Is Connecticut a Community Property state?
No. Like the majority of states, including the Midwestern states and all states located along the Eastern seaboard, Connecticut is an “equitable distribution” state. Just nine states – mostly located in the Southwest section of the country – follow the community property rule. Alaska has adopted an optional community property system that allows couples to enter into a written agreement designating some or all assets as community property.
This article examines the way Connecticut courts divide property in a divorce and how Connecticut’s rules for property division differ from other states.
What is Equitable Distribution?
In states that follow the “equitable distribution” method of property division, property is rarely split 50/50. Rather, courts divide the couple’s marital property fairly, if not always necessarily equally, using a laundry list of factors to determine how assets should be awarded. Some of the things courts consider include the length of the marriage, whether the divorcing couple has children, the spouses’ incomes, their earning potential after the marriage has ended, and if one spouse stayed home to raise the kids.
How is Property Divided at Divorce?
Connecticut’s version of equitable distribution looks a great deal different from other states that follow the equitable distribution rule of property division. Family law courts in the "Constitution State" have broad authority to award marital property to either side in a divorce, regardless of how it is titled, when it was acquired, or whether it was received as a gift or inheritance. In Connecticut, all property is marital property, which is a sharp contrast to the law in neighboring states. This distinction makes Connecticut an “all-property” state, which means that everything the couple owns is fair game when it comes to dividing things up in divorce.
In many equitable distribution states, the way property is titled plays a role in how it is distributed in a divorce. Because equitable distribution is based on the idea that property should be divided as fairly as possible, some courts will take into account how a particular piece of property is titled. If an item appears in just one spouse’s name, courts in some states are more likely to award it to the titleholder spouse. Title plays no role in Connecticut, however, and courts are just as likely to award property to a non-titleholder spouse as a spouse who owns an asset solely in his or her name.
Connecticut also makes no distinction between property the couple owned before they were married and things they bought after the marriage. This is different from the law in the majority of states, where property owned by a spouse prior to marriage is usually considered safe from division in the divorce. Gifts and inheritances are also up for grabs, which is a departure from the rule in most states.
What is Separate Property?
Simply put, “separate property” belongs to just one spouse. In most states, separate property includes things like gifts, inheritances, assets owned before the marriage, and property kept completely isolated from the couple’s joint assets. Mixing separate property with joint property is referred to as “commingling” and can negate or diminish a separate property claim. Connecticut does not recognize separate property, although family law courts within the state strive to return parties to the same position they were in before they got married – especially in marriages of a very short duration.
What is Marital Property?
In most states, “marital property” is anything acquired during the marriage, regardless of how it’s titled or who earned it. As with separate property, Connecticut also does not acknowledge marital property. Rather, everything a couple owns is property subject to division. Although Connecticut law makes no distinction between separate property and marital property, domestic relations courts have ruled that funds belong solely to one spouse under certain circumstances. For example, in a case where a couple purchased an apartment building with joint money and the husband continued making improvements to the property with his own funds after the split, the court ruled that the value of the improvements after the breakup was his alone.
Can We Reach an Agreement About Our Property Division on Our Own?
Despite how divorce is portrayed on television, relatively few cases end up in prolonged court battles. The vast majority of divorces are settled with some negotiation and a bit of compromise. You and your spouse will probably save yourself a lot of time and money by settling as much as you can on your own. Because Connecticut is an all-property state, however, its property distribution laws might require expert assistance. Contact an experienced family law attorney in your area to assist you with drafting an agreement.
What Do Courts Consider When They Divide Property in a Divorce?
Like other equitable distribution states, Connecticut courts look at a number of factors when dividing up a couple’s property. When determining how to divide assets, the court will consider:
- the length of the marriage
- the reason for the divorce
- the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and needs of each party
- the opportunity of each side to acquire future assets and income, and
- each side’s contribution toward the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in the value of assets.