When you're going through a divorce in Virginia, many things may need to be decided: where the children will live, whether spousal support will be needed, and how jointly owned property will be divided. Property division can be a big point of contention, because people become very attached to certain material possessions over the course of their marriage.
If you ask the court to make decisions regarding your property, the division of your property will follow Virginia's rules for "equitable distribution." Equitable distribution does not mean that everything will be divided down the middle; it's merely divided in a "fair" way according to the judge. The court will look at what kind of monetary and non-monetary contributions each spouse has brought to the marriage. The judge will also consider a number of other factors specified in Virginia family law. Retirement plans and pensions are also thrown into the mix for the equitable division, but no one can get more than half of another person's pension or retirement savings.
The property the court will be looking at and dividing will be the "marital property," or the property that was acquired from the date of marriage until the date of the final separation. "Separate property" is not a part of the equitable distribution; this normally includes things that were owned prior to the marriage, after separation, or things that were gifts or inherited. However, the court may find that separate property was converted to marital property by actions taken during the marriage.
Of course, you also have the option to divide your property on your own, without following the rule of equitable distribution. If you can reach a voluntary agreement with your former spouse as to who gets what, a Property Settlement Agreement can be drawn up. Your Virginia Beach divorce attorney can help you work out the details and fill out the proper paper work. Once it is done, the court will enforce the agreement as long as everything is in writing, signed, notarized, and sworn to by both parties. Many people find this route to be preferable because it allows them to decide what happens to their property; in court, you're letting a stranger decide for you.
If you are considering getting divorced in Virginia and you'd like to speak with an attorney, contact Hampton Roads Legal Services at 757-320-2010 for a free phone consultation.