This Week’s Blog by Jaime S. Dursht.
Is Property Division in a Connecticut Divorce Different from Other States?
It is commonly assumed by people who are contemplating divorce that particular types of assets will be considered separate and will not included in the marital estate, and thus not shared with one’s spouse. Divorce laws differ from state to state, and Connecticut’s approach to property division happens to be unlike that of the majority of states that do characterize certain property as separate from the outset of a divorce.
What is the Court’s Approach to Dividing Property in a Connecticut Divorce?
In Connecticut, a three-step analysis is applied by courts to equitably divide property. First, the asset is classified to determine whether it is property within the meaning of Connecticut General Statutes 46b-81. Second, the value of the asset is considered, and what the appropriate valuation method is. Third, the equitable distribution of the property is decided.
Although this system of property division is referred to as an “equitable distribution” scheme, as it is in many other states, there is a significant difference in that Connecticut does not “limit, either by timing or method of acquisition or by source of funds” the property that is characterized as marital and subject to the court’s power to divide. Krafick v. Krafick, 234 Conn. 783, 792, 663 A.2d 365 (1995).
Thus, property is not automatically classified as separate, regardless of when the property was acquired, whose name it is titled in, or the method of acquisition. Below are common examples.
Are Premarital Assets Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?
Property acquired prior to the marriage will not automatically be characterized as separate. If you owned a house, an art collection, or your own business before you married your spouse, these assets will not be set aside as nonmarital property, they will be considered part of the marital estate. Depending on the overall marital estate, a court may or may not award the premarital property to the original owner.
Are Retirement Accounts Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?
The 401(K), the IRA, pension, restricted stock units, or any other type of employment related benefit that you acquired before your marriage will be included in the marital estate regardless of sole legal ownership. Depending on the sufficiency of the collective assets to meet the needs of the parties, a court may allocate solely titled retirement assets to the titled owner to reduce the number of account divisions especially if transaction fees are involved. However, it is very common to divide all retirement accounts 50/50.
Are Inherited Assets Considered Separate Property in a Connecticut Divorce?
Inheritances, whether real property or stock accounts, are not designated as separate property in Connecticut as they may be in many other states. Inherited assets are included in the marital estate in Connecticut. There may be equitable reasons to allocate one’s inheritance to the titled owner, but not until the entire marital estate and statutory factors of Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81 are considered.
Are Future Inheritances Considered Part of the Marital Estate in a Connecticut Divorce?
Anticipated future inheritances expected from people who are alive are not considered property within the meaning of C.G.S. 46b-81. Courts cases addressing this issue have determined that the marital estate does not include interests that are unvested or merely expected.
When Are Assets Valued in a Connecticut Divorce?
Unlike other states, in Connecticut, assets are valued on or as close as possible to the date of dissolution rather than the date the action was filed. This is based on the principle that financial awards and orders should be based on the current financial circumstances of the parties.
How are Assets Equitably Divided in a Connecticut Divorce?
Connecticut courts have wide discretion to allocate marital assets to either spouse so long as statutory criteria is considered. “When deciding to whom to assign property to, the court shall consider the length of the marriage, the causes for the … dissolution of the marriage … the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.” Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-81.
The court is not required to give equal weight to each factor, nor is the court required to provide its reasoning as to which factor may have influenced its decision in making an equitable division. Caffe v. Caffe, 240 Conn. 79 (1997). The courts have also refused to adopt a presumption of equal division. Rivnak v. Rivnak, 99 Conn. App. 326 (2007). Thus, each divorce is determined on a case-by-case basis according to its facts and it is important not to draw conclusions based on broad information derived from sources that are not specific to Connecticut.
Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, concentrates in family law and divorce. Our attorneys are very experienced with the financial issues faced by individuals in a divorce, and understand the importance of accurately identifying assets and methods of valuation to optimize financial circumstances moving forward.