Understanding Property Division in Connecticut

Dividing up a family’s property during the divorce process can be a stressful, emotional experience.Property represents hard work, memories, comfort, success, and security.Uncertainty makes the property division process even more stressful.  That’s why it’s important to understand the issues you’ll be facing and to have an experienced family lawyer to help you.

Equitable Distribution

Connecticut is an “all asset equitable distribution” jurisdiction state.  This means that a couple’s assets aren’t just divided up 50-50 as in community property states. In Connecticut, a court will consider a long list of factors set forth in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81 to determine what division of property is “fair” under the circumstances.  These factors include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The causes for the divorce
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The occupation of each spouse
  • The skills and employability of each spouse
  • The assets, liabilities, and needs of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s opportunities for future acquisition of assets and income
  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of each spouse’s assets

 

The “contributions” of each spouse include both monetary and non-monetary contributions.  Time and energy spent taking care of the family home and children, for example, are considered valuable contributions.All of the above factors are not weighted equally by judges, nor is any one factor the most important.  Courts have a great deal of discretion in determining how to balance the factors.

The Equitable Distribution Process

Under Connecticut law, there are four stages in the equitable distribution process:

  • Identification:  Developing a comprehensive list of the assets in the marital estate
  • Classification:  Determining whether something is property to be equitably distributed
  • Valuation:  Determining the value of the property
  • Distribution:  Determining the most equitable distribution of the property between the spouses

Defining Marital Property

It may surprise some people that in Connecticut all property owned by spouses, either separately or jointly, is considered “marital property.”It doesn’t matter how or when property was acquired.  Even gifts made to one spouse, or inheritances received by one spouse, are considered marital property. It also doesn’t matter who holds title to a particular piece of property.  Even property that spouses owned separately before they were married is considered marital property.

Valuing Marital Assets

Marital assets are valued as of the date of dissolution. It’s relatively simple to assign a value to a savings account as of a given date, but not as easy to value real property or a business.  Assigning a value to heirlooms and rare or unique items is even more challenging. Specialists called “forensic accountants” may be needed to analyze a couple’s assets and provide expert opinions as to value.

Distributing Marital Property

At the time a divorce decree is entered, a Connecticut Superior Court may assign to either spouse any or all of the property of the other spouse.  The court may pass the title to real property (such as a home or land) to either spouse or to a third party.  The court may also order the sale of real property.

Resolving Property Division Issues

Despite what you may see in TV legal dramas, only a very small percentage of divorces turn into court battles.  Generally, the parties are able to negotiate a settlement.Neutral third parties, such as mediators, can often help the parties work out their differences. However, if the parties simply can’t agree on important facts (such the value of the marital property) or they disagree about what division of property would be equitable, then the matter will have to be decided by a court.

Getting the Help You Need

Having an experienced Connecticut family lawyer on your side can help you breathe easier when you’re going through a divorce. We can explain your rights, the process, and a range of outcomes you can expect.  We always aim for an amicable, out-of-court resolution, but we’re ready to litigate to defend your interests if needed.Flaherty Legal Group is located in West Hartford, and represents clients throughout Connecticut in all family law matters including high net worth divorce. Please call us at (860) 904-2034 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.