PA 17-47—sHB 7196

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING NONADVERSARIAL DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

SUMMARY: This act makes changes in the conditions for nonadversarial divorce actions. In so doing, it extends this divorce option to certain parties who (1) have been married for nine years or less instead of eight years or less and (2) own property with a total combined net fair market value of less than $80,000 instead of less than $35,000.

The law limits this divorce option to parties who do not have a defined benefit pension plan. The act defines a “defined benefit pension plan” expressly for the purpose of nonadversarial divorce actions.

Additionally, under the act, if a judge terminates a nonadversarial divorce action and places the matter on the Superior Court's regular family docket, the parties do not have to pay any new filing fees, file a complaint, or serve process.

The act also makes changes related to marriage or civil union dissolution, legal separation, and annulment actions on the regular docket. It:

1. allows parties to waive service of process;

2. requires the chief court administrator to prescribe the waiver-of-service form;

3. clarifies proper service of process for certain Department of Correction (DOC) inmates; and

4. specifies that any child custody, care, education, visitation, maintenance, or support agreements the parties submit to the court must be final.

It also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

NONADVERSARIAL DIVORCE

Conditions

A nonadversarial divorce is an expedited court process that allows a judge to enter a divorce decree without a hearing if the parties to the marriage file a notarized joint petition to begin the divorce process and meet certain criteria. Under prior law, parties were eligible for this option if:

1. they had not been married for more than eight years;

2. the marriage had broken down irretrievably;

3. neither party was pregnant;

4. the parties did not have or adopt any children prior to, or during, the marriage;

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

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

7. neither party had a defined benefit pension plan;

8. neither party had filed for bankruptcy;

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

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

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

12. at least one party was a Connecticut resident.

The act changes the first and sixth conditions listed above. In doing so, it extends this divorce option to parties who have been married for nine years or less and whose property has a total combined net fair market value of less than $80,000.

It also defines a “defined benefit pension plan” for the purpose of nonadversarial divorce actions as a pension plan in which an employer promises to pay a specified monthly benefit upon an employee's retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee's earnings history and tenure of service.

Termination of the Nonadversarial Process and Transfer to the Superior Court Docket

By law, if the parties wish to have a settlement agreement incorporated in a nonadversarial divorce decree, they must submit it to the court with a joint petition and attest, under oath, that its terms are fair and equitable. 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.

If the court does so, the act (1) prohibits the court from imposing any new fees, (2) exempts the parties from the requirements to serve process and file a complaint, and (3) applies all other provisions that govern dissolution of marriage or civil union or legal separation.

SERVICE OF PROCESS

Service Waiver

The act allows a party to a dissolution of marriage or civil union, legal separation, or annulment to waive the service of process of the summons and complaint required to start such an action. The person may do so by (1) signing a written waiver of service on a form prescribed by the chief court administrator and (2) filing an appearance with the court. The action must meet all other legal requirements.

DOC Inmates

The act clarifies that process must be served on the administrative services commissioner if a party to a dissolution of marriage or civil union, legal separation, or annulment is in DOC custody and is a patient in a psychiatric hospital.