Meghan’s recent posts about cases pending in Texas and Mississippi address the difficulty people in same sex marriages can have locating a court who will grant them a divorce if their marriage doesn’t work. I thought it made sense to explore further whether Connecticut can grant divorces to same sex couples who married here, but who reside elsewhere. Connecticut law, as with the laws in many marriage equality states, allows non-residents to marry in our state. But the fact that an out-of-state couple was able to marry in Connecticut does not mean that the state’s courts would have jurisdiction over a future divorce.
Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-44, Connecticut courts have subject matter jurisdiction over divorce actions when (1) one of the parties has been a resident of the state of Connecticut for at least twelve months, or (2) one party was domiciled here at the time of the marriage and returned to the state with the intention of remaining permanently prior to commencing the dissolution action, or (3) the cause of the dissolution arose after either party moved into the state. (As a general matter, where jurisdiction is based on residence, an action can be commenced immediately upon becoming a resident of the state, and the required twelve-month period need only be established at the time of the final judgment.) These jurisdictional requirements apply to all, not just to same sex, couples.
Same sex couples that come to Connecticut from a state that does not recognize marriage equality (commonly referred to as a “non-recognition state”) can have difficulty obtaining divorces down the road if their marriages fail. Because a couple’s state of residency does not recognize the marriage in the first place, its courts will likely be unable to grant a divorce. And, as is explained above, even though the couple was able to marry in Connecticut, Connecticut courts do not have jurisdiction over divorces for out-of-state residents. This is also a problem, of course, for same sex couples who were Connecticut residents when they married, but later moved from Connecticut to a non-recognition state.
We often recommend that our same sex couple clients execute certain legal documents that attempt to memorialize their intentions and relationship. These documents and their contents might be recognized in states that do not recognize the couple’s marriage.