How Do Assets Get Divided in a Divorce?

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No matter the circumstances, a divorce can be complex. When there is a substantial amount of assets to be divided, negotiations can be precarious, and tensions can quickly escalate. Relationships that once were steadfast can be torn apart. Hiring a divorce lawyer can not only help alleviate some of the stress, but it can also smooth over the process and even help to manage expectations so that some semblance of respect the couple had for one another remains. Our team of skilled attorneys is ready to guide you through the process of dividing assets in your divorce.

What Are the Divorce Proceedings in Virginia?

Divorce proceedings in Virginia occur through several steps: separation, filing, property division, child custody and child support, and spousal support or alimony. Only when all the steps of the divorce process are complete is the divorce final, though some aspects, like child custody, child support, and alimony, can sometimes be amended after the divorce settlement is finalized.


Before filing for divorce (specifically a no-fault divorce), the couple must be separated for at least six months if they have no minor children and a signed Agreement. If the couple has children or has not signed a separation agreement, the separation must be for no less than one year.

Filing the Divorce

Filing your divorce papers requires the completion and formal filing of a divorce complaint and other forms, as well as paying the proper fees. Filing fees in Virginia vary depending on the county in which you reside. Your family law attorney can help make sure that your papers and fees are properly filed and paid.

Division of Property

The division of assets and property is where divorces can get complicated, especially in situations where it is a high asset divorce. Issues such as marital property versus separate property, hybrid property, high-value assets, hidden assets, and others can create contentious, expensive, and time-consuming battles. If you have high-value assets like business assets, large bank accounts, investments and other financial assets, or complex assets, it is a good idea to seek help from a high-asset divorce lawyer to handle the process.

Child Custody Hearing

Child custody and support issues can be the most difficult issues that you and your family law attorney have to work through. The right family law attorney can be vital in helping you determine what is best for your child.

Spousal Support

Spousal support becomes a major issue in high-asset divorce cases or where one spouse earns significantly more than the other spouse. When dealing with high-net-worth individuals, it can become a tiresome battle to get the lower-earning spouse the support they deserve from the spouse with a high income. An experienced attorney serving Virginia spouses can help you get a fair and equitable spousal maintenance and alimony settlement.

How Does Virginia Divide the Marital Estate?

Virginia is an equitable division state and not a community property state. What this means is that the court will look at everything the couple owns and determine a property division that, while not necessarily equal, is fair to both parties. When determining how property should be divided, the courts will consider several factors, including:

  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage and assets. This includes both monetary and nonmonetary contributions like caring for the family and household.
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • How they acquired marital property and when they acquired it
  • Tax implications of the division or liquidation of the property
  • The type of divorce, including any fault-based grounds for divorce

Legal advice and legal representation from an experienced law firm can help expedite the process and see that you get a fair and equitable distribution of marital assets. If you are facing a Virginia divorce and need help with the division of assets, call the ShounBach law offices at 703-222-3333 or use our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our legal team today.

What Is Considered an Asset During Divorce?

An asset in a divorce is anything that carries real value. In some cases involving complex assets like real estate, business assets, or other items that are tricky to value outright, you may have to retain appraisers or other experts to perform a valuation. Assets in divorces include cars, homes, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and stock options.


Cars carry real value and can be important for spouses to carry out daily matters, whether it means commuting to work every day or going to the grocery store to purchase formula for a child or taking a child to their activities and events. The value of the cars can be divided as part of equitable distribution.


Homes are often one of the more contentious parts of a divorce, so much so that “Who gets the house?” has become a cliché. Family law does not side with either spouse specifically in these cases, and the courts will consider many factors including how able a spouse is to retain and refinance the mortgage on a house. Sometimes it may be ruled that the house should be sold and the profits divided.

Investment Accounts and Portfolios

Investment accounts can be quite complex, especially when one spouse has a diverse portfolio. It is not unheard of for the courts to split the portfolio up, assigning some investments to one partner and others to the second.

