An Equitable Division of Assets and Debts
One of the biggest challenges that many couples face during the divorce is the division of assets. Connecticut is not a community property state; meaning, the law does not require that all property be divided 50/50. Instead, Connecticut is an “equitable distribution” state.
Equitable does not mean equal, so what does it mean?
In Connecticut, the law requires that property be divided as is fair under the circumstances. If that seems vague and imprecise, that’s because it is. One this is for sure: once property is divided following a Connecticut divorce, that order cannot be modified (except for in very rare circumstances, such as when fraud is involved). Therefore, you must get it right the first time.
What is Marital Property?
Marital assets or debts may include:
- The marital residence (your home), and other real estate
- Vehicles and boats
- Retirement accounts and pension plans
- Cash reserves
- Checking and savings accounts
- Gold, artwork, furniture, and other valuable personal property
- A business
- Credit card debts
- Card loans, and other secured or unsecured debt
- Mortgages and lines of equity
- Unpaid bills
Keep in mind, it is both assets and debts that are subject to division.
Separate and Premarital Property
Separate property can still be subject to division in a divorce. Assets can become intermingled, such as the appreciation of an asset. Connecticut law allows a judge to divide the property of both spouses in any manner that is deemed fair, not just property acquired after marriage.
Therefore, it is important that you have legal representation to advocate for a fair division of marital property, and help secure your financial future.
So, how is it determined what an ‘equitable division of property IS in Connecticut?
Some couples have prenuptial (otherwise known as “premarital” or “antenuptial”) agreements in place which, provided that agreement is enforceable, deals with the division of assets after a divorce. However, prenuptial agreements are not always upheld. Therefore, if the enforceability of your prenuptial agreement is an issue, you should consult with a Connecticut divorce attorney.
If you do not have a prenuptial agreement, you will need to try to work out a property division on your own. This can be done through discussions between parties and their attorneys, through negotiation, or even through mediation. Working out the issues is usually preferable, because it gives you some control over the final property division.
However, couples who are not able to come to a decision by themselves will need to ask the court to decide for them. This will require a trial, or a hearing, before a judge. Under Connecticut law, if a judge has to perform the division of assets, he/she must take into account various statutory factors, such as the age of each spouse, their health, occupation, income, needs, etc. Other factors the judge considers include the cause for the dissolution of the marriage – including who was primarily responsible (i.e. who is at fault), and the contribution made by each spouse to the value of an asset. There is no fixed formula for the division of property after a divorce, and it varies from case to case. Also, while the court must consider each of the statutory factors in awarding property, under the law, the judge determines how much weight to give each factor.
There is a lot of discretion given to the judges in Connecticut when awarding property in a divorce therefore, it is important that you are able to make the right legal arguments, given the factors and the circumstances of YOUR case, as to how property should be divided. A skilled divorce lawyer can advise you on the laws in Connecticut governing divorces, and help you to make an argument as to how property should be divided in YOUR case, and why.
If the division of property is an issue in your case, you should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney. He or she can work with you to gather information, and request financial records from your spouse (through “discovery”) to help put together an accurate and complete financial picture. Having a complete financial picture is the first, and arguably the most important, step in equitably dividing property in a divorce.
At the Law Offices of Emily S. Lucibello, LLC, we work with our clients throughout Connecticut to help protect their property rights, and receive a fair and equitable resolution that secures their financial future. Visit www.lplawct.com to learn more, or call 203-298-4658 to set up a consultation with Attorney Lucibello.