Getting divorced involves decisions about the most important parts of your life: your kids, your income, your property, your retirement.  Unfortunately, misinformation about divorce abounds – about the process, about the law and about what should be expected.  Divorces fall across a wide spectrum of contention.  Some resolve quickly, some require intense negotiation, and other still require litigation If you’re looking to protect your rights – or if you just want to know what your rights are – you need to consult with an experienced family law attorney.  We can help you with settlement agreements, uncontested divorces, or contested divorces involving equitable distribution of property.

Settlement Agreements

In many instances, the best result occurs when both sides are able to agree on all matters. When that happens, the proper course of action is signing a Property Settlement Agreement (sometimes referred to as a Separation Agreement). Whether you need help drafting the agreement or you simply want someone to review it before you sign, we can help. These agreements act as an enforceable contract, and, because they are legally binding upon the signatories, prudence dictates that you should review your agreement with a lawyer who knows your rights.

Uncontested Divorce

When all matters of attendant to a divorce have been resolved – or in the rare instances where there are no matters requiring resolution – an uncontested divorce is the appropriate option. Like all lawsuits, uncontested divorces still require the filing of appropriate pleadings and other documents, and the failure to fully and properly complete them will result in the delay of your divorce. We have years of experience guiding clients through the process, and we can help you ensure your divorce goes smoothly.

Contested Divorce

Not all cases can reach an amicable settlement. In those cases, you need an attorney who will work zealously to safeguard your rights and to fight for you in court. Contested divorces are long, complicated, and often emotional matters that can include custody, visitation, child and spousal support and equitable distribution.

Equitable Distribution

Like many states, Virginia utilizes an equitable distribution scheme to resolve all property when marriages dissolve. Before the property can be distributed to the parties, however, the following three questions must first be answered.

  1. What property is included?

    The property involved varies depending on the case, but commonly includes some combination of real property, personal property, retirement, investments and debt. This means everything from your marital home to your 401(k) to your credit card debt can be included.
  2. What property should be distributed?

    All property owned by each spouse gets classified during the equitable distribution process as one of three types of property: separate, marital or hybrid. Virginia considers marriages to be economic partnerships, with the result being that most income and property obtained during the marriage will be considered marital property. Marital property – including property purchased with marital income – is eligible for distribution.

    Generally speaking, all property obtained before the marriage will be classified as separate property, as will some property obtained during marriage (i.e. a gift or inheritance).

    Other property – for instance a house owned by one spouse prior to marriage but that was improved either by other marital property or the personal effort of the other spouse – can be classified as part-marital and part-separate.

  3. To whom should the property be distributed?

    Virginia courts consider the eleven factors of §20-107.3(e) of the Code of Virginia – ranging from the length of the marriage to the circumstances leading to the marriage’s dissolution – to determine spouse should receive what property. The facts of each case dictate the weight and import of each factor, and, consequently, will vary from client to client.

Without benefit of counsel – especially when your spouse has hired an attorney – you may receive less than you’re entitled to under the law. Equitable distribution cases are frequently complex, and in most cases require the assistance of experienced legal counsel to safeguard your rights.

Depending on the assets in your marriage, failing to protect your rights could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Give us a call today and let us explain what you may be entitled to in a divorce.

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The material and information contained on these pages and on any pages linked from these pages is intended to provide general information only and not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction before relying upon any of the information presented here.
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