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 a handful of 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 and how Connecticut’s property division laws in a divorce differ from other states.
Connecticut divorce laws follow the equitable distribution approach, which is rarely a 50/50 split. Rather, a court will divide a couple’s marital property fairly, although not always equally, using a laundry list of factors to determine how assets should be awarded.
Some of the things courts consider when dividing property include:
Property acquired after your marriage to your spouse will be deemed marital property. However, there are exceptions. Gifts and inheritances are usually one spouse’s separate property, but even then a Connecticut judge can split one spouse’s separate property if a judge decides that would be fair and equitable under the specific circumstances of the case.
Marital property is any property acquired during the marriage except for a gift or inheritance. For example, if a family home and retirement funds were acquired during a couple’s marriage with martial funds, then these assets are owned by both spouses.
Note that if you or your spouse contributed to a retirement or pension account before your marriage and continued to contribute during your marriage, only the portion of the account that accrued during your marriage is marital property.
Simply put, “separate property” belongs to just one spouse. Separate property includes things like gifts and inheritances received at any time, and assets owned before the marriage. It's important to keep separate property completely isolated from the couple’s joint assets during the marriage. Mixing separate property with joint property is referred to as “commingling” and it can negate or diminish a separate property claim.
Connecticut’s version of equitable distribution in a divorce 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 other words, a court will presume that all property belonging to a couple is marital unless one spouse can prove otherwise.
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. How property is titled doesn’t matter much in Connecticut. Connecticut 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 almost always considered safe from division in the divorce. Gifts and inheritances are also up for grabs in Connecticut, which is a departure from the rule in most states. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-81 (2020).
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. You can also hire a trained mediator to help you and your spouse reach a divorce settlement agreement.
However, because Connecticut is an all-property state, its property distribution laws might require expert assistance. Contact an experienced family law attorney in your area to assist you with drafting an agreement.
If you’re unable to reach an agreement in your divorce, a judge will decide how to divide your property. Like other equitable distribution states, Connecticut courts look at a number of factors when divvying up a couple’s property. When determining how to divide assets, the court will consider:
For more information related to Connecticut divorce laws and property division, read our section on Connecticut Divorce and Family Law.