How Does Spousal Support Work in Virginia?

8 min read

Virginia Code
Virginia statutory law speaks generally of the criteria that a judge must consider when deciding an alimony case. However, the listed criteria give almost no guidance to the courts when making a determination as to “how much” spousal support is to be paid and “for how long” spousal support should last.

What is “Equitable distribution of property”?

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THE DEFINITION of EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION – NOT 50%/50%

Equitable Distribution is the legal term for how judges, in Virginia (and 39 other states), divide and distribute property and debt in a divorce.  “Equitable” means “fair”, not “equal”. . .  so you know you are in some tricky territory right there.

Business Valuation & Division in a VA Divorce

Settling a divorce case in Virginia, where one of the parties owns a business, can be extremely challenging. Businesses are considered “property” and, just like a house or a retirement fund, are divisible upon divorce. Therefore, in a mediated divorce settlement, the value of a family business must usually be quantified in order for both parties to make informed decisions with regard to which party retains which asset/liability post-divorce.

The “Wild West” of Divorce Law Concerning Real Estate in Virginia

For many years, the courts and bar have been trying to figure out the best way to equitably (i.e. “fairly”) divide and distribute the equity value of a divorcing couple’s residence (and other real estate) when there has been a commingling of marital and separate (non-marital) funds[1]. Once property has been “commingled”, it is usually looked upon, by Virginia Courts, as “hybrid property” (part separate, part marital property). Hybrid property questions, when it comes to the marital residence and real estate in general, often arise in the following situations:

If one party uses his or her pre-marital cash as the down payment on the marital residence, does he or she get that money back when there is divorce?
If the party making the down payment, out of premarital money, is to get that money back in a divorce, is there a fair calculation available to figure out how much that original down payment is worth today?
How is money earned during the marriage, which is used to pay the monthly mortgage bill (plus homeowner’s insurance and real estate taxes) accounted for when the equity value of the marital residence is divided and distributed in a divorce?
How are improvements to the marital residence accounted for?
What is the effect on the division and distribution of the equity in the marital residence, upon divorce, if one party uses his or her separate (non-marital) funds to pay for improvements to the residence?
What happens when one party owns a home prior to the divorce, which is then utilized by the parties as their marital residence and, while the parties are married, the mortgage, etc.