There are many important matters that must be settled during a divorce proceeding, and one of the most significant is the division of property. Here, we’ll discuss how property is divided in a Virginia divorce.
If you are considering divorce in Virginia, contact the experienced Glen Allen family lawyers at Taylor, Taylor & Taylor Law, Inc. Our knowledgeable divorce attorneys will be ready to discuss the specifics of your situation during a confidential case evaluation when you call us or reach out to us online.
What is Marital Property?
In Virginia, courts can only divide marital property, which is property that is jointly owned by a couple. Marital property is distinct from separate property, or property that belongs to one of the spouses.
Generally, marital property must have been purchased or obtained during the marriage, although certain types of property acquired during the marriage could actually be considered separate property, like inheritances or gifts.
Some of the most common examples of marital property include:
- Real estate
- Vehicles (cars, boats, RV’s, etc.)
- Vacation homes and investment properties
- Art collections
- Stocks and bonds
- Retirement accounts
- Insurance policies, and more.
In addition to marital property and assets, the court must also divide any debt shared by spouses. Any debt accrued by either of the spouses during the marriage is subject to distribution.
For instance, if a couple took out a loan that has not yet been fully paid off, each spouse would still be responsible for paying off a portion of that debt. However, if one spouse acquired debt before entering the marriage or after leaving the marriage, that spouse would be solely responsible for the debt.
What is Hybrid Property?
Certain types of separate property can become transmuted into what is termed hybrid property. Hybrid property is property that is part separate and part marital. Transmuted means to alter in nature. In divorce law, the term applies to separate property that has become part marital. This can happen based on significant efforts of a spouse and/or use of marital funds for items associated with the house.
For example, one spouse owned a house they purchased prior to the marriage, which is separate property. It is rented to tenants. However, throughout the marriage the other spouse managed the house as a rental property, made significant improvements to it, and in months there were no tenants in the home, the parties covered the mortgage with marital funds. This property would likely then be classified as hybrid.
What is Equitable Distribution?
Virginia courts divide property on the principle of “equitable distribution.” If you and your spouse own joint or marital property such as a house or car, you will have to decide how you would like to divide those assets. If you cannot agree on a fair division of property, then the court will step in and decide for you.
Under the equitable distribution model, Virginia courts must divide marital property and debt in a manner that is fair. However, this does not necessarily mean that marital property and debt is divided evenly.
If a couple established a prenuptial marriage agreement or post-nuptial agreement, their assets would be divided in accordance with the agreement as opposed to the court’s discretion.
What Factors Does a Court Consider When Dividing Property in Virginia?
The court will consider a variety of factors when it divides up property during divorce proceedings. Some of these factors include:
- Financial contribution of each party to the family unit
- Non-financial contributions of each party to the family unit
- Each spouse’s contribution to the care and maintenance of joint assets
- The longevity of the marriage
- Each spouse’s age
- Each spouse’s health condition, including physical and mental health
- Taxes on each item of marital property
- How and when each marital asset was obtained
- Any debts accrued by the spouses, and any assets that could serve as security for unpaid liabilities
Navigating the divorce process can be challenging. Fortunately, the Virginia divorce lawyers at Taylor, Taylor & Taylor Law, Inc. are ready to protect your interests and help you through the process. Property division can be a contentious part of the divorce process, so having an experienced divorce attorney on your side is vital.
Contact us at your earliest convenience for a confidential consultation with one of our dedicated Virginia divorce attorneys.