Equitable Distribution

When your marriage ends, the property and assets that you acquired as a married couple must be divided. Whenever possible, it is best to divide your assets without assistance from the court. The knowledgeable lawyers at Nichols Zauzig have extensive experience helping clients negotiate reasonable divorce settlements with former spouses in order to avoid the stress and expense of litigation.

Does equitable distribution mean equal?

Dividing assets with a former spouse in an amicable manner is not always possible. In Virginia, when the court steps in to separate marital assets, the process is called “equitable distribution.” Equitable distribution does not mean equal distribution. Instead, it means that the court will make an effort to divide property fairly based on the length of the marriage, the owner of the property, the reasons for the divorce, and other relevant issues.

How is property divided in Virginia?

When property is divided in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the court follows the following process:

The court classifies property as marital property, separate property, or both.

The court determines the value of all the property.

The court decides how all of the property should be divided considering the rights and interests of each party and the length of the marriage. If one party hid assets or took steps to reduce the value of the marital property to be divided, that party can be penalized for these actions.

Because dividing all property into equal halves is rarely practical, in many cases the court will require one spouse to pay a monetary award to the other spouse as partial compensation for the value of marital property. If the court is asked to make a decision on the monetary award based on the value of shared property, the divorcing parties must provide evidence for any claims they make regarding the value of shared assets.

In certain cases, estimating the value of shared property can be difficult. For example, if a couple has been operating a family business together, one spouse may need to buy the other out of the business. In such cases, a business valuation expert may be necessary to help determine the fair market value of the property, including good will (brand recognition and reputation).

What types of property are classified as marital?

To better understand your rights when the court uses equitable distribution to divide your assets, it is helpful to understand what types of property are classified as marital property and what types of property are classified as separate property.

Marital property includes:

Property acquired by either spouse during marriage that was not expressly kept separate.

Property in which one spouse has a separate claim, but the other spouse acquired an ownership stake during the marriage. For example, if one party owned a house before marriage but both parties paid and improved upon the house, this property may be considered both marital and separate property.

Property to which both spouses hold legal title (however, title is not the sole deciding factor if one spouse can prove that the property is actually separate property).

What types of property are classified as separate?

Separate property includes:

Property acquired by either party prior to the marriage and maintained separately.

Property acquired by either party during the marriage from an inheritance or gift (not from the other party) and maintained separately.

Property acquired in exchange for the proceeds from separate property or in exchange for separate property. For example, if one spouse purchases an item with his inheritance money or with the proceeds from selling his bachelor pad, this item can constitute separate property.

Each party is generally entitled to keep his or her own separate property following divorce, while the marital property is split in a fair and equitable manner by the court.

Getting Legal Help

At Nichols Zauzig, we can help you to determine what property the court may consider marital property and what property is separate property. Our experienced team can help you to make a compelling argument to the court for your rights to certain assets and assist you in obtaining the best divorce settlement possible under Virginia’s equitable distribution laws.

To obtain legal assistance in dividing marital assets, contact the experienced Virginia divorce attorneys at Nichols Zauzig to schedule a consultation. We are located in Old Town Manassas and Woodbridge, and can meet with you in Stafford as well. Call us today. We’re here for you.

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RESOURCES

Best Lawyers® names Nichols Zauzig "Best Law Firm" Top Tier in Northern Virginia

Nichols Zauzig named 2019 U.S. News-Best Lawyers® Best Law Firm

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Pornography, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Domestic Violence, Drug Offenses, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Malicious Wounding & Violent Offenses, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Probation Violation, Protective Orders, Rights Restoration, Search, Seizure & Miranda Rights, Sex Crimes Against Children, Sex Offenses, Theft Offenses, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 9th consecutive year, Nichols Zauzig Sandler is honored to be ranked in Tier 1 of the 2019 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" list. Earning Tier…
Top Divorce Attorney Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Woodbridge

Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Sandler

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
Nichols Zauzig Sandler is pleased to welcome Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor. Mr. Taylor brings 11 years experience focusing on the practice of family law in the Manassas and…

Nichols Zauzig Sandler partners named Super Lawyers for 12th year

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Uncategorized, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 12th consecutive year, Charles J. Zauzig, Paul F. Nichols and Betty Moore Sandler have been named Super Lawyers in Virginia. Cassandra Chin has been selected for the third…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

New Virginia laws impact spousal support and child custody

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
  Beginning July 1, 2018, several changes in spousal support and joint custody took effect in Virginia. Modification of spousal support If there is a material change in circumstances, a…
Cassandra Chin, Divorce and family law lawyer Manassas

Considering separation but can’t afford two households in Virginia?

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Cassandra Chin, AAML, Divorce and Family Law Attorney Living separately under the same roof is a growing trend in Northern Virginia divorce cases. Many families are just making ends…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

How is child support determined in Virginia?

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
In Virginia, both parents are expected to pay for the financial support of their children, regardless of whether the parents have ever been married or whether the non-custodial parent has…
Manassas Divorce Attorney Peyton Alston Simmons

How Virginia alimony is affected by the new federal tax law

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Peyton Alston Simmons, Associate, Nichols Zauzig The new 2018 federal tax bill will affect Virginia divorce agreements that include alimony, also known as spousal support, beginning January 1, 2019 Currently, the…
Ready to get in touch? Contact Us Today

RESOURCES

Best Lawyers® names Nichols Zauzig "Best Law Firm" Top Tier in Northern Virginia

Nichols Zauzig named 2019 U.S. News-Best Lawyers® Best Law Firm

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Pornography, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Domestic Violence, Drug Offenses, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Malicious Wounding & Violent Offenses, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Probation Violation, Protective Orders, Rights Restoration, Search, Seizure & Miranda Rights, Sex Crimes Against Children, Sex Offenses, Theft Offenses, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 9th consecutive year, Nichols Zauzig Sandler is honored to be ranked in Tier 1 of the 2019 U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" list. Earning Tier…
Top Divorce Attorney Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Woodbridge

Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor Joins Nichols Zauzig Sandler

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
Nichols Zauzig Sandler is pleased to welcome Family Law Attorney J. Andrew Taylor. Mr. Taylor brings 11 years experience focusing on the practice of family law in the Manassas and…

Nichols Zauzig Sandler partners named Super Lawyers for 12th year

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Automobile Accidents, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Criminal Defense, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce, Grandparent Custody/Visitation, International Matrimonial Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Trucking Accidents, Uncategorized, Wrongful Death | No Comments
For the 12th consecutive year, Charles J. Zauzig, Paul F. Nichols and Betty Moore Sandler have been named Super Lawyers in Virginia. Cassandra Chin has been selected for the third…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

New Virginia laws impact spousal support and child custody

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
  Beginning July 1, 2018, several changes in spousal support and joint custody took effect in Virginia. Modification of spousal support If there is a material change in circumstances, a…
Cassandra Chin, Divorce and family law lawyer Manassas

Considering separation but can’t afford two households in Virginia?

| Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Cassandra Chin, AAML, Divorce and Family Law Attorney Living separately under the same roof is a growing trend in Northern Virginia divorce cases. Many families are just making ends…
Divorce Attorney Paul F. Nichols Manassas VA

How is child support determined in Virginia?

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Child Support, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
In Virginia, both parents are expected to pay for the financial support of their children, regardless of whether the parents have ever been married or whether the non-custodial parent has…
Manassas Divorce Attorney Peyton Alston Simmons

How Virginia alimony is affected by the new federal tax law

| Alimony/Spousal Support, Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce and Separation, Equitable Distribtuion, Family Law/Divorce | No Comments
By: Peyton Alston Simmons, Associate, Nichols Zauzig The new 2018 federal tax bill will affect Virginia divorce agreements that include alimony, also known as spousal support, beginning January 1, 2019 Currently, the…