Dividing Property In Your Virginia Divorce
At the heart of every divorce, regardless of any other elements that it includes, there is property division. After your divorce is complete, property that you and your spouse owned as a couple will now belong to one or the other of you.
Asset division in Virginia is supposed to be equitable. That is, there may not be a 50-50 split. Rather, property will be assigned to one spouse or the other based on facts such as how much labor each spouse contributed to the growth of that property.
At Randall & Bruch, PC, our Virginia family law attorneys draw on 85 combined years of experience to help clients arrive at fair and equitable asset division agreements. When couples cannot agree, a family law judge may decide. However, we work hard to help our clients adjust to the idea of making their own decisions rather than putting them in the hands of a judge who cannot possibly know the inner workings of a marriage the way the spouses do.
When Is An Asset Marital Or Separate Property?
In a Virginia divorce, property falls into two different categories: separate and marital.
Marital property is any property jointly owned by both spouses. This can include the income and retirement savings accrued during a marriage as well as any property purchased during that time.
Separate property is any property owned solely by one spouse. This generally includes any property that they brought into the marriage, gifts, inheritances and compensation from personal injury lawsuit. Couples may also have a prenuptial agreement in place to define other separate property.
Steps To Dividing Property In Your Virginia Divorce
You and your spouse’s assets may include the following:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Stocks, bonds and other investments
- Personal property, including “tools of the trade” in your home or garage
- Collectibles and valuables, such as silver
- Retirement accounts
The first step in property division is to separate out the following with regard to your total marital estate:
- The separate property of each spouse
- Marital property owned by both of you
- Assets that are partially separate and partially marital
If the two of you agree on all terms of property division, you may have an uncontested divorce, and there may be no need to have a judge resolve any disputes.
When Property Division Is Contested, Complex Or Both
If your assets are complex or of high value, you may need professional help to agree on how to divide assets. For example, you may want to call a business valuation expert to put a value on a business owned by one or both of you. Likewise, you may need a real estate appraiser to determine the value of your marital home, which may be partially separate and partially marital property.
Once all property has been identified and categorized as separate, marital or both, you and your spouse will need to reach an agreement on how to divide the total, as well as specifics. If you do not agree and the case goes before a judge, neither of you will likely be satisfied with the outcome. If possible, arrive at your own property division agreement through negotiations or mediation.
How Do Virginia Courts Handle Gifts And Inheritances?
Generally, the court views gifts and inheritances as separate property, and the sole owner of that gift or inheritance would be the recipient. This includes gifts and inheritances received during the marriage.
However, it is possible for a gift or inheritance to become commingled with marital property. This may occur if a person uses funds from a gift or inheritance to purchase a jointly owned home or deposits those funds into a joint account. This blurs the line between separate and marital property, making it difficult to identify how much of those assets belongs to each spouse.
How Do Virginia Courts Handle Debt During Property Division?
In a divorce, a couple divides marital debts – debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage – using the same rules used to divide their property. As a result, each spouse may take on a different portion of the debt based on their unique situation.
For example, the spouse receiving a jointly owned vehicle may also take responsibility for making future payments on that vehicle. In another situation, a spouse with greater income may take on a greater portion of marital debt because their income allows them more resources to make those payments.
We Will Take The Mystery Out Of Your Property Division Tasks
In all phases of property division before divorce hearings take place, our divorce lawyers help clients in Hampton Roads and southeastern Virginia focus on what matters most to each of them.