Equitable Distribution or Property Settlement Agreement? Dividing Real Estate in a Virginia Divorce

Two people signing divorce papers with keys in frontWhen a married couple purchases a home or other property together, they are thinking of and planning for a future spent together. Unfortunately, 48% of marriages end before the 20th year, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). For this reason, it’s critical to understand how Virginia handles the division of marital real estate.

First, a Property Settlement Agreement

Before a court becomes involved, a couple may work together with their attorneys to develop a plan, called a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), for how pieces of real estate get distributed. Regardless of whose name or names are listed on the titles, a PSA provides a few options:

  • One spouse may either sell or sign over his portion of the real estate to the other spouse
  • Both spouses may agree to sell the property and split the profit
  • Both spouses may agree that one may keep residing in the marital home and become responsible for its care during appraisals and entitled to any appreciations attributed to that maintenance

Then, the Courts May Step In

If both spouses cannot come to an agreement on how to divide real estate, Virginia courts decide the outcome. If real estate is jointly titled, the court can:

  • Order a transferring of ownership to one spouse
  • Order that one spouse pay the other for his portion of the asset
  • Order sale of the real estate, followed by a split of its profits according to equitable distribution

If real estate is owned solely by one spouse, the courts are powerless to order its sale or transfer. However, a judge may order that the spouse with sole ownership make a payment to his former partner proportional to the other spouse’s monetary or non-monetary contributions.

An Important Note on Equitable Distribution

Because Virginia divides property through equitable distribution—meaning, what is fair, but not what is equal—it’s important to acknowledge a few factors that might determine what portion of a property’s value you’re entitled to:

  • If you used marital or separate funds to purchase the real estate
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • How long the couple resided in the home
  • Who was responsible for monetary maintenance
  • Who was responsible for non-monetary care of the real estate

Knowing When to Consult an Attorney

If you and your soon-to-be former spouse are beginning to hit barriers when discussing how to divide real estate, it might be a good idea to find an attorney. The trusted team at Tavss Fletcher can help you through a PSA or court-ordered division. To speak with a lawyer about your case, start a live online chat with us today.