What is Legal Separation in Connecticut?

This Week’s blog by Lauren M. Healy

What is Legal Separation? 

Legal Separation is a lawsuit that is commenced by one spouse against the other, resulting in an enforceable court order that resolves issues such as custody, division of assets and liabilities and the payment of alimony and/or child support. Married couples who are separating and want to have a formal agreement on important issues have the option of filing for either Divorce or Legal Separation.

Is Legal Separation the same thing as Divorce?

No. Although Legal Separation and Divorce have many similarities, they are two different legal actions. The major difference between Divorce and Legal Separation is that when a Divorce is completed, the parties are free to remarry. When parties are legally separated, they are still legally married and unable to remarry.

Can you turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce? 

Yes. There are two ways to turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce. One option is to convert the action (from Legal Separation to Divorce) while the lawsuit is still pending. This requires filing a simple Motion with the Court, requesting that the action be converted before any orders are final.

It is also possible to wait until after the Legal Separation is finalized to convert the Legal Separation into a Divorce judgment. There is no time limit on requesting a divorce after Legal Separation. Sometimes parties live legally separated for years before getting divorced.

Why file for Legal Separation instead of Divorce?

The decision of whether to file for Legal Separation or Divorce is very personal. In some cases, for religious or other reasons, Divorce is not a suitable option. If a couple wants to live separate and apart physically or financially, without the finality of a Divorce, Legal Separation could be a better choice. Legal Separation can also be used as a stepping stone to Divorce. Since it is so easy to convert to a Divorce, sometimes the party commencing the action chooses to start with the softer concept of Legal Separation.

Also, a couple may choose to pursue Legal Separation if they prefer to be separated but can maintain or acquire benefits by remaining legally married, such as health insurance or social security benefits.

What are the Grounds for Legal Separation in Connecticut? 

In Connecticut, you need a reason, or grounds, to be legally separated. The grounds for Legal Separation are the same as for Divorce. Since Connecticut is a “no fault” state, it is not necessary for either party has to prove that the other caused the marriage to end. Instead, the parties can simply represent that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, with no hope of reconciliation.

Do I need a Lawyer for a Legal Separation?

Just as in a Divorce, parties are not required to have legal representation to obtain a Legal Separation. However, since major parenting and financial issues are negotiated and decided, including custody, assets, liabilities and support, it is advisable to obtain legal counsel in order to fully understand your rights and obligations pursuant to Connecticut law.

At Broder & Orland LLC we apply our experience and knowledge of the law to the specific circumstances of each case, in order to help our clients decide the best course of action when considering a Divorce or Legal Separation.