What is Equitable Distribution?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Are you going through a divorce in Connecticut and wondering how your marital property will be divided?  Equitable distribution is the key concept to understand.  Connecticut follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing assets and debts in a divorce.  But what exactly does equitable distribution mean, and how does it work?

When dividing property in a divorce, Connecticut is an “equitable distribution” or “equitable division” state.  It is not, as people sometimes misunderstand, a “community property” state. We’ll delve into the factors that the Connecticut courts consider when determining equitable distribution, including each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, and the occupation and earning capacity of both spouses.

Understanding these factors and how they may apply to your situation can help you confidently navigate the divorce process and make informed decisions about property division.  So, let’s dive in and unravel the intricacies of equitable distribution in Connecticut.

Read on to learn more.

What is Equitable Distribution in Connecticut?

Courts in equitable distribution states like Connecticut divide marital property according to what is fair or equitable for both spouses.  This isn’t the same as equal distribution.  Equitable does not necessarily mean 50/50.  The focus of equitable distribution is the needs of each spouse and the facts of the case.  The spouses either agree on what constitutes a fair distribution of property, or the judge decides.

Read: Is Connecticut a Community Property State?

How Does Property Division Work in Connecticut?

Equitable distribution in Connecticut is quite different from other states that follow the equitable distribution rule of property division.  This is because, in addition to being a fair distribution state, Connecticut is an “all property state.”

Connecticut family law courts have broad authority to award marital property to either spouse, 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 most equitable distribution states.  In theory, this means that everything owned by both spouses (and all debts owed by both spouses) is “fair game” or subject to division in a Connecticut divorce.  This makes Connecticut an “all property” state, which means that everything the couple owns or owes is fair game when dividing things up in divorce.

Define Equitable

Equitable distribution is a principle the Connecticut courts follow when dividing marital property in a divorce. It’s important to note that equitable does not necessarily mean equal.  Instead, the court aims to achieve a fair distribution of assets and debts based on various factors unique to each case.

Under the principle of equitable distribution, the court considers several factors to determine how to divide property and debts fairly.  These factors consider each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, and the occupation and earning capacity of both spouses. Let’s explore these factors in more detail.

Read: Is Connecticut a 50/50 Divorce State?

Understanding Marital Assets and Liabilities

When discussing equitable distribution, it’s essential to understand the concept of marital assets and liabilities.  Marital assets include houses, cars, bank accounts, investments, and even business interests.  On the other hand, liabilities refer to any debts, such as mortgages, credit card debt, and loans.

To determine the value of marital assets and liabilities, gathering all relevant financial documents, such as bank statements, tax returns, and property deeds, is advisable.  Consulting with a financial advisor or divorce attorney can also help you accurately assess the value of assets and debts.  By understanding the nature and value of the assets and liabilities involved, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the equitable distribution process in Connecticut.

Read: How Does Property Division Work in a CT Divorce?

Some of the Factors Corts Considered in Equitable Distribution

  1. Contributions to the Marriage: The court considers the contributions made by each spouse during the marriage, both financial and non-financial.  Financial contributions can include income earned, savings, and investments, while non-financial contributions encompass homemaking, child-rearing, and support provided to the other spouse’s career or education.
  2. Length of the Marriage: The duration of the marriage is another important factor in equitable distribution.  Generally, longer marriages tend to have a greater likelihood of a more equal distribution of assets and debts.  However, the court also considers the marriage’s circumstances and the parties involved.
  3. Age and Health of Each Spouse: The age and health of each spouse play a role in equitable distribution.  The court considers the ability of each spouse to earn a living, their future financial needs, and any health-related expenses that may arise.  For example, if one spouse has significant health issues, the court may award them a greater share of the marital assets to help secure their financial security.
  4. Occupation and Earning Capacity: The court assesses both spouses’ occupation and earning capacity.  This includes evaluating each spouse’s education, professional qualifications, work experience, and potential for future earnings.  The court aims to distribute assets and debts in a way that enables both spouses to maintain a reasonable standard of living after the divorce.

