Property division is one of the most important and often one of the most contentious issues for divorcing couples. In Connecticut, if a couple can agree to a just and reasonable division of property, judges will generally accept the division they come up with. However, if the divorcing spouses cannot come to an agreement, the court will determine a property division based on the principle of equitable distribution. “Equitable” does not necessarily mean equal, however, but instead means a fair distribution.
How Is the Property Divided?
Judges use several factors set forth in Connecticut’s equitable distribution statute to determine how they will divide a divorcing couple’s marital property. These factors are:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The causes for the end of the marriage;
- The age and health of the spouses;
- The station, occupation, income levels, job skills, and employability of the spouses;
- Each spouse’s assets;
- Each spouse’s debts;
- Each spouse’s needs;
- Each spouse’s opportunities for generating future capital assets and income; and
- Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of value of their assets. Courts consider homemaking to be a valuable contribution.
What Property Can Be Divided?
Connecticut is a pure equitable distribution state, which means that, in divorce, judges can divide all property and debts belonging to either spouse. This is much broader than in many other states, where there are distinctions between marital property and separate property. Connecticut’s distribution statute states that the court may “assign to either the husband or the wife all or any part of the estate of the other.” The property subject to distribution is thus not limited to only that property that was acquired during the marriage or that is owned by both spouses jointly, as in many other states. However, the divisible property is limited to property that is in existence at the time of the divorce, and does not include the expectation of future income.
The most effective way to ensure that pre-marital assets will remain as separate property, not subject to division in the event of a divorce, is to have an enforceable signed prenuptial or postnuptial agreement between the spouses. In such an agreement, the spouses can specify that certain assets will retain their separate status after marriage. It is also possible that a family law court will consider property to be separate property under other circumstances, especially if the spouses have not commingled the property.
Divorces are among the most stressful times of a person’s life. The services of an experienced family law attorney are very important at this time, both to ensure that your interests are justly represented and to relieve some of the stress associated with divorce. An experienced attorney acts as your advocate in many ways, including ensuring that your property is fairly distributed. If you are considering or are undergoing a divorce, please contact a dedicated Fairfield County family law attorney at our law firm for a free initial consultation.