Factors affecting property division in Virginia

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Divorced Virginia residents may agree that property division is one of the more complex aspects of the divorce proceeding. Virginia is one of the states that provides for an equitable division of property in divorce. Division of property also includes division of debts. It is important to classify all assets and debts as marital, separate, or part marital and part separate before the matter is placed before a court, as only the marital property is divided between the spouses.

Marital property generally refers to all property purchased or acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the marriage, other than through gift (from someone other than the other spouse) or inheritance. When dividing the marital property, the court will take into consideration the contributions on the part of each spouse toward the well-being of the family. This may include both monetary and nonmonetary contributions.

The tenure of the marriage, factors that led to the dissolution of the marriage, individual debts and liabilities of the spouses, and the impact these debts and liabilities have on the marital property are also considered.

Separate property is any property a spouse owned before the marriage or acquired during the marriage by inheritance or by gift from outside the marriage. Separate property is not subject to division but remains with the spouse who owns it. Part marital, part separate property includes the appreciation in value, during the marriage, of separate property. It may also include income from a separate asset, provided the income was obtained through the efforts of one or both spouses.

Equitable division doesn't necessarily mean equal division. The court tries to achieve a division that is fair to both parties. In many cases divorcing couples negotiate a property settlement and then submit it to the court for approval. An experienced family law attorney can provide critical assistance during this process.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Financial Issues in Divorce in Virginia," March 2015

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