a few fees that everyone must pay. The cost to file for divorce is $300. If you have children from the marriage then you will need to take a parenting class, which costs $125 per parent. This class is state mandated. In order to serve the other person with divorce papers you must hire a state marshal. This fee is between $50-$75. If you do not know where your spouse is located, there will be an additional fee of approximately $350 to publish a Legal Notice.

   

What if I cannot afford the fees?

If you think you cannot afford the court fees, you can file a fee waiver application with the court. The form you will need is the Application for Waiver of Fees/Appointment of Counsel JD-FM-75, which can be found online here or at the Court Service Center. This document is a financial affidavit the court uses to determine your ability to pay the fees. Therefore, you want to make sure you list all of your monthly expenses in addition to your income. If the court finds that you qualify for the waiver, you will not have to pay the fees.

   

Does Connecticut have common law marriage?

No. Even if you have lived with the same person for a number of years, Connecticut does not consider you married. However, if you have children together, you can ask the court to establish custody, support and visitation orders. If you have property together, you may want to consult a lawyer to help assist with the division of property.

   

What if my spouse does not want a divorce?

Only one person has to claim that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The only person who can stop the divorce process is the person who started the divorce process.

   

Initial steps for filing for divorce:

  1. Retrieve the required forms from a Court Service Center or online here.  You will need:        
                 
    1. Summons Family Action JD-FM-3
    2.            
    3. Divorce Complaint/Cross Complaint JD-FM-159
    4.            
    5. Notice of Automatic Court Orders JD-FM-158
    6.            
  2. Fill out the required forms and bring them to the court clerk at the Court Service Center to be filed.  The court clerk will return the original divorce forms to you and give you a return date.
  3.        
  4. Find a court marshal (lists available at the Court Service Centers) to serve your spouse with the papers.  You should give the marshal the original divorce forms along with a copy.
  5.        
  6. After the marshal serves the papers, he/she will give you a Return of Service document that must be filed with the court clerk.  Check with the marshal to see if he/she filed the original divorce forms with the court, if not, you should file them along with the Return of Service.  Both the Return of Service and the original divorce forms must be filed at least six days before the assigned Return Date.   

 

 

Custody

How do I establish custody?
If you are getting a divorce and have children from the marriage, you can ask the court to establish orders of custody. If you have never been married and have child(ren) together, you can ask the court to establish orders of custody and visitation by filing a motion in court, the necessary steps and forms can be found online here. There are three types of custody:
   
Joint legal custody, which usually means parents share in decision-making. Many variations/combinations are possible.
   
Joint physical custody, which usually means the child(ren) live some of the time with one parent and some of the time with the other parent. Many variations/combinations are possible.
   
Sole custody, which usually means the child(ren) have primary residence with one parent and that parent has the right to make all the decisions about the child(ren).

   


Child Support

How do I establish child support?

As soon as one parent is no longer living with the child(ren) an order can be established. If you are going through a divorce process, you will need to file a motion for temporary child support. A permanent child support order will be put into effect once the divorce is final. If you are separated and have not filed for a divorce, you can call the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, Information and Problem-solving Resolution Unit at 1-800-228-5437. They will ask for all your financial information and your ex-partner's information, and will establish a child support order. There is a $25 charge for this service.

   

What documents do I need to establish a child support order? How does the court determine how much child support needs to be paid?

You will need to collect financial information from both parents. This includes wages and other income as well as debts and expenses. The court uses statewide guidelines to make fair and consistent support orders. Copies of the guidelines are available to the public free of charge at court clerks' offices throughout the state, or online at www.jud.state.ct.us/pub.htm.

   

Can I get child support even if we were never married?

Yes. You can have a child support order established through the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement by calling their Information and Problem-solving Resolution Unit at 1-800-228-5437. They will ask you for all your financial information and your ex-partner's information, and will establish a child support order. There is a $25 charge for this service.

   

Can a child support order ever be modified?

Yes, child support orders can be modified if:     

  • the financial situation of one or both parents changes,
  •        
  • the support order is no longer adequate to meet the needs of the child,
  •        
  • the support order did not include medical insurance,
  •        
  • the circumstances of either parent or the child have changed substantially.

 

How do I get a modification?

You can do one of two things. You can 1) ask for a review and adjustment from the Support Enforcement Services, or 2) file a motion for modification of child support with the court. Requests for review and adjustment of your case should be made in writing to your support enforcement officer and should state the reason(s) you believe the order should be changed. The state has 180 days from your request to complete the review of your order and present the modification request to the court.
   

If you decide to file a motion to modify child support, you will need to have a Marshal serve the paper work. You will have a court date within 30 days. The motion costs roughly $175 and the Marshal fee is between $50-$75.
   
   

Contact our I&R staff online or by phone anytime with further questions.

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