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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!
The Virginia court may decree that maintenance and support of a spouse be made in periodic payments for a defined duration, or in periodic payments for an undefined duration, or in a lump sum award, or in any combination thereof. The court, in determining whether to award spousal support and maintenance for a spouse, shall consider the circumstances and factors that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including adultery and any other ground for divorce. In determining the nature, amount and duration, the court shall consider a number of things including, but not limited to, the needs and financial resources of the parties, the contributions of each party to the well-being of the family, and the extent to which either party has contributed to the attainment of education, training, career position or profession of the other party.
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