Even if your divorce is amicable, the dividing of property can bring out the worst in people, and the court may end up making the final decision about who gets what. Whether you have pension plans and retirement accounts, a vacation home, or a beloved pet, a judge may decide the equitable division of property if you cannot agree on splitting assets.
According to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the court has the final say regarding whether property and debts are marital or separate. It also addresses spousal/child support, custody and other aspects of your life affected by the divorce.
Equitable distribution starts by classifying, valuing then dividing marital property. Separate property includes items acquired by each spouse before the marriage, including an inheritance, personal injury settlement and heirlooms. The non-marital property does not directly affect the settlement. You may help move the process along by listing all assets along with the value and whether it’s marital property. You can include real estate, vehicles, life insurance policies, artwork and other assets of significant financial or sentimental value.
Equitable vs. equal
Virginia laws focus on equitable distribution of marital assets. However, that means a fair division of assets rather than an equal split. Several elements factor into what the court deems equitable, such as the following:
- Age and health of the partners
- Assets and debts
- Earning power and tax implications
- Marriage length
- Property and value
Understanding your options and the potential for negotiation if you want particular items can help you achieve the best possible outcome for the divorce settlement.