The division of property can be a source of contention in any divorce. After all, many married couples have spent years if not decades accumulating assets. Some of these assets have a great deal of financial value, but even certain cherished pieces of property have just as important sentimental value. For these reasons, couples going through a divorce can have a difficult time with the property division process.
While many times it is preferable for couples to negotiate property division out-of-court, that is not always possible. If a couple must turn to the court to issue a ruling on property division, the court in Virginia will follow the laws of equitable distribution.
This means that the court will divide a couple's assets based on equity, that is, it will consider the nature of the asset and how the parties will use it, to reach a result that is fair, even if it doesn't mean a 50/50 split.
At the heart of property division is what property is considered separate and what is marital. Separate property is owned by one spouse only and not subject to division. In general, assets owned by a spouse prior to the marriage will remain separate property. Gifts and inheritances made to only one spouse are also generally separate property. On the other hand, marital property is obtained during the course of the marriage and thus both spouses have an ownership interest it and it is subject to division.
However, it is possible for separate property to "commingle" with marital property, a process in which it will lose its separate nature. For example, if a spouse owns a home prior to getting married, that home may be a separate asset. However, if marital funds are used to pay the mortgage and make improvements on the home, the home may lose its separate nature and be considered marital property.
In the end, property division can be a complex topic, and this post only scratches the surface of it. Because the information in this post is not legal advice, those who want to learn more about property division in Virginia will want to seek professional guidance on the matter.