Divorce is never easy, and people often dread the property division phase of the proceedings.

However, with some planning, you can simplify the task of dividing your marital assets and debts, removing a good deal of stress from the process.

Understanding what to expect

In dissolving a marriage, the Commonwealth of Virginia requires an equitable division of marital assets and debts. This means that a judge will determine a fair distribution between you and your soon-to-be-ex, but not necessarily a 50-50 split. Here are the major considerations in making that determination:

  • Each party’s current income and perceived earning potential
  • Each party’s contributions to the marriage
  • Support and child custody obligations
  • Prenuptial agreement, if any

You must identify your marital assets and place a value on each one. For example, you probably have a marital home, possibly other real property, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts and investments. Your joint debts may involve credit cards, loans, mortgage and more.

Making preparations

You and your spouse may have joint checking and credit card accounts. In preparing for property division, setting up separate accounts ahead of your divorce would be a good idea. However, if you need to maintain a joint account, your attorney can draw up a written agreement explaining the purpose and how you will use the funds. Checks should now contain two signatures. You may also wish to freeze any investment assets to prevent possible misuse during the divorce process. Furthermore, you may want to change the title to the marital home to include the term “tenants in common.” This clarifies the percentage that each spouse owns.

Looking ahead

As time goes on and changes occur, you may have to modify your support or child custody agreements, but the court rarely approves any changes to property division settlements. Remember that the outcome of the property division process will have a considerable effect on your future. Prepare well going in, and enjoy peace of mind as you begin the next chapter of your life.