What Is a Non-Adversarial Divorce?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Two-tone blue border with the words "Non-adversarial divorce" written in black.You may wonder, “What is a non-adversarial divorce?”

Read on to learn more.

Meaning of Non-Adversarial

It’s important to understand the meaning of non-adversarial in the divorce context before we continue our exploration of this type of divorce.

Adversarial Definition

It’s easier to understand the definition of non-adversarial when you start with the legal definition of adversarial.

First, all Connecticut divorces need to be ordered by a court.  In other words, even when the parties agree on all the issues in their divorce and enter a settlement agreement, only the court can dissolve their marriage.  This means that at some point, even when spouses use mediation or collaborative divorce, they are parties to a divorce lawsuit.

In Connecticut (and the United States), we have an “adversarial” court system.  That means the parties in a legal dispute are responsible for finding and presenting evidence to the court.  The judge sits as a neutral decision-maker.

By contrast, the alternative to an adversarial court system is called an inquisitorial or non-adversarial system.  In countries with inquisitorial systems, the court is involved in fact-finding itself.

In other words, regarding the Connecticut judicial system, the word “adversarial” doesn’t imply excessive animosity between the parties to a lawsuit.  Instead, it refers to the court’s role as an impartial referee.

Read: Can I Get Divorced Without Going to Court?

Non-Adversarial Divorce Definition

There are two definitions of non-adversarial divorce in Connecticut.

Amicable Divorce

First, the term has been commonly used for years among divorce attorneys and professionals to refer to any divorce where the parties don’t engage in high-conflict litigation where a judge decides the issues in their divorce.  You can think of this definition of non-adversarial divorce as synonymous with an amicable divorce.

Read: How to Have an Amicable Divorce

Read: Settlement & Divorce

Non-Adversarial Court Procedure

The second use of the term non-adversarial divorce in Connecticut describes a specific court procedure, which became effective in 2015.  The provision for “nonadversarial dissolution of marriage” is located in Section 46b-44a of the Connecticut statutes, and we explained it further below.

Connecticut Nonadversarial Dissolution of Marriage Process

The nonadversarial divorce court process is relatively new in Connecticut, and there are two key things to know about the process.  First, only a limited number of people are eligible to participate in it.  Second, the process was more beneficial before the changes to the Connecticut family courts during and following the COVID pandemic.

Eligibility for the Nonadversarial Dissolution of Marriage Process

To be eligible:

  • Marriage can’t be longer than nine years
  • Neither spouse is pregnant
  • Spouses didn’t have or adopt any children before or during the marriage
  • Neither spouse has any interest or title in any real property
  • Total value of all property owned by both is less than $80,000
  • Neither has a defined benefit pension plan
  • Neither has a pending bankruptcy
  • No other action for dissolution of the marriage is pending
  • No restraining or protective orders exist between the spouses

Benefits of the Process

The primary benefits of the process were that (1) it was speedier than the standard divorce process and (2) you did not have to physically go to court for an uncontested hearing for the court to finalize your divorce.

Waiver of the 90-Day Waiting Period for Divorce

Concerning time, the court can waive the 90-day waiting period for all spouses who have reached a full settlement agreement in their divorce.  In other words, you don’t have to meet the strict eligibility requirements for the non-adversarial dissolution process.

Read: What Is the Waiting Period in a Connecticut Divorce?

Approval of Divorce Without Court Appearance

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, all spouses with a complete settlement agreement had to go to court for an uncontested divorce hearing.  The sole exception was those eligible for the non-adversarial dissolution of marriage process.  Beginning in 2022, the Connecticut Judicial Branch also relaxed its requirement that the parties appear in court for an uncontested hearing.  Now, all spouses with full written agreements can request that the court approve the deal without their attending a hearing at the courthouse.  This is called a “Request for Approval of Final Agreement Without Court Appearance.”

The court made this procedure available for final judgments on custody, visitation, legal separation, and divorce.  That said, parties with a pending or current restraining or protective order cannot use this procedure.

Read: What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Connecticut?

Non-Adversarial vs. Uncontested Divorce

A Connecticut uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all the outstanding issues rather than asking a judge to decide in a divorce trial.  As we have learned, a non-adversarial dissolution is an uncontested divorce where the spouses meet strict eligibility requirements.

Read: What Is a Divorce Trial?

Next Steps

Check out our Divorce Information and Facts for more information about Connecticut divorce and family law. If you have questions or want to learn more about how our team of divorce attorneys can help you, please get in touch with us here.


Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC