Divorcing couples must divide their marital property before a court will issue a divorce decree. When a couple cannot agree on a fair division, a court will impose an order awarding each spouse a share of the property.

Most couples benefit from deciding property division between themselves out of court. A Southbury property division lawyer can ensure you know your rights and help you negotiate for a fair settlement. However, if litigation is necessary, our proactive family law attorneys will vigorously advocate to ensure the property settlement meets your goals.

Only Marital Property Is Divided

Knowing what counts as marital property and what does not is critical information for divorcing spouses. Put simply, absent a prenuptial agreement designating property as separate or marital, all property owned by either spouse, regardless of how the property is titled, in considered marital property. Practically, even in the absence of the prenup, unless it would otherwise be inequitable, courts will still treat premarital assets and inherited assets differently from other assets acquired during the marriage.

Sometimes, premarital assets or inherited assets are handled in a manner that would warrant treating them as regular marital property. For example:

  • A spouse might mingle their inheritance or premarital assets with the marital property to the extent that the former is no longer distinguishable from the marital property
  • The other spouse might contribute to the value of the other’s inheritance or premarital assets, for example, by renovating a condo the other spouse owns and increasing its value

Depending on the circumstances, the premarital/inherited property might become marital property, or the other spouse might “earn” a share of the increase in the premarital/inherited property’s value.

Some assets can be treated as both separate and marital. If a spouse had a pension when they married, its value on the wedding day may be considered separate property. The contributions the spouse made to the pension throughout the marriage and the increase in its value are marital property. A seasoned Southbury property division attorney can help a spouse distinguish between what property is appropriate to divide.

Connecticut’s Property Division Process

When a spouse files for divorce before the couple has agreed on the relevant issues, the couple has a contested divorce. The spouses must exchange disclosures enumerating all their separate and personal income, assets, liabilities, and debts.

Once the disclosures are exchanged, the parties negotiate about the value of the property and try to decide a fair way to divide it. Courts prefer couples to settle issues of property division—and all other aspects of divorce—before the divorce trial. Judges will often order a couple to try mediation to reach a property division settlement.

Property division is simplest when the couple has a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement describing how they will divide their separate and marital property. Although courts uphold valid marital contracts, if a spouse challenges the agreement, a judge will review it and could invalidate all or part of it if the contract is unconscionable or was not properly entered into. A Southbury asset division lawyer can discuss whether a specific agreement might be vulnerable to a challenge during a private consultation.

“Equitable” Does Not Mean Half

When spouses cannot agree on a fair property division, they must present their arguments and evidence to a judge at a divorce trial, and the judge will decide how to award their marital property. Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-81 gives a judge broad power to divide property, including ordering real estate sold or transferred.

Property must be distributed equitably. An equitable distribution does not mean an equal split but is a division that is fair given all of the circumstances. Among the factors a judge could consider when dividing property is the:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Reason the relationship is ending
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Value of each spouse’s separate property
  • Each spouse’s education, work history, and ability to support themselves

The judge also must consider each spouse’s contributions to acquiring, maintaining, and increasing the value of their property.

Unlike orders for child custody or alimony, a property division order is not modifiable after it is issued. However, a spouse who is unhappy with a trial court’s decision could appeal a property division order to a higher court. In most cases, the appeal stays—or delays—the property division order, so it will not take effect until the appeal is decided. A knowledgeable property division lawyer in Southbury can explain whether an appeal is viable in a specific case.

Work With a Southbury Attorney to Resolve Property Division Issues

When you are divorcing, you need a skilled attorney to assist you with property division issues. Cataloging and valuing your property and verifying your spouse’s disclosure requires professional assistance.

Consult a Southbury property division lawyer when you divorce. They can help ensure you are well-positioned financially to begin your life as a single person. Set up an appointment today.

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