Some of the hardest decisions a couple going through a divorce in Virginia will have to make have to do with dividing their property. After all, over the course of their marriage they may have accumulated many highly-valuable assets such as a house, vacation home, artwork, investments, retirement accounts and more. Moreover, there are assets that may not necessarily have a high retail value, but have a high sentimental value. While some couples are able to work out their property division issues on their own, others may need to look to the court to determine how some or all of their property will be divided.
With regards to property division, Virginia courts follow the law of "equitable distribution." What this means is that the court will divide the couple's assets in a manner that is fair, even if that does not mean an exact 50/50 split. Once the decision has been made as to what property is separate and what is marital (a topic that goes beyond the scope of this post), the court will consider a number of factors when making property division decisions.
Each spouse's income and debts may be considered, as may each party's ability to support themselves financially. Whether a spouse was expecting to use a pension or other retirement accounts in the future may be a factor. The length of the couple's marriage is another factor. How old each party is and each party's health will be considered. If it is a party's second or subsequent marriage and that party is paying spousal maintenance to a previous spouse, that may be considered. The tax ramifications of dividing the couple's assets may be a factor. Finally, as a catch-all, the court may consider any other relevant factor.
As this shows, property division is a complex issue. Negotiating an agreement out-of-court gives the couple more of a say in the final result, which may lead to a more satisfactory outcome. However, when some or all property division issues cannot be agreed upon, it is important to have an understanding as to how the court will make a decision. With the right knowledge, spouses can make decisions that best suit them.
Source: FindLaw, "Virginia Marital Property Laws," accessed May 1, 2018