Retirement Accounts and Pensions

Retirement accounts, from 403(b) plans to IRAs, pensions, and beyond, can require critical oversight. The courts only deal with marital property in Virginia, and depending on how and when one spouse invested in the retirement account, it may be separate property or hybrid property instead of marital property. Your divorce lawyer can help you fight for what is yours to obtain a fair division of these assets.

Stock Options

Stock options are a form of investment, and the courts will generally only consider stocks that are marital property. It can be a fight, however, to make sure that your separate stock options garnered outside the marriage stay with you. That is another reason it is important to have an attorney in your corner. If you have significant stock options in a company, a high-asset divorce attorney may be a good idea.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

The courts in Virginia will only divide marital property and hybrid property. That is why it is so important to clearly delineate what property is separate and what is marital or hybrid. The right attorney in your corner can fight to make sure you get to keep what is yours and that all property is fairly divided so each spouse can maintain their current standard of living.

Marital Property

Marital property is that which is acquired during the marriage. This means property that was acquired during the course of the marriage by either spouse. Even if you bought a property on your own, if it was purchased during the marriage, it is marital property. In addition, property that was used for the benefit of the marriage, or is shared, can be marital property. Some types of marital property may have begun as separate.

A retirement account, for example, that you had before the marriage may be allowed to remain separate if you did not touch it during the marriage. If, however, you continued to contribute to it during the marriage, it can become marital property.

Separate Property

Separate property is property that was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. It also refers to any property that was gifted to only one spouse during the marriage or inheritance left to only one spouse. A large estate left only to the wife by a parent who passes away, for example, is separate property, unless it is then used to benefit the marriage or is shared by both spouses.

Issues of separate and marital property can get clouded. This is another reason why it is optimal for spouses to work with proven Virginia divorce attorneys to streamline these complex issues.

What Are High Asset Divorce Cases in Virginia?

A high asset divorce, or a high net worth divorce, involves property of substantial value of over $1 million of marital assets, like high-value business assets, which are subject to division. Because of the amounts involved, high net worth divorce cases are more complex than other types of divorce.

These cases can involve issues like a spouse trying to hide assets from the courts or business owners trying to undervalue their company to get a more favorable settlement. Often, law firms can consult forensic accountants to ensure that all assets are properly identified and categorized. A forensic accountant is a specialist in unraveling the puzzles surrounding complex financial and compliance issues related to businesses, corporate entities, nonprofits, and even individuals. Their services can be invaluable in high-net-worth divorces.

Will the Division of Assets in a Divorce Have Tax Implications?

Yes, the division of assets in any divorce case will may tax implications regardless of whether the divorce is low income or high income. There may be taxable transactions when it comes to dividing marital assets, though many of these assets can be transferred between spouses prior to the divorce with no tax implications. This is another way a qualified Virginia divorce attorney can help, especially in an uncontested divorce situation where both spouses agree on all aspects of the property division.

How Does a Prenuptial Agreement Affect Asset Division During Divorce?

The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to smooth out the division of property during a divorce. If upheld by the courts, it states the rights and obligations of the spouses and the assets that it addresses.

How Will Hiring a Divorce Attorney Impact You?

Divorce attorneys are knowledgeable about the divorce process. They can mediate and negotiate on your behalf, and in some situations, can even help you preserve some aspects of your personal relationship. They do this by acting as a calm external voice when you are overcome with emotion. Attorneys help you see your unique circumstance in ways you previously did not consider. They can keep your divorce fair and equitable and can protect your rights while also serving as a trusted ally.

Need Help Preserving Your Wealth in a Divorce?

If you need help preserving and protecting your wealth in a divorce, the law offices of ShounBach are ready to help. We are a caring ear and a knowledgeable ally. Contact us today at 703-222-3333 or contact us online to discuss your case today.

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Written By ShounBach

Since 1975, ShounBach has served the Northern Virginia community. Our team brings over 200 years of combined legal experience and has grown to be one of Virginia’s largest family and estate law firms.

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