Ah, marriage! As James Joyce once said in his work, Ulysses, “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own.” If your marriage started off with the two of you sharing everything 100 percent, but now you are trying to claw back roughly half of everything from a woman you now consider (to borrow from Dickens) a “grasping, clutching, squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner.” What about the marital home? Could you get back a bit more than half? How is real estate apportioned in a Virginia divorce? And how many more poets, playwrights and writers can we stuff into this article?
The House of the Seven Gables
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote this gripping horror novel in 1851, based on a real house. His novel wraps up themes of guilt and retribution, suspicion and curses — which could sound like a typical Virginia divorce, we suppose. When you are ready to divorce your Virginia spouse, you two have to decide how to divide up the Virginia homestead. Typically, you do this through a property settlement agreement, and just about everything the two of you owned together gets apportioned based on “equitable distribution,” not “halvsies.”
What does “equitable distribution” mean to you? If you and your wife owned the Seven Gables house, you would not necessarily get 3.5 gables. Using a rather lengthy list of factors found in Code of Virginia § 20-107.3, the Virginia judge presiding over your divorce would scrupulously apportion all you own and owe (assets and debts).
The judge would examine the deed to your Seven Gables to verify both names are on it, and use provided information to see if you contributed more than your wife did to the “acquisition and care and maintenance” of jointly owned property.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
J.D. Salinger was steeped in allegory in his story used in our subheading. You need to be steeped in Virginia law if you wish to come out with more than 50 percent of any roof beam, rafter, post or lintel from the ol’ humble home. That list of factors a judge can use from § 20-107.3 to apportion your property includes these two zingers:
- The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including any ground for divorce;
- Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award
What does all that mean? As the Virginia State Bar Association so eloquently puts it, “Equitable division of marital property or debts does not automatically mean an equal division.”
A House Divided
Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech contained the line, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and this is true in divorce as well as national politics. When you and your divorce lawyer petition the court for equitable property division, those two factors from § 20-107.3 can be used as leverage to show you deserve more than half the house:
- The conditions of your divorce could have been caused by your wife, not you, such as adultery; in that case, you had faithfully contributed to the “acquisition and care and maintenance” while she was out undermining that faith, so her equitable share could diminish
- Your income was so significantly greater than hers that your contribution to buying the marital home, paying taxes on it, and paying for repairs and maintenance completely eclipsed her contributions; you can demonstrate that you “own” a greater share of the home than she
George Bernard Shaw’s 1920 play, Heartbreak House, (we promised you a playwright, remember?) takes place in a home that looks for all the world like the stern of an old sailing ship. It is a metaphor for the carefree days of early nineteenth-century life, when you and your charmed family could sail to happier climes and happier times. (Sound familiar?)
To prevent you feeling heartbreak at the bang of the judge’s gavel issuing your divorce decree, you need to gather all papers and records you can that indicate you contributed (and therefore deserve) more than 50 percent of the value of the marital home. Turn these over to your divorce lawyer so your attorney can best position your evidence to support your claim to more than 50 percent of the equity in your home.
Remember the valuation will also take into account debts, so as you move toward a divorce, keep scaling back your expenses, thus reducing your share of marital debt.
Contact The Firm For Men’s Family Law Attorneys
Your call to 757-383-9184 at The Firm For Men can connect you with a real Virginia family law attorney. You can get answers to all your questions about property settlement agreements by telephone, or with an online contact. We can help you understand property division, equity, and other matters, all while defending your rights as a Virginia man.