PA 15-7—SB 1029

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING A NONADVERSARIAL DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

SUMMARY: This act creates an expedited court process that allows a judge to enter a divorce decree without a hearing for certain nonadversarial divorce actions. Among other things, it:

1. allows parties to a marriage to file a notarized joint petition to begin the divorce process if, among other things, (a) they have not been married for more than eight years, (b) they have no children or real property, (c) at least one party is a Connecticut resident, (d) the total combined net fair market value of all property owned by either party is less than $35,000, and (e) neither party has a defined benefit pension plan;

2. requires the (a) joint petition to be accompanied by certain documents, including financial affidavits and (b) parties to waive any right to a trial, alimony, spousal support, or an appeal;

3. allows a settlement agreement to be incorporated in the divorce decree if the court finds it fair and equitable;

4. allows parties to terminate the nonadversarial expedited process at any time before the court enters a decree; and

5. establishes timeframes for court review and termination of the expedited process.

The act requires the court to place the action on the Superior Court's regular family court docket if it does not enter a divorce decree after review of the joint petition and any related settlement agreement.

The act also allows parties to a divorce or legal separation action on the Superior Court's regular family docket to waive existing law's waiting periods for such actions if they have an agreement, make certain attestations, and request such a waiver.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

NONADVERSARIAL DIVORCE

Under the act, if certain conditions exist, parties to a marriage may begin an action for a nonadversarial divorce by filing a notarized joint petition in the judicial district in which one of the parties resides.

Conditions

The action may proceed if, at the time of filing, the parties attest, under oath, that:

1. the marriage has broken down irretrievably;

2. they have not been married for more than eight years;

3. neither party is pregnant;

4. no children were born to or adopted by the parties prior to, or during, the marriage;

5. neither party has any interest or title in real property;

6. the total combined fair market value of all property owned by either party, excluding all encumbrances, is less than $35,000;

7. neither party has a defined benefit pension plan;

8. neither party has filed for bankruptcy;

9. neither party is applying for or receiving Medicaid benefits;

10. no other action for dissolution of marriage, civil union, legal separation, or annulment is pending in any jurisdiction;

11. no civil restraining order or protective order between the parties is in effect; and

12. at least one party is a Connecticut resident.

One or both parties must notify the court if any of these conditions changes before the court enters the divorce decree.

Other Requirements and Supporting Documents

In addition to attesting to the above conditions, the joint petition must also state the date and place of marriage and each party's current residential address. It must be accompanied by:

1. financial affidavits completed by each party on a form prescribed by the Chief Court Administrator's Office;

2. a request for the restoration of a birth name or former name, if desired by either party;

3. a certification attested to by the parties, under oath, that (a) they agree to proceed by consent and waive service of process; (b) neither party is acting under duress or coercion; and (c) each party is waiving any right to a trial, alimony, spousal support, or an appeal; and

4. a settlement agreement, if the parties wish to have one incorporated in the divorce decree.

Revocation

Either party may revoke a nonadversarial divorce action by filing a notice of revocation with the court clerk at any time before the court enters the divorce decree. The revoking party must notify the other party by first-class mail, postage prepaid, at the other party's residential address provided on the joint petition. Under the act, the filing of a revocation notice terminates the nonadversarial divorce action.

If a party files a revocation notice, the action must be placed on the Superior Court's regular family docket and the provisions that govern divorce under existing law apply, except for service of process and complaint filing requirements. The act prohibits the court from imposing new filing fees.

Decree of Dissolution Without a Hearing

All nonadversarial dissolution actions must be assigned a disposition date at least 30 days after the petition filing date. The required 90-day waiting period under law for divorce actions on the Superior Court's regular family docket does not apply to nonadversarial divorce actions.

If a notice of revocation has not been filed and the parties have not been otherwise notified, the court may enter a divorce decree without a hearing. It may do so on the disposition date, or within five days after the disposition date, if it finds that (1) the required conditions exist and (2) any settlement agreement is fair and equitable (see below). If the court enters a divorce decree without a hearing, the clerk must send a notice to each party at the residential addresses provided on the joint petition.

Under the act, such a divorce decree gives the parties the status of unmarried persons who may marry again. The divorce decree is a final adjudication of the parties' rights and obligations with respect to their marriage and property rights.

Either party may initiate an action to set aside the final judgment for fraud, duress, accident, mistake, or other legal or equitable grounds.

Court's Review of the Joint Petition and Supporting Documents

If, after review of the joint petition, the court does not enter a divorce decree, it must (1) place the matter on the docket for a date within 30 days after the assigned disposition date and (2) require the parties to appear in court in order to determine whether (a) the conditions and other criteria for a nonadversarial dissolution of marriage have been met and (b) a divorce decree may be entered. It may also terminate the nonadversarial dissolution action and place the matter on the Superior Court's regular family docket.

Settlement Agreement

If the parties wish to have a settlement agreement incorporated in the nonadversarial divorce decree, they must submit it to the court with the joint petition and attest, under oath, that its terms are fair and equitable. If the court finds that the agreement is fair and equitable, the court must incorporate it by reference in the decree.

Court Cannot Make a Determination. If after review the court cannot determine whether the settlement agreement is fair and equitable, it must place the matter on the docket for a date within 30 days after the assigned disposition date and order the parties to appear in court on that date.

Court Finds Agreement is Not Fair and Equitable on its Face. If the court cannot find the agreement to be fair and equitable on its face, it may terminate the nonadversarial divorce action and place the matter on the Superior Court's regular family docket.

DIVORCE OR LEGAL SEPARATION WAITING PERIOD WAIVER

The act allows the court, on request and under certain circumstances, to waive the waiting periods prescribed under law for divorce or legal separation actions on the Superior Court's regular family docket. The court may do this for parties who (1) file a motion requesting such a waiver; (2) attest, under oath, that they have an agreement on the terms of the divorce or legal separation; and (3) wish the court to enter a divorce decree or legal separation before the waiting periods expire.

By law, parties to such actions must wait 90 days before the court may issue an order, but a longer period may apply if a party requests conciliation, a party fails to attend a requested conciliation, or a cross or amended complaint is filed.

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