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What is Marital and Separate Property in a Virginia Divorce?

In a marriage, sometimes the lines become blurred between what is marital and what is separate property. After all, couples married for a long time share many assets together and often co-mingle assets that started out as separate before marriage. The lack of clarity usually does not matter until couples decide to divorce. Then, who owns what can be hotly contested issues.

According to Virginia statutes, separate property is real property and personal property that either party acquired prior to marriage. It is also property acquired through inheritance or as a gift from someone who is not the other spouse. When, during the marriage, a spouse sold separate property, the proceeds from the sale remains separate property as long as it was maintained as separate. Income derived from separate property is also separate property. For example, when the spouse owns a house and rents it, the rent income is a separate asset as long as the spouse does not deposit it into a joint bank account or the other spouse did not contribute to the rental property, such as by making repairs or doing maintenance work. Likewise, if the value of the rental home appreciates, that value is separate property unless the other spouse contributed to increasing its value, say through home renovations or remodeling. Any contributions would have to be substantial for the court to consider the property marital instead of separate property.

By comparison, marital property is all property titled in both spouse’s names, income earned by each spouse, pensions, profit-sharing, deferred compensation and retirement plans acquired during marriage. Virginia Beach asset division lawyers work with clients to characterize separate and marital property and establish their property values during divorce.

Darrell M. Harding has helped clients deal with asset division for more than 20 years.

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