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When is personal effort a factor in Virginia property division?

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2022 | High Asset Divorce

There are many factors that are considered with property division in a Virginia divorce. People might try to categorize it based on separate property, marital property and commingled property. Still, many cases are not so simple. Nuance is important and people will be in dispute over whether they are entitled to more than what the law suggests they should get. A primary example is income that was derived from separate property and if the spouse who technically does not own it contributed to that income via personal effort. This can be difficult and knowing how it is assessed is key.

Personal effort is a significant consideration in property disputes

If a spouse owned property before the marriage, it is generally considered separate property during the divorce. However, it there was income or a spike in value and the other spouse played a role in that increase, personal effort might be factored in. If there was a piece of real estate that would be separate property because one party owned it prior to the marriage but the other party refurbished or rebuilt it to make it more valuable, then that personal effort could make it marital property.

When determining personal effort, the spouse who did not own the property must prove that he or she contributed to the increase of the value; that personal effort was a major part of that increase; and that the property did in fact increase in value. When this has been shown, the spouse who owned the property will be responsible for proving that the non-owning spouse’s contribution was not significant enough to warrant it being viewed as marital property. If the non-owning spouse exerted effort, was inventive, used individual skills, managed, promoted or marketed the property and its value grew because of it, then this will be a major part of showing personal effort and receiving a share.

Both the owning and non-owning spouse should understand personal effort

Interpretations of personal effort will inevitably vary. This is especially true if it is during a divorce and there is a dispute over who has the right to property and how it should be divided. For this complex issue and other aspects of a family law case, it is wise to have professional advice to try and forge a reasonable solution. In some cases, it can be negotiated. In others, it is harder to reach a consensus and court intervention is needed. Regardless, it is useful to be advised from the start regardless of the perspective.