Why Spend Money on a Lawyer? Couldn’t the Court Just Divide Our Property Equally?
Connecticut judges are not required to divide anything equally. A judge will divide the marital estate “equitably,” which is a very different standard. This effectively means that a judge can award either spouse as much as she sees fit, based on factors identified in statute and case law, and utilizing the Court’s equitable powers.
Even though Connecticut is a “no-fault” divorce state, judges can consider whether one party is more to blame than the other for causing the divorce, and then factor that assessment into the formula for property distribution. If your spouse’s attorney comes into the (virtual) courtroom with guns blazing, and you put up no defense, you could very well soon find yourself in a precarious position.
Identifying what property exists in the marital estate can sometimes be quite difficult. Is a particular keepsake a family heirloom that needs to be kept in the possession of the spouse who received it from her mother, or is it just another item that should be sold at auction, with the proceeds divided equally? The question of whether a particular asset is personal property or marital property often arises during a divorce. A valuable stamp collection might be considered personal property, unless it can be shown to the Court that large sums of money were used to acquire the stamps during the marriage.
When a house or apartment is mortgaged, it may not be all that feasible for the less-moneyed spouse simply to take over the mortgage payments. If the spouse does not qualify for a refinance, sale of the marital residence may be the only viable option. Valuations go up and down, and there may be a big difference between an appraisal and the eventual selling price, particularly in the volatile housing market in Connecticut as a result of the pandemic.
While most divorce lawyers know far more than the basics of asset valuation, some assets are so complicated that dealing with them requires specialized legal and financial expertise. Retirement savings in the form of a pension, IRA or 401(k) account may be transferred from one spouse to the other as part of a settlement. This may require drafting a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), a complex court order that, to formulate effectively, requires a specialist to properly draft.
If your spouse owns property overseas, it may be very difficult to have that property considered, evaluated and included in a settlement. Even out-of-state property can be considered beyond the reach of the Connecticut court system. If a divorce settlement awards you a house or factory or parcel of land located beyond the borders of Connecticut, enforcing that order may require additional legal steps, both in Connecticut and in the sister jurisdiction.
Visitation and custody rights for adopted children or children of previous marriages may also be thorny issues, and may require additional legal steps through probate court to resolve the myriad of legal issues involved.
No matter the size of your marital estate, it’s well worth retaining competent legal counsel to assist you in negotiating your divorce settlement. If you live in New Haven or Fairfield County (Westport, Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford), we hope you will consider hiring the team at Hirsch Legal, LLC to defend your rights and interests in the event of a divorce or child custody action.