Divorcing your spouse can be an overwhelming and challenging time. There are many decisions to make that impact your life. However, as you decide who will leave the marital home and how often each of you will be with your children, you must also consider the long-term financial consequences when you divide your property.
Three Categories of Property in Virginia
In Virginia, property is divided into three different categories for purposes of divorce. Both real estate and personal property may be considered marital property, separate property, or part marital property and part separate property depending on how and when it was acquired and used.
Generally, any property that you acquire on or after your wedding day is considered marital property. Additionally, any separate property that was brought to the marriage by one spouse but has been used for the benefit of both spouses during the marriage may be considered marital property. Marital property may include real estate, motor vehicles, furniture, stock investments, pensions, and retirement accounts.
Separate property includes:
- Property that one spouse had prior to marriage
- Property that is given to one spouse as a gift or inheritance before or during the marriage
- Property that is purchased during marriage only using money that the spouse had as separate property prior to marriage or money from a separate property gift or inheritance
Separate property is not divided in a Virginia divorce. Instead, each spouse gets to keep the full amount of his or her separate property.
Part Marital Property and Part Separate Property
Some property does not fit neatly into either the marital property or separate property category. For example, one spouse may have brought real estate or an investment to the marriage as separate property. But during the marriage, the real estate or investment may have increased in value.
The increase in value may be considered marital property in some circumstances. The spouse claiming that part of the separate property is marital property must prove that the separate property increased in value because of contributions of marital property or because of his or her personal effort. If the spouse claiming partial marital property is successful, the portion of the property that is considered marital property may be divided during a divorce, but the portion that is separate property will remain the sole possession of one spouse.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Property
You and your spouse may come to your own agreement about how to divide your property. However, if you cannot do it without the court’s help, the court will divide your property after all of it is classified as marital property or separate property and each piece of property is valued.
Marital property is not divided equally in a Virginia divorce. Instead, the court will make an equitable distribution of your property. When the court makes an equitable distribution, it considers a fair rather than an equal division. For example, the court may consider the following factors when dividing marital property:
- The income earning potential of both spouses
- Each spouse’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to the family
- Each spouse’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to acquiring the property
- How, when, and why the property was acquired
- How long you were married
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Any debt that is on the property
- The tax consequences of the property distribution
- Whether either spouse did anything to decrease the value of marital property
- Other factors that the court determines relevant to the distribution of property
Marital debts are also similarly divided during a Virginia divorce.
Protect Your Property During a Virginia Divorce
The decisions you make during your divorce will help shape your future, especially when it comes to division of property. Therefore, even if the process of dividing property is difficult, it is essential that you look out for your own interests.
Attorney Stephen Bloomquest understands that this is a painful and difficult time for you. Stephen will take the time to get to know you, identify your priorities, and help you achieve your goals. Contact Quest Law PLLC today to schedule an initial case consultation.