The decision to divorce your spouse is rarely easy, and the potential financial consequences of separation can make an already challenging situation even more difficult. When emotions run high, it’s often hard for spouses to consider long-term financial decisions fully or reach appropriate agreements.
At Deering Hedrick, we understand the importance of making divorce decisions based on facts and careful reasoning rather than emotion. To help you consider your options, we’ve gathered useful information about how property is divided in a Virginia divorce.
Marital and Separate Property
In a Virginia divorce, property falls into two main categories: marital and separate property. These two types of property are treated differently when it’s time to decide who keeps what.
Marital property includes any property acquired since the marriage began and is owned jointly by both spouses. This includes marital homes, personal belongings, gifts from one spouse to another, and even retirement accounts. Virginia marital property must be divided “equitably” between both spouses, which is not necessarily the same as “equally.”
Separate property, on the other hand, is any property that either spouse acquired individually before marriage. Inheritances and non-spousal gifts obtained during the marriage can also count as separate property. In a divorce, each spouse keeps their own separate property.
In most cases, distinguishing marital property from separate property is fairly straightforward. However, some assets blur the line between these two categories. This can occur when income or an increase in the value of one spouse’s separate property becomes marital property due to the personal efforts of either spouse.
This third category of property is known as “commingled property,” and it can be tricky to divide. Divorcing couples with comingled property must work with experienced attorneys who understand the complex process of dividing it.
Valuation of Property
To ensure that property is divided equitably, it must be valued properly. When the court estimates the value of marital and commingled property, it typically bases its decision on the value of the property at the date of the hearing. If this doesn’t make sense for a particular asset, one or both parties may ask the court to consider a different date for its valuation.
When courts value property in a divorce case, they often use the following tools to develop their estimates:
- Real estate appraisals
- Income tax returns
- Credit card statements
- Vehicle appraisals
- Tax assessments
- Stock, bond, and mutual fund reports
- Forensic accountant testimony
Factors That Affect Division of Property
Courts attempt to divide marital property equitably, which means they seek a resolution fair to both spouses. This could mean one spouse receives more than half of their “share” of the marital assets. For example, if one spouse is unable to work or receives primary custody of children, the court would likely take such factors into consideration and award that spouse a greater portion of the marital assets.
Courts typically consider the following factors to determine how the division of property should proceed:
- The length of the marriage and any circumstances or factors that contributed to its dissolution
- Each spouse’s age, physical condition, and mental condition
- Financial and non-financial contributions of each spouse to their family unit and jointly-owned marital property
- Each spouse’s debts and liabilities, as well as how those debts and liabilities were acquired
- Any use or expenditure of marital assets by one spouse for separate purposes in anticipation of a separation or divorce
Contact a Virginia Divorce Attorney
To discuss the details of your Virginia divorce case with a qualified and attentive attorney, contact Mike Deering at Deering Hedrick today for an initial consultation.