Dividing Property In Divorce
Connecticut is not a community property state. Marital property is distributed in a manner that the court finds fair but not necessarily equal. The court may assign to either spouse all or any part of the estate of the other. At PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC, our Westport lawyers guide clients through the property division process of divorce to achieve a fair distribution.
According to Connecticut law, the family court is responsible for equitably distributing all of the assets and liabilities of both spouses, whether assets or liabilities are owned jointly or individually. The family court may distribute a variety of property interests, including:
- Business interests;
- Real estate interests;
- Stocks and bonds;
- Options and commodities;
- Deferred income plans;
- Retirement plans;
- Securities (including options and restricted stock);
- Carried interests;
- Equity and hedge funds;
- Financial instruments;
- Personal injury awards;
- Gifts and inheritances; and
- Interests in trusts (current and future, vested or contingent).
This list is not all-inclusive. We guide our clients in performing due diligence to discover, identify, and value all assets and liabilities of the marriage. We often advise our clients to engage the services of competent experts to perform asset valuations and forensic accounting. Our role may include the negotiation or litigation of conflicts regarding the inclusion or exclusion of assets in the marital estate, as well as the valuation of those assets and the potential distribution of those assets between spouses.
How Property Is Divided In Connecticut
Property deemed to be marital is distributed between the spouses in a manner that the court determines to be fair and equitable based upon the statutory criteria: length of the marriage, causes of the dissolution, age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties, and the opportunity for the future acquisition of capital assets and income. The court shall also consider the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates. While the trial court must consider the delineated statutory criteria, no single criterion is preferred over the others, and the court is accorded wide latitude in varying the weight placed upon each item under the particular circumstances of each case.
An equitable distribution of property should take into consideration the parties’ contributions to the marriage, including monetary as well as nonmonetary contributions such as homemaking activities and primary caretaking responsibilities.
As a general framework, the court identifies whether the resource is property to be equitably distributed (classification); second, what is the appropriate method for determining the value of the property (valuation); and third, what is the most equitable distribution of the property between the parties (distribution).
In assessing the value of property the court weighs the opinions of the appraisers, the claims of the parties, and its own general knowledge of the elements going to establish value, and then employs the most appropriate method of determining valuation. The court has the right to accept so much of the testimony of the experts and the recognized appraisal methods which they employed as it finds applicable.
Connecticut courts have taken a rather broad and comprehensive view of the meaning of the term “property” for purposes of equitable distribution. However, they continue to recognize that the marital estate refers to interests already acquired, and sometimes expected or unvested interests such as pensions and unvested stock options. .. The court must look at the nature of any contingency to determine whether it is so speculative as to be deemed a mere expectancy, or, whether it is sufficiently concrete, reasonable and justifiable as to constitute a presently existing property interest for equitable distribution purposes.
Additionally, the court considers any dissipation of family assets in ordering the overall asset division between the parties so long as the actions constituting dissipation occur either:
- In contemplation of divorce or separation; or
- While the marriage is in serious jeopardy or is undergoing an irretrievable breakdown.
Contact Us About Achieving A Fair Division Of Property
PARRINO|SHATTUCK PC offers sophisticated legal counsel in all divorce-related matters. Our attorneys assist our clients in navigating the legal path to dissolving their marriage by formulating case-specific objectives and strategies designed to protect their financial interests.