Almost nobody plays Monopoly by the printed rules. A genuine game of Monopoly takes approximately eleventy-seven hours, so most people make up their own ways to play so that, if they started at sunup, they stand a reasonable chance to finish by supper time. By Monopoly’s printed rules, the Banker is supposed to hold an auction for any property a player lands on but elects not to purchase, but almost nobody plays like that. Real life often has rules many of us routinely ignore, and “rules” many of us assert are real1. Suppose, in real life, you “land” on a landlord’s apartment and want to sign a lease, but are facing an impending divorce. What are the “rules?”
To Lease or Not To Lease
In Virginia you have three kinds of cash in a marriage:
- Separate funds — Your money, from before the marriage or earned by you and considered by you and your spouse throughout your marriage to be yours alone
- Marital funds — Money pooled to make the marriage work, contributed by both spouses and used to pay common, shared marital debts (mortgage, car payments, braces for Junior, etc.)
- Hybrid funds — Money one of you earned separate from marital income but used to provide a marital benefit; one example might be buying a vacation home with royalties from a hit songs you recorded
With leases, filing for divorce is less important than establishing a clear date of separation. You have to notify your wife that you are separating and intend to divorce, then the two of you wait, under the Code of Virginia § 20-91, either six months (no children) or a year (with children) before filing for a Virginia divorce.
During that waiting period, with you both separated and living apart, you no longer have marital funds unless you actively participate in providing them to the marital assets (by agreeing to continue paying the mortgage on the marital home, for instance).
The debts and assets she accrues are hers alone (she cannot run up credit card debt and expect you to pay for it). Your debts and assets are yours alone. Any lease you sign after separating from your wife, even before filing for divorce, is your own lease.
How to Sign a Lease While Separated
For any lease you sign before filing for divorce in Virginia, you need to make certain the money associated with it is definitely from your income stream and separate from the marital assets. You cannot tap an old joint savings account for an initial payment, for example, or cash in savings bonds given to both of you as wedding gifts.
Many things besides apartments can be leased:
- Commercial vehicles
- Personal vehicles
- Medical and laboratory machines and materials
- Restaurant and hospitality appliance
- IT and computer hardware
- Construction tools and equipment
- Manufacturing and assembly line machinery
With your own business, avoid entangling its assets with your marriage. If income generated by your own business was always marital property, once you two separate, that income is yours unless you make active decisions to still contribute to marital assets, like continuing to pay on the family car, contributing to charities in both your names, paying a timeshare fee on a vacation timeshare you both used, and so on.
Concurrently Establishing a Date of Separation & Signing a Lease
You may be planning a divorce and needing a place to live. You have a good reason to search for, and line up, housing before informing your wife that you are separating from her and, later, filing for divorce. In those circumstances, signing a lease is a productive step toward getting the separation you need to keep the divorce process moving along.
In an ideal Virginia, you would separate from your wife on the same day you sign a lease for an apartment. With the creation of a separation date, you have delineated the moment when your marital funds ended.
You wait the required six months or year, and then file for divorce. During that time, you can lease anything you like, so long as you can provide clear evidence no funds from the marriage were used to pay for it.
Virginia’s rules for separation, divorce and family law are complex. They cannot fit on the inside of a game’s boxtop. They are not subject to popular opinion, as in, “Everyone wants to play this way, so let’s do it.” You have to abide by the law and regulations, including the timing of separation, property settlement, and divorce.
In the Virginia divorce game, you need a Lawyer, not a Banker. If contemplating divorce, find a good family law attorney and get real answers to your questions about the necessary steps, leases, and keeping your finances straight.
To get more straight answers to legal questions, contact The Firm For Men’s divorce attorneys for men at 757-383-9184, or reach out to us online. We can help you understand how divorce affects contract law and other areas of your life. We stand ready to protect the rights of Virginia’s men in all aspects of family law.