Marital Property states have certain guidelines and laws on how property is to be divided in a divorce. Also known as Community Property states, their rules state that any property owned by either spouse in the course of the marriage is deemed ‘community property’. According to these rules, all earnings received, assets purchased with said earnings and debts accrued during the period of the marriage are to be split evenly between both parties. On the other hand, property purchased before the marriage and after the separation is separate property and remains with its owner.
However, only nine states are the Marital Property States, as most other states have their own ‘equitable distribution’ principles.
Virginia is an equitable distribution state; ‘equitable’ means that the division of property will be fair. All assets owned by both spouses must be considered by the court in order to ensure that the property’s division will be done justly. When dividing these assets, the factors the court considers include the value of the assets, their type, the length of the marriage, the mental and physical health of each spouse, each spouse’s financial and non-financial contribution to the marriage, and tax ramifications among many other factors. The court may also factor in bad behavior from either spouse such as affairs or increased expenses in anticipation of the divorce. The fair division of property done by the court, in accordance to the laws of Virginia, does not mean that the property will be divided evenly between both spouses, and it is possible that one party receives a larger share than the other.
Similar to Marital Property states, the law in Virginia differentiates between marital property, which is property acquired during the marriage and separate property, which is property owned prior to it. Marital property is all property that is jointly titled in the name of both spouses or was acquired during the marriage by either spouse but was not determined to be separate. Separate property is all property acquired by either spouse before the marriage. In some cases, the court may classify the latter as marital property if personal effort from the other spouse such as labor, intellectual skill or managerial, creative or marketing activity has caused income to be received from the asset or increased its value. Moreover, the marital share from pension, profit-sharing, or deferred compensation plan, retirement benefit, injury or workers compensation recovery of either spouse will be considered marital property.
Furthermore, another type of property in Virginia known as ‘Hybrid Property’ can be taken into consideration. Hybrid property refers to when a spouse liquidates one of his own assets in order to make a financial contribution such as buying a family house, or when a spouse uses money received from inheritance to increase the funds of one of the family’s accounts. Dividing hybrid property such as the financial contribution to the payment for a house is very complex as factors such as the separate contribution’s share of the total value of the house and appreciation in the value of the house must be taken into consideration.