The moment a spouse files for divorce is one often overwhelmed with mixed emotions, which can include grief at the end of a relationship combined with optimism for a better future. But whatever your emotions are, it is critically important for you to make sure that you are taking the steps to protect your assets before you or your spouse take actions which can significantly damage your financial picture after a divorce.
Understand the Concept of “Marital Property”
One of the most important steps to take before you do anything is to understand the concept of “marital property.” In Virginia, all property that is earned or purchased during the marriage is considered marital property, which is subject to a division between both spouses, regardless of which spouse actually earned or purchased the property.
Thus, even if one spouse earned a majority or all of the funds during a marriage, all financial assets and property that can be traced to those earnings are subject to a division between the two spouses in the divorce. Likewise, whether a piece of property is titled in only one spouse’s name (e.g. a car or bank account) will not necessarily dictate who receives that property in a divorce.
Make a List of Property Before You File
Based on the concept of division of marital property, some spouses are tempted to hide property in an attempt to avoid having it being subject to division with the other spouse. Tactics spouses might use include hiding them at workplaces or placing them with friends and relatives. However, regardless of where the assets are located, they are still subject to division by the court and, therefore, these tactics prove to be fruitless. Thus, it is important for you to make a full list of all marital property at the outset (including property held in other locations outside the home) so that your attorney can accurately advise you on how the court will likely divide the marital property.
Keep a Close Eye on Both Individual and Joint Accounts
Similarly, some spouses can be tempted to drain and/or transfer funds out of bank accounts and investment accounts either in an intentional move to hide assets or simply out of a lack of care for the other spouse and an understanding of how the property division laws work. Remember, funds in accounts held by either spouse individually or jointly can be considered marital property, and thus it is improper for one spouse to use those funds in a way that financially hurts the other spouse, so it is important to keep track of transactions in all accounts held by both spouses.
Talk to an Attorney Even if You Are Only Considering Divorce
To help accomplish all of the above, and to make sure that you are prepared for other issues that will arise in the divorce – including alimony, custody/visitation, and child support issues – you should speak with a family law attorney as early as possible when considering divorce. By doing so, you can gain a better sense of what your financial picture will look like after a divorce (and, remember, speaking with a family law attorney does not mean you need to follow through with filing for a divorce) and what further steps you can take to protect yourself throughout that process.
Schedule a Consultation With a Virginia Family Law Attorney Today
At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding property division, and help you work towards a favorable outcome in your family law matter. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC at 540.642.1766.