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Friday, January 21, 2011
Women get beaten down a lot in family court, particularly when it comes to the point of deciding who gets what part of the marital assets and determining alimony and child support.
That's when they tell you how worthless you are and how you are just a parasitic blight on the face of humanity. They tell you how important the children are but forget to consider, that you, as the mother, physically brought them into the world for everyone to admire and consider important. It's too bad, because it is not supposed to be that way.
I heard they once did a study to determine the value of a homemaker's contribution to a marriage and found out that the value was approximately $80,000 per year. Think of that all you homemakers the next time you put yourself down or anyone else tries to put you down!
In the United States there are pretty much two ways to divide the estate at the time of divorce. There may be some others, combinations of the two, but these are the ones that count for our discussion.
Simply put, states that collect all the assets and divide them fifty fifty regardless of ownership are called community property states. An example of a community property state is California. Oh, sunny California! Aren't you great. In my view, an equal fifty fifty division sure saves a lot of time and heartache.
Connecticut, however, is a equitable property state meaning that the Court has jurisdiction over the entire estate and has the authority to divide that estate between the parties based upon specific criteria as it pleases. As one of my many attorneys put it, "We have courts of equity." (Ok, I can be forgiven for being skeptical of that!!!)
A brief excerpt from the website divorce.net is helpful in understanding this point:
Connecticut is referred to as an "all property equitable distribution state." In Connecticut, the Court has the power to "assign to either the husband or wife all or any part of the estate of the other." Conn. Gen. Stats. § 46b-81. Any property, therefore, regardless of when or how acquired, can be re-distributed by the Court. See, e.g. North v. North, 183 Conn. 35 (1981) (all property, including pre-marital or inherited property, is subject to division by the court). The statute "does not limit, either by timing or method of acquisition or by source of funds, the property subject to a trial court's broad power [to allocate]." Lopiano v. Lopiano, 247 Conn. 356, 364 (1998).
In making the allocation, the factors the Court will consider are: the length of the marriage, the causes of the dissolution or separation, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, special needs, future earning capacity, prospect for future acquisition of capital assets and income, and each partners contribution to the marital estate. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-81.
Now here it gets really interesting for those of you who worked in your ex's business without remuneration or acknowledgment or those who were full time homemakers. According to O'Neill v. O'Neill, 13 Conn. App. 300, 356, A.2d 978 (1988) when dividing the marital estate at the time of the dissolution of the marriage, the Courts must consider the non monetary contributions of the non wage earner spouse.
In other words, a determination of each spouse's contribution within the meaning of general statute 46b-81 includes monetary as well as non-monetary contributions to the marital assets. Or again, a commentator stated about the O'Neill case, "In O'Neill we observed that an equitable distribution of property should take into consideration the Plaintiff's contribution to the marriage including homemaking activities and primary caretaking responsibilities."
When it came to premarital assets which were in the ex husband's name only O'Neill further stated that this non monetary contribution did not just apply to increasing the value of the premarital asset during the course of the marriage, but it also applied to maintaining and preserving the value of the asset.
These views were dramatically confirmed in Connecticut by another landmark case Wendt v. Wendt 59 Conn. App. 656 (2000) and later appealed and judgment reaffirmed in AC 18388.
So, ladies, if they say things like your ex did all the work, he earned all the money, all the assets are premarital so you get nothing or a pittance, it isn't true.
I'm sorry I even have to tell you this, but your own lawyer won't tell you this. I was in a meeting yesterday morning where I listened to a friend of mine speak just about this issue with her attorney. That is what inspired me to write this particular blog.
Right in front of my nose, this attorney completely denied that my friend had any right to compensation for her non monetary contribution to the marital assets over a period of years. And this is no idiot--this is an attorney who is well known and well respected.
So when I tell you, I let you know what no attorney will let you know about YOUR rights. Trust me. I'm telling you the truth. Look these cases up yourself. That's YOUR job.