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The Basic, General Guidelines of Property Division
"50-50" division of "marital property" is the basic starting point for consideration of resolution of these matters; and, unless one or both spouse(s) wish to chance each spending several thousand dollars (i.e., in "five figures") to litigate the more sophisticated theories and approaches to division of marital property.
It is true that, in first enacting our "marital property" statutory provision in 1982, the Virginia legislature consciously declined to follow the lead of some other states, where it is expressly stated that there shall be a (rebuttable) "presumption" in favor of equal division. "Equitable distribution," based on consideration of numerous "factors" (including, especially, respective contributions to accumulation of the property) -- was the approach adopted. (15)However, even to consider these various "factors, " one has to start someplace; and it certainly seems that most judges expressly or implicitly use 50-50 division at least as the starting point for their determinations; and, often or usually, the ending point, also.
"Fault" (i.e., "cruelty, " desertion and/or adultery) which causes dissolution of the marriage is one of the "factors" upon which, the Virginia provision states, "equitable distribution" should be based. As noted above, though, "personal" fault (as opposed to "economic fault," which causes "dissipation" of ("marital property") -- seems, often, to be disregarded in property divisions by the Courts. And, notwithstanding popular notions to the contrary, at least if "the guilty party" chooses to fight for his or her rights (as opposing to bowing to quasi-extortionate threats, in a "voluntary" settlement Agreement) -- he or she is not going to "lose everything" simply as result of his or her "personal" misconduct. As noted above, even in the 1995 a case, which seems to have rejuvenated "personal fault" in connection with property division disputes, the issue was whether or not as a result of what the Judge found to be extremely egregious personal misconduct (adultery throughout the marriage, physical cruelty and a repugnantly domineering approach to family finances), the Court could award to the wife an extra ten percent (i.e., sixty percent) of the couple's marital net worth!
Separate property is: 1) all property, real and personal, acquired by either party before the marriage; 2) all property acquired during the marriage by bequest, devise, descent, survivorship or gift from a source other than the other party; 3) all property acquired during the marriage in exchange for or from the proceeds of sale of separate property, provided that such property acquired during the marriage is maintained as separate property; and 4) that part of any property classified as separate property.
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