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What happens to real property during divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2024 | Property Division

In Virginia, the division of real estate during a litigated divorce is governed by the state’s equitable distribution laws. This means property is divided based on what’s fair and not necessarily what’s equal.

The nature of real estate assets—often significant both financially and emotionally—means their division can become one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce. Understanding how Virginia law approaches the division of these assets can help those going through a divorce navigate the process more effectively.

The marital home

The marital home is frequently the most valuable asset a couple owns, and it holds sentimental value. In Virginia, the court will consider several factors when deciding on the disposition of the marital home. These factors include:

  • Each spouse’s financial contributions to the home
  • Their future financial prospects
  • The children’s best interests

Options for the marital home can include one spouse buying out the other’s interest, selling the home and dividing the proceeds or one spouse continuing to live in the home for a set period. The last option is especially common when minor children are involved.

Vacation homes and investment properties

Vacation homes and investment or rental properties are also subject to equitable distribution in Virginia divorces. The division of these assets depends on their classification as marital or separate property and their value. Marital property includes assets acquired or commingled during the marriage, while separate property was owned before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance.

Equitable distribution process

Equitable distribution in Virginia involves identifying all marital property, determining its value and then deciding on an equitable division. This process can be complex for real estate, requiring professional appraisals to establish fair market values.

Couples are encouraged to reach mutual agreements on the division of real estate assets through negotiation or mediation. However, if an agreement can’t be reached, the court will decide based on the equitable distribution factors outlined in Virginia law.

Special considerations may apply depending on the specific circumstances of the divorce. For instance, the tax implications of selling or transferring real estate ownership can significantly affect both parties. Additionally, the division of debts associated with real estate, like mortgages or equity lines, must be addressed.

Due to the complexities of property division and all that is at stake in a divorce, legal representation for both parties is critical to ensure that they understand their options and how to safeguard their interests moving forward.