What is a “No Fault” Divorce in Connecticut?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Updated December 29, 2023

We are often asked, “What is a no-fault divorce in Connecticut?”

Read on to learn more.

What Is a No Fault Divorce?

A no-fault divorce is a legal process that allows couples to end their marriage without assigning blame to one party. Instead of focusing on the grounds for divorce, such as adultery or abuse, a no-fault divorce focuses on one spouse’s decision that the marriage has broken down.

In contrast, for the court to grant a for-fault divorce, it must determine that one party was at fault.  In other words, if the judge isn’t convinced that the alleged fault occurred, the couple remains married.  As you can imagine, proving fault is typically expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally exhausting.   Because you don’t have to prove that one party was to blame for the end of a marriage, relatively speaking, no-fault divorces tend to reduce conflict and make divorce more efficient.

In a no-fault divorce, the “grounds” for the divorce are that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no chance of reconciliation. This shift in focus allows couples to avoid the need to prove fault or wrongdoing, which can often lead to lengthy and contentious legal battles. Instead, couples can focus on resolving practical matters such as child custody, alimony, and division of assets.

Connecticut has both “no-fault” and “for-fault” divorces.

History of CT Divorce

The legal landscape surrounding divorce has evolved significantly over the years, and Connecticut’s no-fault divorce laws have played a crucial role in reshaping how marriages end.

Connecticut’s divorce laws date back to the colony’s early days. In the early 18th century, Connecticut only granted divorce in cases of adultery, desertion, and extreme cruelty. CT later expanded the acceptable grounds to include habitual drunkenness, imprisonment for a crime, and intolerable cruelty.

Until the 20th century, divorce was rare and difficult to obtain. Courts typically only granted them to the wealthy or in cases of extreme hardship. In the 1920s, Connecticut began to see an increase in divorce petitions, and by the 1950s, the state had one of the highest divorce rates in the country.

No-fault divorce laws were first introduced in the United States in the 1970s as a response to the growing dissatisfaction with the traditional fault-based divorce system. Prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce, couples seeking to end their marriage had to prove the fault of one party, such as infidelity or cruelty, in order to obtain a divorce.The no-fault divorce movement gained momentum as advocates argued that fault-based divorce laws were outdated and placed unnecessary burdens on couples seeking to end their marriage. They argued that the focus should be on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage rather than assigning blame.

Connecticut’s no-fault divorce laws, initially enacted in 1973, allow couples to dissolve their marriage without assigning blame to either party. This groundbreaking legal approach acknowledges that marriages can end for a variety of reasons, and it eliminates the need to prove fault or assign guilt in order to obtain a divorce.

Impact of Fault Divorce

Before the introduction of no-fault divorce laws, couples seeking a divorce had to prove that one spouse was at fault for the marriage’s breakdown. This requirement often led to a lengthy and contentious legal battle, as each spouse tried to prove that the other was to blame for the marriage’s demise.

Fault-based divorce laws created a hostile environment that often made it difficult for couples to reach an amicable agreement. The process was particularly harmful to women, who were often at a disadvantage in court due to gender biases and societal expectations.

Connecticut Divorce Grounds

Connecticut has both “no fault” and “for fault” divorce. Section 46b-40 of the Connecticut General Statutes lays out both the “no fault” and “for fault” grounds for divorce.

No Fault Divorce Grounds in Connecticut

  • The marriage has broken down irretrievably
  • The parties have lived apart because of incompatibility for a continuous period of at least eighteen months immediately before the service of the complaint, and there is no reasonable prospect that they will reconcile.

Advantages of No Fault Divorce

One of the main advantages of a no-fault divorce is that it simplifies and speeds up the legal process. By removing the need to prove fault, couples can avoid lengthy and costly legal battles. This can save both time and money, allowing couples to move on with their lives more quickly.

Another advantage of no-fault divorce is that it can help minimize conflict between couples. When fault is not assigned, there is less room for blaming and resentment. This can make the divorce process less acrimonious and more amicable, which can be especially beneficial when children are involved.

Additionally, no-fault divorce allows couples to maintain their privacy. Since the focus is on the breakdown of the marriage rather than specific details of fault, couples can keep personal matters out of the public eye. This can be particularly important for individuals who value their privacy or who have high-profile careers.

Note that just because you file your divorce on no-fault grounds doesn’t mean that it will be amicable.  Spouses may still litigate issues like property division, custody, child support, and alimony.  Both spouses must commit to reaching out of court agreements for an amicable divorce.

Common Misconceptions about No Fault Divorce

There are several common misconceptions about no-fault divorce that are important to address. One of the most common misconceptions is that a no-fault divorce means that both parties are equally to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. In reality, a no-fault divorce simply means that fault is not a requirement for obtaining a divorce. It does not necessarily mean that both parties are equally responsible.

Another misconception is that a no-fault divorce is always uncontested. While it is true that many no-fault divorces are uncontested, meaning that both parties agree to the divorce and the terms of the settlement, this is not always the case. In some situations, the parties may not reach agreements on their own, and the court may have to decide .

Key Takeaways About Connecticut No Fault Divorce

  • In a no fault divorce, neither spouse must prove that the other is “at fault” for the court to grant a divorce. Instead, you prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Either spouse’s testimony that the marriage has irretrievably broken down is sufficient for the court to order the divorce.
  • This can be confusing, but “no fault” does not mean that a court will never consider whether one spouse is the reason why the marriage broke down. Even in no fault divorces, the concept of fault is built into our law. Judges can consider whether one spouse had a more significant role in breaking down the marriage regarding alimony and property division.
  • It’s important to note that although judges have the authority to adjust their orders based on the cause of the breakdown (for example, adultery), there are many other factors that they take into account when making decisions about property distribution and alimony.

Future of Divorce Laws In Connecticut

As societal attitudes towards marriage and divorce evolve, Connecticut’s divorce laws will likely change. There may be a push towards more collaborative and cooperative approaches to divorce proceedings, such as mediation and arbitration.

Next Steps

Now that you have learned more about no fault divorce in Connecticut, you may want to know more about the available alternative ways to divorce. We designed our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals. Then, we take those goals along with the facts of your case and analyze them so that we can present you with recommendations and options for moving forward.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us here.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC