Grimm v. Grimm
82 Conn. App. 41 (2004)

Facts:

  • Berverly and her husband first separated in 1988.
  • After bringing and then withdrawing about 4 different divorce actions, she brought this one, based on irretrievable breakdown.
  • Husband argued that no-fault divorce statute violates the free exercise of religion clauses of the federal and state constitutions. He also argued that the marriage wasn’t broken.

History:
Documentary and testimonial evidence were presented to the court on approximately sixteen trial dates from May 22 to July 9, 2002. In January, 2003, the court dissolved the parties’ marriage and entered various financial orders.

Issues:
(1) Whether no-fault divorce violates the free-exercise clauses of the federal and state constitutions.
(2) Whether the marriage had broken down irretrievably.

Holdings:
(1) No.
(2) Yes.

Reasoning:

(1) The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability.

  • Here, the statute did not in any manner infringe on the defendant’s right to exercise his religious beliefs merely because it permits the plaintiff to obtain a divorce from him against his wishes.
  • “The legislature could rationally conclude that public policy requires an accommodation to the unfortunate reality that a marital relationship may terminate in fact without regard to the fault of either marital partner.”

(2) She testified that the defendant was very cold, distant, abusive, cruel, dishonest and controlling. She further testified that the defendant exposed himself in the presence of a child, committed larceny and made inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances.

  • The court also rejected that her constant commencing and withdrawing over the years showed that the marriage wasn’t broken. Rather, her pattern of behavior was due to husband’s attempts to thwart and delay the divorce.

Rule: Claims that no-fault divorce grounds are unconstitutional have been regularly rejected by courts.