Connecticut law requires that marital property be divided in a manner that is fair and equitable in a divorce. This does not necessarily mean that property will be divided 50-50, although that is a possibility. To determine what is fair and equitable, a judge will weigh a variety of statutory factors.
What Assets Are Subject To Division?
All assets classified as marital are subject to division. Connecticut takes a very broad and comprehensive view of the term “asset.” Generally speaking, marital assets are those already acquired, though certain expected acquisitions such as retirement funds and stock options may be subject to division as well. It is worth noting that Connecticut law does not distinguish between marital property and separate property as other states do.
Some assets that may be subject to asset division are:
- Family homes, vacation properties, rental properties and real estate interests
- Businesses and business interests
- Art, antiques and other collections
- Pensions and retirement plans
- Stocks, bonds and securities
- Financial instruments
- Gifts and inheritances
People going through a divorce should perform due diligence to discover, identify and value all assets, as well as debts and liabilities. This may require the assistance of appraisers, forensic accountants and other experts.
If a prenuptial agreement was entered into by the parties, the terms of that contract may influence the disposition of the marital estate. However, prenuptial agreements can be challenged and if they are found not to be legally binding for any reason they may be invalidated.
How Are Businesses, Trusts And Other Complex Assets Divided?
Certain assets may require more care and consideration due to their complex nature. Businesses and trusts are two examples of complex assets that may call for special attention.
Assignment of an interest in a business can become contentious not only due to the business’ value, but due to an emotional component. The investment in a business is often not only monetary. One or both spouses may have put a substantial amount of time and effort into the formation and success of a business, which can be difficult to quantify. Similarly, if a family business has been handed down for one or more generations, owners may feel there is much more than dollar signs at stake.
Assignment of an interest in a business starts with valuation, which may require appraisal of everything from the commercial property that houses the business and the equipment and inventory to the accounts, as well as intangible assets such as goodwill that a business has acquired.
Designed to protect assets, trusts are a complex fiduciary mechanism. Their nature as an instrument of protection leads many to believe that they can protect assets in the event of a divorce. However, that is not necessarily the case. Even if a trust has been properly drafted, assets within may still be subject to division.
What Statutory Factors Will Be Considered By A Judge?
The statutory criteria a court will use to decide a fair and equitable division are:
- Length of the marriage
- Reason for the dissolution
- Station and occupation
- Earning capacity
- Vocational skills
- Level of education
- Size and value of the marital estate and liabilities
- Each party’s needs
- Each party’s contributions to the marital estate
A judge need not weigh each of these factors equally, and there is no preference among the various factors in terms of reaching a decision. Judges are given a great deal of discretion in the weight they place on each factor while considering each case’s particular circumstances.
Divorcing parties may also reach agreements about how property will be divided. If so, the parties may or may not choose to take the same statutory criteria into consideration.
The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.