A new Connecticut law that went into effect Oct. 1 offers residents an opportunity to part ways with their spouses expeditiously without the red tape that can tie up divorces for months.
The new law is called the Nonadversarial Dissolution of Marriage and offers two simplified ways spouses can obtain a divorce.
With one process, those who are eligible can obtain a divorce in 35 days or fewer as compared with the regular procedure, which normally takes at least three months. In addition, a judge may now grant divorces “on the papers” alone, meaning individuals who qualify do not need to come to court.
The other simplified process applies to people who have reached an agreement on all terms of their divorce. They may now file a motion to ask a judge to waive the 90-day waiting period that is part of the dissolution process.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — the latest study available by state — Connecticut’s divorce rate ranks 37th in the nation and reports that 10.6 percent of Connecticut residents are divorced, 1.4 percent are separated, and 48.2 percent are married.
But the new law comes with narrow limitations and we wonder who would be eligible to use the service.
For couples to obtain a divorce under the new law, they must be married eight or fewer years; neither person is pregnant; no children were born or adopted before or during the marriage; neither spouse has any interest or title in any real property; the total value of all property they own is less than $35,000; neither spouse has a company-sponsored pension plan; neither spouse has a pending bankruptcy; neither spouse is applying for or receiving Medicaid benefits; no other action of dissolution of marriage is pending; and there are no restraining or protective orders between the spouses.
The parties must submit financial affidavits with their joint petition, and the court may enter a decree of dissolution of marriage, without a hearing.
The legislation has prompted some consternation among matrimonial lawyers, who say they are concerned that spouses getting a divorce won’t get the necessary legal advice they need. There also had been concern the process is prone to fraud because neither party would have to be present in court. The language has since been amended to require that a joint divorce petition be notarized, so a notary will confirm people’s identities.
Opponents wonder whether the state is promoting divorce rather than steering couples to counseling, while some proponents believe it’s an important first step to acknowledging a need for an alternative to litigated divorce.
While opponents raise some legitimate concerns, we see the value in freeing up family courts and judges and getting rid of the red tape so more time can be devoted to more complex divorce cases. According to a study by the American Law and Economic Review, 44 percent of marriages are dissolved within 10 years.
However, we don’t think the law goes far enough.
We agree with the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce that the law should be extended to include spouses who don’t fit the criteria under the new law as long as there is no disagreement between the divorcing parties.
Divorces can be lengthy and expensive. According to divorcesupport.about.com, the average cost of a divorce is $15,000.
While divorce is not something that any couple should take lightly, we think that if two people have decided to go their separate ways, the state should give them the tools they need to move forward with their lives without adding expensive legal red tape.