Divorce in Connecticut: Understanding how equitable distribution works

Many people in Fairfield County have the belief that if they were to get divorced than half of everything they, and their spouse, own would belong to them. While that may be true in states that have community property law, here in Connecticut, a spouse may receive less than half, more than half, or even all of the marital property in a divorce according to the Connecticut Judicial Branch. This is because Connecticut is an equitable distribution state.

What is equitable distribution?

Equitable distribution is a law that is designed to make sure each spouse has a fair portion of the marital assets to provide for their well-being. A number of factors are taken into account by the court including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Earning potential of each spouse
  • Value of assets and marital property
  • Debts
  •  Standard of living
  • Health condition

In a high-asset divorce, for example, a spouse may only receive a third of the marital property if the court determines that the spouse has the ability to care for themselves and their lifestyle will not be affected. If there are written contracts between the spouses, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, then those agreements are generally followed.

What can a spouse lay claim to?

If there is no written agreement, than a spouse can put a claim on any property or assets that were acquired during the marriage. There are some exceptions such as inheritances, gifts, and property that was purchased before the marriage, but anything else that holds value is usually considered marital property.

When a spouse is dealing with asset division, it is important for them to pay attention to retirement plans, life insurance policies, bonuses, tax returns and even memberships to clubs according to Forbes. Sometimes a spouse assumes that they cannot lay claim to their spouse's 401K or IRA in the settlement but this is false. It is important for a spouse to think about their future needs as they negotiate the division and make sure that a life insurance or long-term care insurance will provide for them in their later years, especially if their retirement plans were tied in with those of their spouse.

Negotiating the settlement

There is a distinct advantage to coming to a settlement outside the courtroom. In a courtroom, the judge makes the final decision and the spouse may receive a lot less than what they were hoping for. In a private settlement, a spouse can negotiate for what they want and will likely receive a better deal when it comes to property division. If you are going through a divorce, you should talk with an attorney that is experienced in handling property division to make sure that your legal rights are protected.