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Dividing property after divorce

Ending a marriage is a traumatic time when important decisions must be made on issues such as support and child custody. Deciding what to do with the property and debt accumulated by the spouses can play a large role in a spouse’s financial future. Parties need to prepare for property division under Virginia law.

In a divorce, Virginia divides marital property and debt through equitable distribution. Marital property is comprised of all property that is titled by both spouses. It does not include the spouses’ separate property acquired by the spouses during their marriage.

Separate property is owned by one spouse before their marriage, property obtained by a spouse after separation and inheritances and gifts to one spouse. Marital and separate property that is combined or the increases in the value of separate property during marriage is marital property or part marital or part separate property.

Martial debt is comprised of debt that is in the name of both spouses and acquired before their last separation. Separate debt is debt acquired by a spouse in their name before marriage or after the couple separates. A judge may also consider how the debt was acquired when classifying it as a marital or separate.

When dividing the couple’s assets, a judge may order monetary awards to one spouse, divide the property, order the property’s sale, or transfer jointly titled property to one of the spouses. Courts may also allocate responsibility for marital debt.

Property or debts do not have to be divided equally. Various factors are considered such as each spouse’s financial and non-economic contributions to the family’s well-being and the acquisition and care of their property.

Pensions and retirement plans obtained during marriage may be divided in an equitable distribution award. But a spouse cannot receive over half of the other spouse’s pension or retirement plan that accumulated during their marriage.

Spouses can try to settle these matters themselves by negotiating a property settlement agreement. These are enforced by the courts after the parties properly execute them.

Agreements allow the spouses to reach an agreement that meets their needs instead of judges imposing their decision.

An attorney can help negotiate these agreements or pursue rights in court. They can help assure that the decree is fair and reasonable.