Virginia follows the equitable distribution model when dividing marital property in the dissolution of a marriage. This means the parties must list all their assets and debts, divide separate property from marital property and then divide the marital property in a way that meets the commonwealth’s guidelines on fairness. Every step of this process has its own complications.
It might be easier if Virginia law called for marital property to be divided 50-50, but it wouldn’t necessarily be fair in every case. It’s also important to note that some types of property are extremely difficult to divide in equal shares. As a result, the property division process of most Virginia divorces consists largely of negotiation, as the two parties decide how to divvy up their assets and debts in a way that meets standards of fairness.
A property division settlement doesn’t necessarily have to go through the courts, but court guidelines are valuable as a way of determining what is fair.
When Virginia courts decide issues of property division, they look at a long list of factors. These include: the contributions of each party to the marriage; the duration of the marriage; the ages and health of the parties; the date and circumstances of the acquisition of each asset or debt; the liquidity of each asset; and the tax consequences of dividing each asset.
These are just some of the factors. It’s important to note that, while most divorces in Virginia are uncontested, when considering property division, courts can consider factors such as the grounds for divorce, and whether either party used marital property for a nonmarital separate purpose.
People who are going through an uncontested divorce and drafting their own settlement agreement do not necessarily have to go through all the factors a court does when it is deciding similar issues. However, a good lawyer will refer to court guidelines so that both sides have a baseline understanding of what could make for a good settlement.