This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht
Yes. Connecticut courts have the authority to award exclusive use and occupancy of the home to either spouse while a divorce is pending, which means that one spouse can be ordered to vacate the home until further court order. Connecticut General Statutes 46b-83(a) provides, “At any time after the return day of a complaint … [t]he court may also award exclusive use of the family home or any other dwelling unit which is available for use as a residence pendent lite to either of the parties as is just and equitable without regard to the respective interests of the parties in the property.”
What is the Procedure in Connecticut?
A motion is filed with the court which will be scheduled for hearing before a judge within a few weeks of filing. “Each motion for exclusive possession shall state the nature of the property, whether it is rental property or owned by the parties or one of them, the length of tenancy or ownership of each party, the current family members residing therein and the grounds upon which the moving party seeks exclusive possession.” Connecticut Practice Book § 25-25.
Does it Matter Which Party Has Title to the House?
No. A court may award exclusive occupancy regardless of whose name the home is titled in. In fact, ownership of a home is not necessary, and a court may order exclusive use of rental properties as well.
Are Specific Grounds Required?
There are no specific statutory grounds, however, the Practice Book requires the motion to state “the grounds upon which the moving party seeks exclusive possession.” While a court will consider factors such as the nature of the relationship between the parties, the grounds must be more compelling than that of spouses not getting along. The existence of physical and/or substance abuse for example, will be considered significant, especially if these conditions are taking place in the presence of minor children.
Does It Affect Who Has to Pay the Expenses While the Divorce is Pending?
Courts are reluctant to order the parties to pay for two residences if it is evident they cannot afford it, however, if the circumstances justify it, a court will grant the motion regardless of the financial situation. While a Connecticut divorce is pending, there are Automatic Orders in effect which are intended to preserve the status quo as to the payment of household expenses, and courts may order the payment of ordinary household expenses from assets if necessary.
What Happens if There are Minor Children Involved?
A court may base its orders on what is in the best interests of the minor children, which often means that the children will stay in the marital home with the primary caregiver. Depending on the circumstances, the court will also require the parties to work out a temporary schedule of appropriate parenting access. Sometimes that may involve a schedule of “bird nesting” to keep the children in the marital home while the parents rotate occupancy of the home or part of the home.
The attorneys at Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, are very experienced with the issue of exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence during a Connecticut divorce and with assisting clients in developing an appropriate plan to meet individual and family needs.