Fairfax Property Division Attorney
In Virginia, the assets of the spouses are divided through a process called equitable distribution. In cases with little assets or just a home and salaried spouses, the couples themselves can often agree on the property division. In complex cases, our firm will work to properly identify marital assets, assign the assets the correct value and make sure that the distribution of the property works to your advantage. A Fairfax property division attorney from The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury will work with the experts to determine the true value and uses our knowledge and skill to negotiate a fair distribution.
Division of Assets in a Divorce
One of the most contentious components of any divorce is the division of assets. Each situation is very different. Some families have an idea of how they would like assets to be divided. Yet, this process is daunting for families when emotions run high. The division of assets in a divorce often requires a careful look at each of the parties’ assets, whether separate or marital, to determine the proper distribution.
When you meet with the Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, you will gain insight into what to expect in your case. We will work with you to identify all assets in your case. Then we will work to determine which assets are considered separate property and which are considered shared or marital assets that may be split. Here is a look at what you can often expect during this process.
Marital vs. Separate Property
Only marital assets are subject to distribution. The separate assets of each spouse are returned to the spouse who acquired them. The marital assets are valued and a percentage is assigned to each spouse. The starting point for the division of property is 50/50 but many factors can alter those percentages. The key dates are the date of the marriage and the date of the separation. Assets are considered marital if they are acquired after marriage but before separation; otherwise, they’re considered separate assets. In some cases, it can be hard to tell. For example, often spouses will contribute their pre-marital money to the down payment of a home.
Separate Assets: In addition to premarital assets and post-separation acquisitions; gifts and inheritances during the marriage are also considered separate and belong to the spouse they were given to.
Marital assets: The starting point is the equity in the home and the current bank accounts. Retirement benefits, pensions, and annuities are usually marital assets too even though they don’t vest until retirement age. Often, a special court document called a QDRO (a qualified domestic relations order) will be prepared for retirement benefits to determine the present value. An interest in a business is also a likely marital asset.
Hybrid Assets: Some assets are part separate and part marital. These assets can be complicated to value. Our firm knows how to work around the complications and determine the correct separation value.
Marital debts: It’s also important to figure out which debts are separate and which ones are marital. Who is liable for each debt is a key factor in any property division case.
Division of Assets in a Divorce: Marital Assets
In the division of assets in a divorce, shared or marital assets are assets obtained during the marriage with marital funds. Here are some of the most common marital assets.
The house: The home you bought and own together is likely marital property that will be divided. This often involves selling the property and splitting the profit, though it may be possible for one party to maintain the home as their new separate property while the other is compensated for their share. Division of this marital asset becomes complicated if one party used separate funds to place a down payment on the marital home.
Cars and other vehicles: This includes all vehicles owned, including recreational vehicles, water sport vehicles, and even the RV that hasn’t moved in years. Even if a vehicle is titled in the name of one party, the vehicle may be marital property depending on how and when it was acquired.
Electronics: This may include computer systems, TVs, and any other valuable electronics within the home or owned by both parties.
Jewelry: Jewelry purchased together is typically considered marital property. An inherited or gifted necklace is not likely to be included as a marital asset.
Income: Marital income includes any earnings from either party accumulated during the marriage.
Financial Accounts: Financial accounts such as mutual funds, certificates of deposit, and savings accounts, including dividends and interest from these accounts, are assets to be considered as marital property to be divided during the divorce.
Retirement accounts and Social Security benefits: Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to divide retirement accounts such as IRAs, pensions, and 401Ks. The division is typically straightforward but can be complicated, especially if one party contributed while the other stayed home with the children; or if the benefit has unique rules such as in military retirement accounts and some privately held accounts
Our team at the Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury can work closely with you to identify the marital assets in your divorce. We will work closely with you to ensure both parties are being honest in this process to allow for an equitable split.
We encourage you to allow our legal team to support you through this process. Our goal is to ensure you leave the marriage with the assets you need and deserve to rebuild your future.
