The Appellate Court of Connecticut rejected an appellant husband’s claims that Connecticut courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the divorce action brought by the appellee wife.
In this case, the parties were married in September 1987 in Stockholm, Sweden. They had three children, including one minor child, and moved to Connecticut in 2002. The wife filed for divorce in February 2009, but withdrew the action in May at the request of the husband, who sought reconciliation. Two months passed before the husband filed a dissolution action in Sweden, at which point the wife and minor child were temporarily living in Sweden for an academic year so the child could become proficient in Swedish.
The husband, who now resided in New Jersey, immediately filed a motion to dismiss, citing lack of jurisdiction by the Connecticut courts, but his motion was denied and the court restored the wife’s initial action. In May 2010, the court dissolved the marriage, and the husband appealed, arguing in part that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dissolution action because the wife failed to meet the State’s residency requirement.
Dissolving a Marriage
When a party seeks to dissolve their marriage, they must establish residence in this State. General Statutes § 46b-44(a). This statute has been read broadly, and is interpreted to mean that “a party meets the requirements of § 46b-44(a) if the complaint is filed while he or she is a resident of Connecticut.” General Statutes § 46b-44 (c) moves beyond the complaint and focuses on when a court may enter a decree dissolving the marriage.
It requires that one of the parties must be a Connecticut resident for at least twelve (12) months before the complaint was filed or the date the court grants the decree. Our courts have interpreted this language to mean “domicile plus substantially continuous residence in Connecticut.” Domicile, in turn, constitutes residence with the intent of making it the party’s home.
In this case, the wife lived in Connecticut since 2002 and initially filed for divorce in February 2009, or six months before she left for Sweden. Therefore, she met the residency requirement for filing the complaint. The husband further argued that his wife abandoned the domicile in Connecticut when she left for Sweden, but the wife countered that she did not intend to remain in Sweden with the minor child.
The court credited her testimony as to numerous pertinent facts: in Connecticut, the wife still had her driver’s license, the child’s schooling, their doctors and dentists, and receipt of mail. Therefore, the court concluded that the wife was domiciled in Connecticut for the twelve months prior to when she filed her complaint, and as such the court had subject matter jurisdiction to enter into adjudicate the matter.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
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