By considering these and other factors, the court aims to achieve a fair and equitable distribution of marital property that reflects the unique circumstances of each case. It’s important to note that the court can weigh these factors differently based on the details presented during the divorce proceedings.

Common Misconceptions About Equitable Distribution

There are several common misconceptions surrounding equitable distribution in Connecticut divorces.  One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that marital property will be divided equally between the spouses.  However, as discussed earlier, equitable distribution does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split.  The court strives to achieve a fair distribution based on the specific circumstances of each case.

Another misconception is that only assets acquired during the marriage are subject to division.  Premarital assets are also subject to divisions (though that doesn’t mean that they will be or that, even if they are, they will be along the same percentages as marital assets.

It’s essential to debunk these misconceptions to understand the equitable distribution process in Connecticut clearly and set realistic expectations regarding property division.

The Role of the Court in Equitable Distribution

In Connecticut, the court has the ultimate authority to decide on equitable distribution if the divorcing spouses cannot agree on their own.  The court often considers the factors we discussed earlier and any other relevant circumstances to determine how to divide marital property.

During the court proceedings, each spouse can present evidence supporting their position regarding property division.  The court will carefully review the evidence and make a decision that it deems fair and equitable based on the case’s specific facts.

It’s important to note that court involvement in equitable distribution can be time-consuming, costly, and potentially contentious.  Therefore, exploring alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or collaborative divorce, is often advisable to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement outside of court.

Alternatives to Court for Equitable Distribution

Mediation and collaborative divorce are two popular alternatives to court litigation for resolving property division matters.  These methods offer a more cooperative and less adversarial approach to divorce, allowing the divorcing spouses to work together to reach a mutually agreed-upon distribution of assets and debts.

A neutral third-party mediator facilitates discussions between the spouses to help them reach a settlement.  The mediator does not make decisions but assists in guiding the conversation and exploring potential solutions.  This approach allows the divorcing spouses to maintain control over the outcome and fosters better communication and cooperation.

Collaborative divorce involves each spouse retaining their own attorney and signing an agreement to resolve the divorce through negotiation rather than litigation.  The attorneys work together with the spouses to reach a settlement that meets their needs and interests.  This collaborative approach can be particularly beneficial regarding property division, as it encourages open dialogue and creative problem-solving.

Role of Prenups in Equitable Division

Prenuptial agreements, or prenups, play a significant role in determining how marital property will be divided during a divorce.  A prenup is a legally binding contract.  You entered into it before marriage and specify how assets and debts will be allocated in case of a divorce.

By having a prenuptial agreement in place, couples can have more control over the distribution of their assets and debts rather than leaving it up to the court.  Prenups can address various issues, such as the division of specific assets, the allocation of spousal support, and the treatment of separate property.

However, it’s important to note that prenuptial agreements must meet specific requirements to be valid and enforceable.  They should be entered voluntarily, with full disclosure of assets and debts, and without coercion or duress.  Additionally, the terms of the prenup should be fair and reasonable.

If you have a prenuptial agreement, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure its validity and to understand how it may impact the equitable distribution process in your divorce.

The Comprehensive Connecticut Property Division Guide

How to divide property is one of the most critical issues in divorces.  And it’s one of the most confusing.  There are no set formulas or rules on how property will be divided.  The good news is that it creates tremendous flexibility for experienced divorce attorneys to craft an individualized approach.  To prepare to make solid and informed decisions, you need to understand how property division works.  Our Comprehensive Connecticut Property Division Guide tells you everything you need to know about property division in Connecticut.

Next Steps

As you can tell, equitable distribution isn’t simple in Connecticut. That’s actually good news because it means there is a lot of opportunity for creative negotiations, strategy, and solutions. It’s essential to have an experienced divorced legal team as your guide.

At Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, we designed our first step to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals.  Then, we take those goals, analyze them along with the facts of your case, and present you with recommendations and options for moving forward.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us here.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC