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What property is subjected to equitable division during divorce?

In Virginia, the equitable distribution law enables couples undergoing divorce to divide their marital property and debts between them. However, before dividing the marital property it is important to determine if the property is separate, marital or part separate and part marital. Once the property is classified, the marital property and debts should be valued and equitably divided as per the law enforced in the state.

All jointly owned property, excluding separate property, which has been acquired by the couple from the date of their marriage until the date of their divorce, is called marital property. This can include a marital home, investments and retirement assets. Separate property includes any gifts that one of the spouses received from family members or third parties. It can also include inheritances, which were maintained separately from the marital property.

There is another category of property which is part marital and part separate. An example of this type of property is an inherited business. If both spouses work for the business then the income from the business will be considered marital property while the assets of the business will be considered separate property. Also, if the spouse increases the value of this separate property through substantial efforts, then this increase in value can be considered as marital property. The efforts taken to increase the value of the business can be physical, intellectual, managerial or marketing.

If separate property receives marital property or marital property receives separate property then both the marital and separate properties are mixed together and specific rules of classification will apply. In such situations, the separate property and marital property will be analyzed according to very specific laws and only marital property will be subjected to being divided.

Source: Virginia State Bar, "Financial Issues in Divorce in Virginia," accessed on Oct. 16, 2014

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