My Financial Situation Is Complicated. What Do I Need to Know?
Connecticut Divorce Lawyer
Sometimes people find themselves in complicated financial situations when getting a divorce.
One or both spouses work, have separate property investments, invested during the marriage, purchased a house or rental properties, and may have stock options, pensions or other investments that have to be valued. Others may be receiving gifts of inheritance monies. Discerning the value and character of assets can make a substantial difference in a property settlement and support obligations.
In these more complex situations, you do have options. Anthony Piazza has decades of experience with property division as a Stamford divorce attorney, has represented over 2,000 divorce clients, and is past president of both the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association and the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He has handled most every type of financial situation and can guide you.
Connecticut is not a community property state. It follows an equitable distribution rule which means that all property held before the marriage, acquired during the marriage, and acquired after the date of separation will be divided, if by a Court, in a manner that the Court considers equitable under the circumstances. That does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split. Connecticut property law differs greatly from most other states in that all property, owned before the marriage and acquired during the marriage, is considered property that can be divided in a divorce. All property really is ‘fair game’ in the ‘Constitution State’. For these reasons, dividing property is very fact specific to the circumstances of each case.
Factors Affecting Property Division
What factors does the Court consider when dividing an asset?
- the length of the marriage
- the reason for the divorce
- the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income for each spouse
- the marketable skills and employability of each spouse
- the needs of each party
- the opportunity of each spouse to acquire future assets and income
- each side’s contributions towards the acquisition, preservation and appreciation of assets
- any other equitable factors within the Court’s wide discretion.
- I had separate property going into the marriage. How do I ascertain what is mine and what is a community asset? Connecticut law does not recognize separate and community property for purposes of dividing an asset. Whether an asset was acquired before, during or after the marriage is merely a fact to consider when dividing assets. A spouse’s separate property owned before marriage is not necessarily separate property for purposes of a divorce in Connecticut. Courts make every effort to return the spouses to the position they were in before the marriage but that does not mean that an asset such as a separate property gift or inheritance will not be awarded to the other spouse. Conversely, courts have awarded a spouse’s separate property contributions to the contributing spouse.
For this reason, it is highly recommended if you have substantial separate property assets to protect that you have a prenuptial agreement. The validity of such an agreement can be subjected to scrutiny if the marriage does not succeed and could change depending on changes in the law and the circumstances surrounding the execution of a prenuptial agreement.
- I invested my separate property into a residence that I own jointly with my spouse. How is it divided? The answer depends on many factors including how title is held, how financing was handled, and whether there were any agreements or transmutations between the spouses during the marriage in addition to the equitable factors set forth above.
- How do my separate property assets affect my alimony obligations? Both spouses have a duty to support themselves after the date of separation to the best of their ability. A spouse’s separate property is always an issue when assessing support. Alimony has changed from becoming a longer term obligation to a temporary one. It is intended to rehabilitative until the supported spouse can become reasonably self-supporting. However, as often happens, one spouse earns more than the other or a spouse does not work during the marriage. A spouse’s separate property whether awarded as part of a settlement agreement or a court order can affect support. The more separate property a spouse has, frequently the less need there is for ongoing support. The actual outcome depends on each party’s ability to support themselves. Other factors to be considered are a spouse’s age, marketable skills, health, and earning capacity, time out of the work force and the reason for the divorce. This is another area in which courts have broad discretion.
- My spouse has not told me everything about their business dealings and assets. How do I ascertain exactly what assets my spouse has and which assets I have a right to? Hidden asset and income are all too common in divorces. Often, a spouse has planned to leave the marriage and does not want to share the assets accumulated, or monies earned or to be earned, and feels that they are entitled to a larger share of the assets. There are several methods to use to uncover hidden income and assets. For example, loans, gifts, trust, and other financial planning tools are often used by one spouse to cover up or hide assets. To uncover and value these assets can be an expensive undertaking.
- My spouse and I have stock investment accounts that need to be divided. Is it a taxable event? What needs to be done to effectuate this? The answer is very fact specific. Usually a stock portfolio can be divided by the brokerage firm pursuant to a divorce decree without creating a taxable event.
- My spouse will agree to divide all of our assets without conducting any discovery because they want the divorce done. What are my obligations for disclosures during this process so that my spouse does not come back later asking for more money or a bigger piece of my estate after our divorce? A well drafted settlement agreement with comprehensive disclosures or waivers can usually prevent such a problem from happening. It is recommended that both spouses have legal representation for this transaction and that the appropriate waivers are in place.
If you need assistance or information regarding prospective property division, Stamford divorce attorney Anthony Piazza can offer guidance based on handling over 2,000 divorces. Call him at 203-348-2465.