Distribution of Assets in a Virginia Divorce
By: John Whitbeck
If you are preparing for a Virginia divorce, you are likely wondering how assets are divided in the state. Some people ask whether Virginia is a community property state, which would mean assets are divided 50/50 in most cases. Virginia follows the equitable distribution rule, which means assets are distributed in a fair and equitable manner. It might mean the circuit court judge could award one spouse the vacation house and the other spouse the boat, for example.
People are often confused about what constitutes marital property as opposed to separate property in a divorce. This is why you need to be represented by a knowledgeable Virginia divorce attorney who can tell you what separate property is versus marital property and help protect your rights in a contested divorce.
Factors that Influence Marital Property Division
When it comes to the division of assets, the first thing that needs to occur is determining what is marital versus separate property. Then, its value must be determined, which is often done with information provided by both spouses. If spouses disagree on an asset’s value, or it is hard to come up with a value, you may need to use the services of a forensic accountant who specializes in asset valuation.
Once there is a value, the court will look at several other factors, such as each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, how contributions were used, and what non-monetary contributions were made. Non-monetary contributions would be child care, homemaking, or any other unpaid work. They will look at the source of the marital property, including how and when it was acquired.
Other factors taken into consideration include the length of the marriage, how old the spouses are, what health condition they are in, marital debts, encumbrances on the marital property, tax consequences to each spouse, etc.
Because Virginia recognizes at-fault divorce, the family court will consider any “bad behavior” by a spouse. If one spouse was having an affair, abused their partner, committed a crime, and/or any other behavior that would fall under “at fault” causes for the divorce, the court will consider that when deciding how property should be divided. If a spouse tried to depreciate marital property or spent a lot of marital funds on the party they were having an affair with, the court can take that into account as well. So, rest assured that if your spouse tried to deplete the bank account on purpose or destroyed something just to hurt you, the court will make sure they are held accountable.
Spousal Support is Decided After
The distribution of assets occurs first, and then the court will look at whether spousal support is warranted. Just like with the distribution of assets, the court will look at any bad behavior, which means a spousal support award could be higher or lower depending on who was at fault.
To learn more about divorce, visit our Divorce Law page.
Related: Divorce Law
John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation.