Unlike other states, Virginia is not a “community property” state. In community property states, the property is divided equally in a divorce. Virginia is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning each asset is evaluated individually and is often not divided equally.
During a divorce, the courts decide which property is owned by both spouses, and which is owned by the individual. Sometimes property is disputed in a divorce as to whether it is individual or marital property. Additionally, the criteria used to divide property is often misunderstood.
What constitutes individual property?
Many circumstances place property or assets in the individual property category. Assets that were possessed before the marriage are often considered individual property. As well as inherited items and gifts. If an asset was purchased with sums of money that were acquired before the marriage, it too can be considered individual property.
What constitutes marital property?
Marital property can be anything that was purchased during the marriage or an asset or family-owned business that was maintained and improved by both.
How is marital property divided in a divorce?
There are several factors involved in the property division process of a divorce. Here are a few factors that the courts consider when making their decision:
- Income: Each spouse’s income and debts are taken into consideration. Whether or not a spouse can support themselves plays a role in the decision process.
- Alimony: If a spouse owes an outstanding debt of alimony, it can affect property division.
- Length of marriage: How long a couple has been married is a factor considered by the court.
- Age and health: Property division can be affected by factors such as age and health conditions.
- Retirement: If either spouse stands to receive a pension or retirement benefits, then this too is taken into consideration when dividing property and assets.
The above list is just the beginning of what courts take into consideration during a divorce. There are many factors that go into the decision-making process of property division.
To make sure that your rights are protected during the property division phase of a divorce, it can be helpful to have legal counsel that is experienced in Virginia’s family laws and divorce.