Serving the Needs of Virginia Families for over 25 years
Assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage through a parties' efforts or earnings are presumed to be marital property, regardless of title. Such assets may include real property, business interests, professional practices, art work, furniture and furnishings, jewelry, pensions and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, bank accounts, stocks and other investments, and vehicles. Some of the types of liabilities include mortgages and home equity lines of credit, personal loans, margin loans on accounts, credit cards and student loans.
The role of the court in effectuating equitable distribution at the divorce trial is four-fold: (1) to identify all assets and liabilities owned by the parties; (2) to classify all assets and liabilities (as marital, separate or a combination of marital and separate, called hybrid); (3) to determine the value of such assets and the extent of all liabilities; and (4) to equitably divide them between, or assign them to the parties.
Although an equal division of the assets and liabilities may be the outcome of the court's equitable distribution of property, there is no guarantee of an exact equal outcome. In effectuating equitable distribution, the court must consider a number of factors in making its determination on the division of assets and liabilities between the parties. Some of these factors include:
As part of its determination of the division of property, assets, and debts in Loudoun County, the court may order the transfer of jointly owned property or grant a monetary award, payable as a lump sum or as a fixed amount over time. With the exception of retirement accounts, the court may not transfer property or debt titled in one party's name to the other. Instead, the court will determine the value of the separately-owned asset, then order the owning party to pay the non-owning party a share of the value. This is called a monetary award.
Property may also be divided pursuant to a written, signed property settlement agreement ("PSA"). Typically, such agreements are entered into when parties are contemplating or pursuing a divorce. Such PSAs become effective immediately upon signing by both parties and can address all issues arising from the marriage, one of which would be an asset, liability division and ownership. PSAs are almost always in writing and signed by the parties; although the terms of such settlements, they are sometimes contained in a court order signed by counsel and the parties or recorded and transcribed by a court reporter, and affirmed by the parties personally on the court record.
Reaching accord by signing a property settlement agreement is a desirable outcome in many cases as it can save the parties tens of thousands of dollars. The parties and counsel negotiate and resolve all issues, determining the resolution and terms themselves instead of placing the determination in the hands of the court where the predictability of the outcome on nearly the issues is very difficult. PSAs can be the result of negotiation prior to the filing any action for divorce or it can be negotiated and completed during the pendency of the divorce case.
As family law attorneys or divorce lawyers, as well as when providing mediation services, we have found that our clients are often more satisfied in drafting a settlement that suits their family's needs and addresses the details that most courts will not resolve.
Contact us at (703) 691-3066 to discuss how our family law mediation sessions work, or to learn more about how our practice assists in division of property, assets, and debts in Loudoun County.