One of the toughest issues to deal with in a divorce is the division of assets. In some cases, a couple can decide between themselves how to allocate their property. In others, they need the help of experienced legal professionals.
A knowledgeable Virginia property division lawyer can offer a broad range of legal options to resolve a dispute before going to court. Our team of dedicated family attorneys can also aggressively advocate for a spouse’s fair share of the marital estate if litigation becomes necessary.
Understanding Virginia’s Property Division Laws
Unlike states that follow community property laws, Virginia is an “equitable distribution” state. Under the Code of Virginia §20-107.3, family court judges must divide a divorcing couple’s property fairly but not necessarily equally. To determine an equitable allocation of assets, a court may consider several factors, including but not limited to:
- Each party’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to the family
- The length of the marriage
- Each party’s age and health
- How and when marital property was acquired
- Each party’s debts and liabilities
- The post-divorce tax consequences of the property division on each spouse
Judges may also assess whether either spouse’s misconduct led to the dissolution of the marriage. If a judge determines that the marital fault negatively impacted a spouse’s financial situation, they could award that innocent spouse a more significant share of the marital estate. A party facing a divorce that includes real and personal property should consult a qualified Virginia asset division attorney.
Categories of Marital Property
A critical first step in a divorce is identifying and classifying the couple’s property. Generally, there are three types of assets a court must address.
Also referred to as non-marital property, a spouse generally retains as their separate property the assets they acquired before their marriage or received during the marriage through a gift from a third party or by inheritance.
Under state law, marital property is defined as anything acquired by one or both spouses during the marriage. The title of the asset is generally irrelevant. For example, if one spouse bought a car with marital funds but titled it in their sole name, the other spouse still has a marital property interest in the vehicle.
Commingled and Hybrid Property
When marital and separate assets are combined, the property is said to be commingled. A spouse who receives an inheritance but then deposits it into a joint bank account and uses it to pay marital bills may lose the right to claim it as their separate property. If property that is originally separate property is improved or enhanced using marital funds, it can become hybrid property, that is part separate property, part marital property.
In cases of blended or commingled property, the spouse seeking to retain it has the burden of proving it should not be included in the marital estate. A skilled Virginia attorney understands the challenges of identifying property in a divorce and can work with forensic accountants to ensure correct classification and distribution.
Valuing Property in a Virginia Divorce
The accurate valuation of assets is essential to a fair division of marital, separate, and commingled property. A judge must generally assess property either at the time of the parties’ separation or on the date of the divorce trial. If a spouse has improperly liquidated or “dissipated” marital assets to prevent the other spouse from receiving their share, a judge could award a larger portion of the marital or commingled property to the other spouse.
The court must also consider any debt associated with the property when determining its value. For example, a marital home appraised at $500,000 with an outstanding mortgage of $300,000 has a net value for the purposes of equitable property division of $200,000. A diligent property division lawyer in Virginia can work to ensure the correct valuation of all the couple’s marital assets.
Work with a Proactive Virginia Property Division Attorney
What you take away financially from your divorce will likely impact you and your family for the rest of your lives. To ensure your marital estate is fairly apportioned between you and your spouse, you need a comprehensive understanding of your marital property rights.
A Virginia property division lawyer can take a creative approach to achieve an equitable allocation of your assets and debts should you and your spouse decide to end your marriage. If your case requires financial experts, our capable legal team can work with specialists experienced in business valuation, actuarial assessments, and forensic accounting to reach the best possible outcome. Call today to schedule a private consultation.