During marriage, spouses may combine finances, share paychecks and accumulate debt. What happens to all of this during a divorce depends on various factors.
When a couple cannot compromise, the judge steps in to decide based on the parameters the law sets out. Understanding how Virginia law classifies property and then the method used to split it can help.
What property is separate?
The court first decides what property and debt are premarital and marital. Anything owned before the marriage is separate and not subject to splitting. However, if the separate property became marital by comingling of money at any time, it is no longer shielded from the court’s purview.
What does the court consider marital property?
Any money, property or debt the spouses acquired during the marriage is fair game for division by the court. Regardless of whether the money is in a single account bearer’s name, the court considers them marital or community property and divides it. Some examples of property divided include:
- Savings accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Real estate
- Checking accounts
How does a judge equitably divide property?
Under the law, the judge divides property equitably, not equally. The court looks at the marital property, each spouse’s emotional and financial contribution to the marriage and how much separate property each has. Then, the court divides property and debts in a way that does not leave one spouse in a poor financial position.
If a couple can compromise and divide property before the court does, it helps keep things in their control. Once a judge steps in, there is no telling what he or she will consider fair and equitable.