If you are divorcing or anticipating a divorce in Virginia, you should be treated fairly in the divorce process, and the final terms of the divorce should meet your needs for the future. The right Roanoke divorce attorney can ensure that you are treated right by the divorce court.

Divorce is always difficult, and uncertainty about your financial future only increases that difficulty. If you’ll keep reading, you will learn how marital assets are divided in a divorce, and you’ll also learn how a divorce lawyer will work to ensure that you receive what is legally yours.

What is the Most Important Thing to Know About Divorce?

The first and most important thing to know about divorcing in Virginia is that you must have the advice and services of the right Virginia divorce attorney from the start. Even before you file divorce papers – or as soon as you learn that your spouse is divorcing you – speak to an attorney.

Virginia’s divorce laws are aimed at achieving fair and equitable results – whether by the agreement of the divorcing spouses or by an order of the court – when marital properties and assets are divided and distributed.

Divorcing spouses should attempt to reach an agreement between themselves regarding a fair division of the marital properties and assets. Provided that their agreement is in compliance with state law, a Virginia divorce court will almost always approve a voluntary mutual agreement.

If you and your spouse can resolve these issues privately and out-of-court, you will remain in control of your divorce agreement and save substantial time and money. Otherwise, a complete stranger – a divorce judge – will impose an arrangement that may not satisfy either of you.

What is the First Step in the Division of Assets?

The division of marital properties and assets begins with both spouses making a full disclosure regarding the details of their financial circumstances. Accurate disclosures are essential to ensure that the division of assets is equitable and fair.

The next step is the determination of which assets and properties belong to the marriage and which belong individually to each spouse. Generally speaking, marital property is the property that the spouses acquired or earned during the marriage. Marital assets may include:

1. real estate, including the family home, cabins, farmland, and investment properties
2. bank accounts and cash
3. automobiles and other vehicles
4. businesses
5. works of art, jewelry, family pets, and household furnishings
6. lawsuit settlements
7. pensions, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, 401Ks, and IRAs

What Assets Are Separate Assets?

Usually, separate assets are the assets that belonged to only one spouse prior to the marriage, although separate assets may also include any gifts or inheritances received by only one spouse during the marriage.

On the other hand, the court may consider assets that were used for the benefit of both partners or shared with the other partner as marital assets, even if the assets originally were separate.

Determining what is a marital asset and what is a separate asset is often a point of contention during a divorce, but a good family law attorney can usually help divorcing spouses reach an agreement that is acceptable to both sides without having to go to court.

How is Real Estate Divided?

When property is divided, the court will classify a property as either separate or marital and then determine the property’s value. The division of real estate can be the most complicated part of the divorce process. Accurately determining the exact value of real estate is seldom easy.

Fluctuating market conditions can make it difficult to determine the value of real estate. Another question is whether the real estate will be sold (and the proceeds divided) or retained by one of the partners in exchange for some other consideration.

What Else Does the Court Consider?

In a divorce in Virginia, if one partner was unfaithful or abusive, that behavior may count against that partner when the court determines how marital properties and assets will be divided. The court may also increase one partner’s share if the other acted to depreciate the marital property.

This means that your spouse can’t spend all the cash or intentionally wreck your jointly-owned automobile without paying for it during the divorce process.

What Does Virginia Law Require?

The division of marital properties and assets may not be a precise fifty-fifty split, but Virginia law requires the division to be “equitable.” When all of the marital property has finally been accurately evaluated, the court will divide it on the basis of factors that may include:

1. the length of the marriage, the spouses’ ages, and their mental and physical conditions
2. each partner’s contributions, monetary or otherwise, to the marriage
3. how and when the marital property was acquired
4. each partner’s liabilities and debts

How is Marital Debt Divided?

More than marital properties and assets are divided in a divorce. Marital debt is also divided. Marital debt includes any liabilities that either partner incurred during the marriage.

However, if one spouse acquired a separate debt prior to the marriage or after the separation, or if one spouse acquired a debt that was not used for the marriage, the court will classify that debt as separate and order that spouse alone to pay the debt.

What If Your Spouse Tries to Hide Assets?

Some divorcing spouses may not disclose everything about their assets and properties. If the partner you are divorcing does not fully disclose all of his or her properties and assets, you could be cheated out of what is rightfully yours.

It happens more frequently than you may think. Divorcing spouses frequently overstate expenses and debts, understate incomes, and hide, undervalue, or understate particular marital assets or properties – sometimes in quite creative ways.

Foreign banks are frequently used to hide assets, or assets may be temporarily transferred to a relative or a friend. Some people have even buried cash. If a spouse tries to hide something, you will need to be represented by a divorce lawyer who knows how to uncover hidden assets.

If you think that your spouse is hiding assets, tell your divorce attorney, who can conduct an investigation. This is one of the most important reasons why you cannot be your own divorce attorney.

How Will Your Divorce Lawyer Protect Your Interests?

In a complicated divorce, your criminal defense attorney may suggest hiring a financial specialist. Divorce lawyers also now use advanced software and other high-tech tools to identify hidden assets and help clients obtain what is theirs.

If you divorce in Virginia, protect yourself and your future. The right Roanoke divorce attorney will use every available legal tool to ensure that every asset is disclosed and accurately appraised and that your interests are protected throughout the divorce process.