Legal Terms

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A payment from one spouse to another. Unlike child support, which is determined by a formula, alimony is determined based upon the examination of twelve statutory factors:

  • the causes for the breakdown of your marriage,
  • your age,
  • health,
  • occupation,
  • vocational skills,
  • employability,
  • length of marriage,
  • amount and sources of income,
  • station (standard of living),
  • estate,
  • liabilities,
  • the needs of each of the parties, and
  • the desirability of a parent securing employment if that parent has an award of custody of the children.

Answer and Cross-Complaint

The Answer and Cross-Complaint documents are the responsive documents to the Summons and Complaint. These documents are filed by the person receiving the Summons and Complaint. In Connecticut we call the person receiving the Summons and Complaint the Defendant.

Appearance Form

An Appearance Form is a form filed by the Defendant – the person receiving the paperwork initiating a lawsuit in Connecticut. Filing an Appearance Form ensures that the court has your correct mailing address so that you will receive any court notice about the status of your case. Filing an Appearance form has legal implications and should only be filed after consulting an attorney.

In non-adversarial cases each party (spouse) files an appearance for themselves, which is part of the philosophy of the non-adversarial process – to keep as much information and control of the case in your hands. In litigation cases, Appearance Forms are filed by the attorney hired by each party (spouse). Only the attorneys will receive notices about the case.

Automatic Orders (Notice of Automatic Orders)

Automatic Orders, or Notice of Automatic Orders, is part of the legal documents that are used to start a divorce, legal separation or annulment in Connecticut. This document, along with the Summons and Complaint, are prepared by the person starting the legal action. This Notice has a list of rules that apply to both spouses. These rules provide, in essence, that neither spouse takes any extraordinary action with their finances or their children; this also prohibits changes to insurance. Click here for a pdf of the Notice of Automatic Orders.

Case Management Agreement

The Case Management Agreement is a document that is filed in a mediation or collaborative case to let the court know on what date you would like to schedule a final hearing in your case. In a contested litigation case, the Case Management Agreement is akin to a scheduling order and lets the court know when certain documents and information will be exchanged, and what steps are needed to help resolve the case if it cannot be resolved without court intervention.

Case Management Date

The Case Management Date is the first date on which you can schedule a final hearing for your divorce or legal separation. If you are not ready to be divorced on that date, a Case Management Agreement can be filed with a date that is more convenient for you.


The Defendant is the person who receives the paperwork initiating a lawsuit in Connecticut. The Defendant may file an Appearance form and an Answer and Cross-Complaint.

Educational Support Orders

An Educational Support Order provides for the payment of college education costs for your children. The statute that governs these Orders is section 46b-56(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes.

Final Hearing

In Connecticut we conduct a final hearing in all uncontested divorce, separation and annulment cases. This hearing is often less than 20 minutes long. The court will first hear the facts that give the court jurisdiction over your case and then a brief summary of the provisions in your agreement. The court can only accept an agreement that is fair and equitable to both of you and in the best interest of your children. The court does not typically inquire as to the reason for the divorce or the analysis behind an agreement—the court is very pleased when spouses can work out an agreement that is fair and equitable to both of you. The court, however, will want to hear from each of you that you believe the agreement is fair and equitable and in the best interests of your children.

Financial Affidavit

Both spouses need to file a Financial Affidavit with the court at the time of their final hearing in a mediation and collaborative case. In a litigated case, a Financial Affidavit also needs to be prepared and submitted at each contested hearing. The Financial Affidavit summarizes each spouse’s income, expenses, debts and assets.

No Fault Divorce

In Connecticut a couple can get divorced without one party having to prove that the other was at fault in order to have the Court grant your divorce.


The Plaintiff is the person who initiates a legal case in Connecticut. The Plaintiff files a Summons, Complaint and Notice of Automatic Orders to start a divorce or legal separation in Connecticut.


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a court order that allows retirement funds to be transferred between a husband and wife without tax consequences. These types of tax-free transfers are not offered to same-sex couples under our current tax laws.

Return Date

The Return Date is the date that is used to calculate when the initial paperwork starting a divorce, legal separation or annulment must be served and returned to court. The papers must be served 12 days before the Return Date and must be returned to court 6 days before the Return Date. The Return Date also commences the running of the 90-day waiting period before which you can finalize a divorce or legal separation.

Summons and Complaint

The Summons and Complaint are two of the three legal documents that are used to start a divorce, separation or annulment in Connecticut. These two documents, along with the Notice of Automatic Orders, are filed by the person starting the legal action. In Connecticut the person who starts the legal action is called the Plaintiff. In a litigated divorce these papers are typically served by a marshal on your spouse. In the mediation and collaborative processes we can usually avoid the marshal service (and the marshal fee).


When litigating parties cannot agree about finances or parenting issues, a trial is held to put the facts before a judge. Before getting to this stage a pretrial is held to help the parties settle. If no settlement is reached the case is tried. During the trial the Plaintiff puts on his or her case first by calling witnesses. The Defendant is allowed to cross-examine those witnesses. When the Plaintiff has finished putting on his or her case, the Defendant then puts on his or her case through witnesses. The Plaintiff will be allowed to cross-examine those witnesses. Sometime a court will require written legal briefs to be filed at the end of a case. The judge has 120 days to write a decision. Once the decision has been rendered either party can appeal the decision if there is a legal basis to do so. Trials are open to the public.