Your Trusted Property Division Lawyer in Warrenton, VA
Property division is one of the very sensitive issues in divorce. It involves dividing assets, properties, and sometimes debts between two spouses seeking to dissolve their union. If not handled properly, there’s a huge chance that one party may emerge from the process feeling cheated. But that doesn’t have to be you.
If you’re going through a divorce in Virginia, you are in luck because Virginia law promotes the fair distribution of assets between divorcing couples. Couples, especially in a non-contested divorce, are encouraged to resolve the issue independently outside the divorce court. But because tensions and emotions are high in most divorces, that option may not apply in your case.
As such, it is important that you understand how the property division process works in Virginia courts. That knowledge is crucial and can ensure you do not lose assets that you deserve to keep.
A skilled property division attorney from Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC can offer personalized guidance and representation throughout Your divorce and the property division process. In the meantime, keep reading as we summarize how property division works in Virginia to keep you informed as you prepare for your case in court.
Steps in the Property Division Process
The property division process in Virginia typically involves four steps: identification, classification, valuation, and distribution.
Identification of Assets and Liabilities
During this stage, all the assets and liabilities owned by the parties at the time of separation are identified. “All” means everything, whether named to both spouses or either one separately.
Both spouses must disclose all their properties and debts. Knowingly hiding property is illegal and could lead to criminal charges.
Classification of Property
During the divorce process, the assets owned by the parties may be classified as marital property, separate property, or part marital/ part separate property. This classification is important because it determines whether or not an asset will be divided between the parties or whether it is owned solely by one party.
Marital property under Virginia law generally includes all property that;
Is owned jointly in the name of both parties
Was acquired during the marriage unless expressly excluded by law
Properties classified as marital property shall be divided between both parties according to the provisions of the law.
Separate property in a divorce includes those acquired by either party before marriage and those acquired after separation. Assets obtained as gifts or acquired through inheritance also qualify as separate assets, even if they were obtained during marriage.
The court does not divide separate property, so each party goes with what they own separately. However, before declaring an asset separate, the court will consider whether or not the other party contributed to the improvement of the asset through their personal efforts. If that is the case, the court may classify the specific asset as marital property so the other spouse can benefit from their effort even if their name is not on the ownership deed.
Following this rule, your spouse may try to claim that they contributed to your separate property so they can claim them. Conversely, they could downplay your contribution to certain assets to deprive you of your share.
At Ashwell & Ashwell PLLC, we’ve seen different variations of these antics in our years of family law and divorce practice. We can defend you in such situations and work to ensure you get what rightly belongs to you.
Part Marital and Part Separate (Hybrid Property)
There are circumstances where a straight marital/separate property classification may be impossible. This is common with Gray Divorces where the parties have been married for a long time and include instances where;
Funds from both parties have been mixed up in joint bank accounts or used to purchase a joint asset
Property bought by one of the parties was maintained by the other,
Inherited real estate owned by one spouse had improvements paid for by the other.
In such cases, the court would classify them as part marital/part separate assets. Both parties have a claim on such assets depending on how much the asset grew during the marriage and the efforts of the non-owning spouse to improve the property.
Once the assets have been classified, the marital and hybrid assets will be valued. To keep things accurate, parties may rely on a real estate appraiser to determine the true value of the assets to be divided.
This is the final stage of the property division process. Virginia is an equitable distribution state. This means marital assets are divided fairly between the parties based on what is considered just in the circumstances.
Factors Considered by the Court in the Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets
In determining what is fair to both parties, the judge will consider several factors, including the following;
The duration of the marriage
Contributions of each spouse to the family (monetary and non-monetary)
Contributions of each spouse in the maintenance and improvement of the marital property
Ages and physical and mental health condition of each party
Factors that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, including whether any of the parties were guilty of marital misconduct (such as adultery).
If there are existing debts between the parties, the above steps would also used to determine how the debts should be divided along with the assets. Our experienced lawyers can help ensure you do not have to repay a debt you did not benefit from.
How Family Law Attorneys at Ashwell & Ashwell PLLC Can Help With Property Division
Dividing assets can get emotionally draining, especially if the separation is not amicable. Having to inventory all the purchases and investments you went through together can bring back memories, good and bad. With our law firm, you can take comfort in the fact that compassionate and dedicated family law attorneys are handling your case and working for your best interests.
Here are some of the specific ways we can help you throughout the divorce and property division process;
We can help you identify marital assets you might be entitled to and work to ensure you get your share.
We can help distinguish your separate assets from marital property so you don’t lose your hard-earned property.
Our lawyers understand how real estate law in Virginia works. If you need to assess the value of any marital real property, such as a family home, we can liaise with appraisers on your behalf to help you get a professional valuation.
If you wish to resolve the issue of property division amicably, we can represent you throughout the negotiations to ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.
Your divorce could affect the validity of your estate planning documents, such as your will. Our estate planning lawyers can advise and help you update those documents according to your new realities.
Our law firm respects the attorney-client relationship, and you can trust us to handle your family law issues with the utmost confidentiality and diligence.
Contact Our Office Today for Strong Legal Representation Throughout the Property Division Process
Property division is a complicated process, and you must remain alert to protect your rights and assets.
Our vigilant lawyers at Ashwell & Ashwell PLLC can be your trusted allies in this sensitive period, guiding you through the four stages of the property distribution process and toward a positive outcome.
Servicing Warrenton, Fairfax, and Northern Virginia, our law firm provides cost-effective legal solutions for families with legal issues. So, if you have questions or concerns about child support, child custody, spousal support, and other family law matters, contact us immediately for quality legal counsel and representation.
Let us help you protect your rights and set you on a solid path to a fresh start.