The short answer to this question is a rounding “yes,” but understanding equitable distribution, what it is, and how it’s divided is a topic all to itself. Equitable distribution doesn’t mean splitting property right down the middle, but focuses instead on splitting property as fairly as possible. And while this certainly sounds encouraging, the reality behind a court deciding who gets what is far from fair and equitable.
There are some things you need to know about equitable distribution in Virginia, and in this post we’ll explain what you need to know and what you can do to safeguard your assets from your spouse.
1. Understanding Property in Virginia
Property, when it comes to divorces, can loosely be divided into one of two categories. Marital property is basically any property acquired during the course of the marriage with joint marital funds while separate property is anything either brought into the marriage, acquired after the marriage, or given as a gift. Hybrid property is another type of property classification for assets that are a mixture of marital and separate properties.
With those facts out there, you can see from what equitable distribution is derived. Generally speaking, it’s the court’s job to divide marital property equally among parties, but this can come with a considerable amount of give and take. Unless amicably agreed upon, it’s virtually impossible to fairly distribute property in the midst of a divorce, which brings us to our next point.
2. Take Inventory and Keep Records
This may be your biggest ally (besides your attorney, of course) throughout your divorce proceedings. Record keeping is crucial to proving your point and making the court see things the way you do, and this is especially true for property and assets. Additionally, it’s of the utmost importance that you take a physical inventory of everything you own and keep it updated throughout the process.
Your attorney can guide you through ways to present this information so that the court can see it as beneficial and useful. Most importantly, though, keep your valuables close and follow the money.
3. Lay Low
Divorces get pretty sticky and pretty heated pretty quick, so don’t exacerbate the situation by making a brash move to divest yourself of any property until your case has been heard before a court of law. Attempts to sell or liquidate property (whether marital or separate) will shine a potentially negative light on how you handle yourself with unrighteous manna. Doing this is considered “marital waste” or “dissipation of assets” and will be taken into account during the distribution of property.
The best thing to do is to keep things as they are. Don’t move money around in bank accounts, don’t try to hide anything from your spouse, and don’t try to hoard away things that will be brought to the light by the court anyway. In all likelihood, there will be certain court-ordered restrictions on what funds can be used for what purposes and what amounts each spouse can use for regular living expenses. In other words, keep your head low, and try to stay away from the 5-star dinners until the dust settles.
4. Intangible Assets
Intangible assets such as bank accounts, cash, investments, IRAs, and even debt are all part of the equitable distribution aspect of divorce litigation. In most instances, the court will assume that those intangible assets are marital property and will be divided as such; however, this is far from black and white.
In many instances, one spouse will have supported the other in his or her work while the other took on duties at home, in the family, or outside on behalf of the other. In this situation, the working spouse may be the only one to accumulate wealth for the family (especially in the form of retirement savings), but the home-staying spouse has a firm right to those funds just the same. This is very important to know. Despite the fact that your hard earned money truly is yours, your spouse may very well have a dog in the fight.
You guessed it. Your debt follows you into the courtroom and beyond the confines of your marriage. Debts, like all of the other marital property will be viewed in the light of marital or separate. If one spouse brought debt into the marriage, they will likely retain it outside of the marriage as well; however, like all property within a marriage, this can go one of many different ways.
One place where debt may have some value in divorce proceedings is that it can be paid off with other marital assets at the discretion of the court and the parties involved in the litigation. Large assets that are financed (homes, vehicles, etc.) may be paid off by liquid assets in order to sell the piece of property.
There’s also protection from one spouse running up a massive credit card bill or taking out loans during divorce proceedings as well. While on paper, the debt would be considered marital, in reality these sorts of spending sprees can be proven to be separate in a court of law. Therefore, stick with tip #3 and save yourself some trouble.
6. Get Legal Representation
The biggest thing you can do to make sure you get a fair shake in your divorce is to get a property division attorney who looks out only for men’s rights. The Firm for Men are the leaders in representing male-only clients and have never represented a woman. The courtroom may as well be The Octagon, and you don’t want to go into the fight unprepared, so give o team at The Firm for Men a call today at 757-383-9184. We serve all of Hampton Roads, and have offices in both Newport News and Virginia Beach!