Our team at the Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury will help you identify what property is considered separate property. Not only is this property not divided in the divorce or forced to be sold, but it also is not counted in terms of value when creating an equitable division of assets in a divorce. Keep in mind that there can be some gray areas here, so it’s best to consult with an attorney to understand the nuances.
Some examples of separate property may include:
- The property you brought into the marriage: This could include anything that you owned by yourself prior to being married. It may include items like furniture, an old collectible vehicle, or earnings in a savings account.
- Gifts: In most situations, gifts are not considered marital property. That means that items given to you alone are not considered marital property. If the gift was given to both you and your spouse, then the property is marital.
- Inheritances: Generally, any money or item you inherit is your separate property. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, for example, if the inheritance was comingled with marital funds, the inheritance may not be separate property. A knowledgeable divorce attorney will have an understanding of Virginia’s laws regarding inherited property and can help you maintain what is rightfully yours. In every situation, you will need to clearly trace which property is derived from the inheritance.
- Heirlooms: Family heirlooms that belong to one spouse are likely to be kept as separate property.
You may have a lot of questions about which category certain assets belong. That’s common. When you speak to our team at the Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury, we will work closely with you to better understand your unique situation and develop a plan for the division of assets that is in your best interests.
Factors that Determine the Property Split
There are many factors that judges and mediators use to determine how much, if any, of a shift there should be from an equal split. These factors include but are not limited to:
- “The monetary and non-monetary contributions made by each spouse to ‘the well-being of the family’ and to the ‘acquisition and care and maintenance’ of the marital property.” Nonmonetary contribution refers to things like looking after the children, taking care of the house and supporting the spouse who works.
- The length of the marriage. The shorter the marriage, the more likely the split will be 50/50.
- The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties. Poor health may justify deviating from an equal split.
- The reasons for the divorce. This includes any fault grounds for divorce such as adultery, cruelty, desertion or a felony conviction.
- The debts of each spouse and whether any marital assets are security for those debts. Typically, the home is subject to a mortgage.
- Whether assets can be sold easily, or are non-liquid
- Tax considerations
- How the assets were acquired
How the Assets are Actually Split
Once the marital assets are identified and the percentage each spouse gets is determined there is still the issue of how the assets will be divided. In many cases, there are practical considerations such as making sure the children have a home with the parent who has primary physical custody and selling or trading assets that are easy to distribute ahead of others, like pensions that may not have vested yet. If a spouse has a business interest that provides an income to the spouse, then instead of selling the whole business or the stock, the owner of the business might agree to buy out his/her interest to the other spouse.
What Are Common Assets in a Divorce?
The first step is to identify all assets in the marriage. Some of the most common assets include all financial accounts, real estate, and any type of valuable items owned, such as vehicles and antiques. Once a list of all assets is created, it is then necessary to determine under Virginia divorce law which assets are considered marital, separate, or part-marital/part-separate (sometimes called hybrid) assets.
Can You Divorce Without Splitting Assets?
Sometimes a couple may not have any assets that require division. However, that is usually not the case. In most situations, there are at least some assets and they must be divided. As noted, this does not mean that each party receives 50 percent of the assets’ value, though. Rather, it is very common for the focus to be on equitable division. That means that each party is awarded a fair amount in the divorce settlement. The division of assets in divorce is not always simplistic.
How to Protect Assets in a Divorce
There are several steps you need to take to ensure your assets are protected. The most important, from our experience, is to ensure you fully understand your rights and the ownership of those assets. A big part of that will include spending some time working with our legal team to outline what is owned and how. We will work to develop a strategy that will lead to your best possible outcome.
Contact The Law Office of Afsana Chowdhury to Learn How to Protect Your Assets
Our firm will work to identify the assets, value them properly and arrange a split that is fair and practical. When possible, we will negotiate the property division so an agreement can be entered. When necessary, our firm will try all aspects of equitable division before the family law judge. Your spouse may try to hide assets. It is essential, if you have assets to be divided, that you see a lawyer as soon as you begin thinking about a divorce. Our office offers an initial phone consultation and affordable rates. Contact our firm at (703) 271-6519 today or schedule a consultation online.