In Connecticut, property may be split equally between spouses, but it is not mandatory. Instead, Connecticut law provides that all assets that exist at the time of divorce are subject to an “equitable distribution.”
What Is Equitable Distribution?
When spouses divorce, their assets are valued as of the date of dissolution, and then equitably distributed, which means a fair division, not necessarily an equal one. In making that determination, Connecticut law requires that the Court consider the following factors:
the length of the marriage, the causes for the annulment, dissolution of the marriage or legal separation, the 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 of each for 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.
CT Gen Stat § 46b-81 (2019).
How Are the Factors in Equitable Distribution Weighed?
There is no formula for equitable distribution. Courts have broad discretion to look at the facts and circumstances and give each factor appropriate consideration. The factors are not necessarily given equal weight.
Often, assets are split 50/50, especially in longer-term marriages. That’s because it is likely that most of the couple’s wealth would have been accumulated during the marriage, which makes it fair to divide it equally. However, if a couple was married for a short period of time and did not accumulate assets together, it’s more likely that they would retain whatever they brought into the marriage and just divide what they may have accumulated during the marriage.
Notably, the cause of the divorce is a factor in equitable distribution, but it’s only one of many factors. Even where it is weighed by the Court, at most, it may result in a 5-10% difference in what a party may have otherwise been awarded. Even so, the cause of the divorce, or breakdown of the marriage, must be egregious.
What Property Is Included in Equitable Distribution?
In Connecticut, all assets that exist at the time of divorce are subject to equitable distribution regardless of how and when they were acquired and how they are titled. That means any property you brought into the marriage or in your name only is a marital asset for purposes of equitable distribution. However, as indicated in the factors listed above, the court can consider “the contribution of each of the parties in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in value of their respective estates.” Therefore, if you had a piece of property in your name before marriage and your spouse didn’t contribute to its preservation or appreciation, then it is possible that you will retain the asset.
Property division isn’t always a simple matter and you can negotiate a fair distribution with your spouse rather than have a judge impose one upon you, which is typically preferred.
If you are considering divorce, our experienced divorce attorneys can advocate for your best interests in court and negotiations to help you achieve a positive result. Contact us today.