Protecting Your Interests And Your Rights

Overview Spring 2015

At the law office of Verna Lilburn, we truly believe that divorce is a new beginning. Like any beginning, it is important to have the proper perspective and resources to succeed. We can help you analyze what constitutes an asset, its value and whether it is advantageous for you to pursue ownership of the asset as a property distribution. We can help you analyze the pros and cons of alimony settlements and child support in light of recent case law.Our goal is to help you move into the future with hope and confidence. We will acquaint you with other professionals who can help navigate this transitional period.One of the most important things to be aware of in a divorce action is the fact that once the matter has gone to judgment, either by agreement or by trial, you cannot modify property unless the judgment is reopened. Reopening a judgment generally must be done within four months of dissolution and there are limited circumstances that justify such action. Therefore, it is essential to get property distribution right the first time.There are many factors that affect the distribution of property. Among those set forth in Connecticut General Statutes section 46b-81 are: the length of the marriage, the causes for the dissolution or legal separation, the ages, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, earning capacity, vocational skills, education, employability, estate, liabilities, and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital, assets, and income. The court shall also consider the contribution of each of the parties to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation in value of their respective estates,The court does not have to give equal weight to each of the factors. Thus, it is essential to have a well-prepared, well-delivered argument.

Once there is a determination that an asset is property, that the property has tangible value, and distribution has occurred, the court ceases to have jurisdiction over the matter. That is an additional reason to get property “right” at the time of dissolution.

A court may not consider later liquidation of awarded property as income. The only way a profit which occurs as a result of liquidation may be considered income is if there is a steady stream of income which emanates from the property.

The courts have treated the different types of property interests broadly. The basic tenets are: the interest must already exist and not be a mere expectancy. Thus, a promised inheritance by a living relative would not qualify as property as it is speculative. Conversely, an inheritance from a deceased relative would qualify as property. A vested or unvested pension would qualify as property as would stock options that have been granted but not yet matured. A personal injury award that is decided before dissolution with damages awarded before dissolution would also qualify. A personal injury suit that occurred after dissolution would not.

A party must list all property on his or her financial affidavit. One may not withhold disclosure based upon the belief that the property is non-distributable. Even if the property is not distributable, the mere existence of the property may affect the court’s analysis of whether an agreement or judgment is fair and equitable.

In summation, it is hugely important to engage in an appropriate property analysis prior to the time of the divorce. If experts are needed to ascertain the value, be sure to hire them and disclose their findings long before the time of judgment.