When you file your divorce petition, the judge overseeing your case will conduct property division proceedings at some point unless you negotiate an agreement outside the courtroom. Virginia, along with all but nine other states, is an equitable property state. This means that the court would not necessarily divide your marital property equally. Instead, the judge will determine a fair and equitable way to distribute your marital assets and liabilities between you and your spouse, which may not mean a 50/50 split.
This begs the question: What constitutes a marital asset? The answer is not always simple. That's because you may have owned property separately from your spouse. It's also possible that property you believe you own separately ended up commingled, meaning you used it in such a way that it is now marital property. It's critical that you understand such issues before heading to court.
Common ways that people commingle assets
Every marital asset situation is unique. The following list includes some of the most common ways spouses commingle their assets, which, if applicable to your current situation, may affect property division in your divorce:
- If a spouse inherits a piece of land, sells it, then uses the profits to make renovations on the home he or she shares with a spouse during marriage, the proceeds have been commingled as marital property.
- Let's say your family member left you an inheritance and when you receive it, you deposit it into a bank account that carries both your and your spouse's names. The money now belongs to both of you as a marital asset.
- Perhaps a spouse receives a gift, such as a car. If he or she adds the other spouse's name to the title, then it turns into a joint asset.
If you receive an inheritance, but keep monies in a separately owned account, then the money belongs to you and you alone. This would also be the case if you legally establish a date of separation before finalizing your divorce, and deposit money into a bank account you have opened in your name alone.
If the lines are blurred
It's often difficult to determine if a particular asset has been commingled or if you are the outright owner of it. Virginia and all other states have guidelines by which judges form their property division decisions. Many spouses choose to seek guidance and support from experienced family law attorneys to help them avoid complications and protect their financial interests in divorce.