What Is Equitable Distribution?
When two spouses get divorced, they must divide their property. This is often a stressful process that may become contested if one or both parties disagree on who gets what. Many states, including Connecticut and New York, use equitable distribution to ensure the fair allocation of assets.
Here’s what to know about equitable distribution and how to get help from an experienced Connecticut and New York divorce lawyer.
The Definition of Equitable Distribution
Equitable distribution asserts that some criteria render the possession of property or assets fundamentally unbalanced, instead of treating each person involved equally. For example, employability, educational achievement, the earnings and financial obligations of each party, and the health and age of each are all reasons why both parties are inherently unequal and cannot be made equal.
Other aspects to be considered include but are not limited to the living standard throughout the union, as well as each person’s contribution to the other’s life goals, the potential tax ramifications, if the couple owns a business together, and the projected educational, medical, or other support needs for the each spouse and child of the marriage.
Because assets typically cannot be distributed exactly equally due to the above conditions, a judge must decide how to divide them fairly, or equitably. This means that one spouse could be awarded the family home while the other is awarded a roughly equal amount in liquid savings.
Separate vs. Marital Property
Typically, there are two types of property or assets in a divorce – separate and marital property. Separate assets refer to those owned by one spouse prior to the marriage and that are brought into the marriage. Marital property, also sometimes called community property, consists of assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage.
Equitable Distribution in Connecticut
Connecticut considers most, if not all, property owned by either spouse at the time of a divorce marital property. Except in cases of inheritance or gifts made specifically to one spouse, all assets will be subject to equitable distribution.
This often comes as a surprise to couples divorcing in the state of Connecticut who may assume they are allowed to keep property of their own after separating. However, this generally only occurs in rare cases where one spouse clearly enters the marriage with an inheritance or similar gift that remains untouched during the course of the union.
Equitable Distribution in New York
New York does recognize separate property during the dissolution of a marriage. Property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage will remain that spouse’s own property, while assets acquired during the marriage will be subject to equitable distribution.
While this applies to things like inheritances, lottery winnings, or legal settlements, it also applies to any assets that were owned by only one spouse prior to the marriage. For example, heirloom furniture that both spouses may have used in the marital home are likely going to be given back to the spouse to whom they were given by family.
Regardless of which spouse earned or purchased the asset, if it was done so during the marriage, both Connecticut and New York treat the asset as joint or marital property.
How Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements Affect Equitable Distribution
Generally, if a married couple has a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, a court will abide by this agreement and allocate property and assets according to its terms. However, there may be instances in which a prenup or postnup is considered void and a court must revert back to state equitable distribution laws.
For example, if one party was made to sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement under duress or one party failed to make full financial disclosure prior to signing the document, the other party may be able to argue that the agreement is invalid. In cases such as these, no part of the agreement will be considered when dividing property between two divorcing spouses.
Reach Out to Skilled Divorce Lawyer Heidi E. Opinsky Today
Division of property is one of the most complex and emotionally draining parts of getting a divorce, especially if you and your spouse don’t have children and dividing property will be the bulk of your separation. If your spouse contests property division, this can make things even more challenging. You need an experienced Connecticut and New York divorce lawyer on your side who is ready to zealously advocate for the fair and equitable division of your property in a divorce.
Contact Heidi E. Opinsky today for more information or to schedule your consultation by dialing 203-653-3542. Don’t wait to get the aggressive legal advocacy you need now.