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What is Equitable Distribution?

Once you’ve decided to get a divorce, you’re faced with the challenging process of negotiating what assets you and your partner will split. Unlike other states that allow a 50/50 split of all of your assets, courts in Virginia will divide your assets by what’s fair according to the equitable distribution policy.

Equitable Distribution

In Virginia, the court splits assets and property based on what is fair for both parties, so the division will not always have a completely equal outcome. The contributions you made to the marriage, your financial status, the earnings you made, and your future financial needs are all considered under equal distribution.

When the equal distribution policy is applied, the court will need to know how much debt you have separately and together. You will also need to provide a list of the property you have to divide to the court.

To protect your assets, a skilled family law attorney can work with you on getting a valuation, which is assigning a value on your possessions, and presenting it to the court. You should list out any assets you believe are of value to you and any assets that may present an issue in court. Doing this will give your attorney the opportunity to negotiate on your behalf.

There are three classifications under equitable distribution that your assets will fall under, which are marital property, separate property, and hybrid property.

Marital Property

If you and your partner have any assets you acquired during the marriage, your property is jointly owned and therefore considered marital property. This counts for anything you had starting from the date of your marriage, to the date of your separation.

The income you and your partner earned and used to make purchases during the marriage is marital property. Also, any income you earned from a property you acquired like earnings from an investment such as a rental property or a business, is marital property.

Courts can divide marital property based on some of the following details:

  • What contributed to your divorce, meaning any of the grounds for divorce in Virginia.

  • Any monetary contributions you made during the marriage.

  • Any non-monetary contributions you made that benefitted your marriage.

  • How you obtained your property, like through inheritance or if it was purchased during the marriage.

  • Any income you made during the marriage, including pension and retirement.

Before beginning this process with the court, we recommend you consult with an attorney so that you can have a fair chance at getting the assets you want.

Separate Property

Separate property is your personal property you acquired before your marriage. However, there are some instances where the property that you obtained during your marriage is still considered separate property, and the court won’t count it as marital property.

Generally, if you had an inheritance during your marriage, was given a gift, or had passive income that you didn’t personally contribute to, it would be your separate property that your partner isn’t entitled to. The income you earned from a property that was separate from your spouse and gained value, will remain yours and does need to be split with your spouse.

Your separate property remains separate unless your spouse put in efforts to make it increase in value or contributed it to it monetarily.

There are some instances where your property is mixed between separate and marital property and falls under what’s known as hybrid property.

Hybrid Property

Hybrid property is partly separate and partly marital property. This classification is beneficial to both parties because it goes an extra step to be fair and keeps the court from classifying most of your assets as marital property.

The purpose of hybrid property is so that when there’s an increase in value in a separately owned property as a result of the efforts of both parties, the court will recognize those efforts and the property may be shared.

An example of a hybrid property would be an item like a boat you purchased before your marriage. However, if its value increased during the marriage as a result of your spouse investing in it, then it would be considered marital property.

The best way to determine whether or not your property falls under hybrid, marital, or separate property is to consult with an attorney who has experience in separation and divorce.

Consult a Virginia Beach Family Law Attorney

Property division is tricky and comes with many difficulties that an experienced divorce attorney, like ours at Bush & Taylor, P.C. can work through. We value our clients and can help protect your interests during your divorce.

Reach us at (757) 926-0078 to schedule a consultation today.

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