Marital Property Division
Equitable Distribution of Assets
In Virginia, assets and debts acquired during marriage are divided under a system known as equitable distribution. The court wants to be fair in how it divides marital property in divorce and that does not always mean a fifty-fifty division of assets.
When determining how marital assets will be divided, the court looks at a number of factors, including:
- The value of the assets (or debts)
- The financial and non-financial contributions of each spouse
- The positive and negative contributions of each spouse to the marriage
- The actions of one or both of the parties in contributing to the breakdown of the marriage
Property division involves not only how assets should be divided, but also what assets should be divided. Is a particular asset (or debt) part of the marital estate or is it the separate property of one of the parties? Your attorney will review with you how and when each asset was acquired. For example, was the marital residence purchased with funds from the sale of a home owned prior to the marriage? Were assets acquired with inherited funds or funds given by a family member? The answers to these questions could affect the final division of marital property.
Complex Property Issues
Many marital estates include complex assets. It may be complex because it is difficult to value, such as a business or a work of art. It may be complex because it cannot be accessed until some future date, such as a stock option or deferred compensation pay package. Or it may be complex because it will have tax implications or require special handling, such as the division of pension assets.
We routinely work with certified public accountants, appraisers and financial experts to accurately value and divide businesses, real estate, retirement plans, stocks and personal property.
Division of Retirement Assets
While it may seem “easy” to divide a company pension or 401K because its value is known, it can, in fact, be quite complicated. Retirement assets are treated differently than other assets by the IRS. If the division is handled improperly, it may disqualify the retirement plan and taxes then must be paid on the asset. Some plans cannot be accessed until the employee reaches retirement age.
We understand how to properly value the marital portion of retirement assets, and have extensive experience with the mechanisms for properly dividing retirement assets. Often a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order) will be required. We handle many of these documents both for our clients and for attorneys at other firms who do not have the degree of experience we do in this area.
If your marital estate includes a large number of complex assets, work with a law firm that regularly handles complicated estates. Contact the law office of Stiles Ewing Powers PC.