Custody Actions

There has been an increase in the number of couples who do not marry and instead just live together. The 2010 U.S. Census data states that unmarried couples made up 12% of U.S.couples in 2010 which is a 25% increase in 10 years.  (See, Fewer couples embrace marriage;more live together, USA Today, June 2, 2011).

The reasons given in the USA Today article for the increase in unmarried couples living together include changing attitudes and the economy. Although it is cheaper to live together, couples are unwilling to marry due to the precarious nature of jobs and relationships. (See, Fewer couples embrace marriage; more live together, USA Today, June 2, 2011).

In Connecticut, a custody action can be filed in family court if an unmarried couple has children.  To start a custody action, a "custody/visitation application" must be served upon the other party.  This differs from a divorce action, where a "complaint" is served upon the other party. Both actions require that Automatic Orders be attached to the application or complaint.

In a custody action, the court orders are limited to issues that affect children such as custody, visitation, education and child support; whereas, in a divorce action, the court can also order alimony and a division of the assets and liabilities.

If an unmarried couple does not have children, neither a custody action nor a divorce action can be filed in family court.  Instead, the couple can file a partition action in civil court to address real estate issues. However, no alimony or a division of other assets, such as pensions, can be awarded because the couple did not marry.