Marital Rights in Connecticut

by Beverly Bird

Marriage gives spouses throughout the United States certain rights when it comes to inheritance and divorce. However, the specifics of those rights depend on individual state laws. In Connecticut, a spouse’s rights in a divorce are largely up to the discretion of a judge. A spouse’s inheritance rights are much more clear cut and are specified in the state’s legislation.

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Property

Connecticut is not a community property state, so courts are under no legal obligation to divide marital property neatly down the middle when a couple divorces. A spouse does not have an automatic statutory right to half of what the couple acquired during the marriage. In the event of divorce, Connecticut judges can divide property as they see fit. The state’s legislature allows them to consider marital fault when distributing marital assets. If one spouse strays or abandons the other, and if this causes the marriage to end, the court can compensate the injured spouse by giving her more than 50 percent of the property. However, this isn’t an ironclad right; the state’s code merely paves the way for the possibility.

Spousal Support

Connecticut law recognizes spousal support or alimony, but judges decide such awards on a case-by-case basis. Under the terms of the state's code, a spouse is permitted to receive alimony, but she's not statutorily entitled to it. Judges will also consider marital fault when awarding alimony. If a divorcing couple has young children and one spouse’s ability to work is limited because she’s caring for them, judges can take this into consideration as well.

Intestacy Rights

Intestacy rights come into play when one spouse dies without leaving a will. In this case, the surviving spouse has certain immutable rights under Connecticut law. If the deceased spouse left no children and if neither of his parents are living, his surviving spouse is entitled to his entire estate. If he predeceases one or both of his parents, his surviving spouse receives the first $100,000 of his estate and 75 percent of the remainder; his parents get the other 25 percent. If the couple had children together, his spouse receives the first $100,000 and half of his remaining estate, with the other half going to the children. The same percentages apply if the deceased spouse had children from another marriage or relationship, but the surviving spouse is no longer entitled to the first $100,000 in this case. She receives half the estate and Connecticut divides the other half among all his children. The deceased's parents have no right to intestate succession if he had children.

Protection Against Disinheritance

Connecticut law protects spouses against disinheritance as well. If a couple marries but the deceased spouse never got around to revising his will to accommodate the event, the surviving spouse is still entitled to a portion of his estate. If he decides he does not want to leave her anything and writes her out of his will, she has the right to inherit anyway. In either case, a surviving spouse can “veto” the will and take a statutory percentage of the decedent's estate instead. Under Connecticut law, she is entitled to one-third of his estate for as long as she lives. She can waive the terms of his will and opt to take this elective share instead. However, a catch exists. Connecticut does not permit her to bequeath this property to her own heirs. When she dies, her portion of the estate reverts back to the deceased’s other heirs or beneficiaries.