Many times when it becomes obvious that a marriage is heading towards failure, the question arises whether it would be best to seek an annulment or a divorce. To answer that question, one must first understand how annulment differs from divorce, and the different remedies a court may award upon a divorce vs. upon an annulment.
Many people confuse the legal annulment with a religious annulment. A legal annulment is a determination by the court that the marriage never existed. It can only be granted in a limited number of circumstances that are very rare.
A very small number of marriages may be annulled because they were void ab initio—meaning they were never valid marriages. Those marriages include bigamous and polygamous marriages, incestuous marriages, and underage marriages. See Virginia Code Section 20-38.1. These “void” marriages are deemed to have never legally existed, … Read More »
Determining how to handle a business asset is one of the most complicated issues in many divorce cases. Under Virginia divorce law, circuit courts are given the responsibility of fairly dividing the value of any marital property of the parties. Marital property includes any property acquired by either party during the marriage, regardless of how it is titled. Sometimes the parties own and work in a business together, in which case the value of the business is less important than how the business will evolve into the new situation where the owners are no longer married. More often than not, however, one spouse has an ownership interest in a business while the other does not, in which case the value of the ownership interest becomes increasingly important.
So How Do Virginia Courts Value a Business in Divorce?
The Supreme Court of Virginia … Read More »
In Virginia divorce actions, one of the first questions parties often ask is “who is going to get to keep what?”
Virginia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court has the authority in any divorce to classify the property of the parties as separate, marital or hybrid. This classification is vitally important, because the court only has the power to divide marital and hybrid property—not any separate property.
In Equitable Distribution: Using Separate Property For A Marital Loan, Livesay & Myers, P.C. associate Danielle Snead explained the Virginia Court of Appeals decision rendered in Layman v. Layman and the impact on property classification when a party uses separate property throughout a marriage.
The Court of Appeals in David v. David, Va. App., Record No. 0653-12-2 (2015) recently highlighted another potential pitfall on the road to proving separate property is actually separate. The David case illustrates … Read More »
Appeals Filed By Both Sides
Previously on this Blog, Livesay & Myers, P.C. senior associate Matthew Smith explained the decision rendered in the divorce action between Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm and his now-ex-wife, Sue Ann Arnall. This case was, and is, noteworthy because the decision awarded Ms. Hamm almost one billion dollars ($955,481,842, to be precise) for her share of the marital estate. If the trial court’s decision stands, this will be one of the largest divorce settlements of all time. The highest recorded settlement to date was for the divorce of Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev ($4.5 billion dollars).
However, at present both parties to this proceeding have filed appeals to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. Oklahoma, like Virginia, is an equitable distribution jurisdiction, where the court determines the extent of the marital property, excludes certain assets as the separate … Read More »
One of the largest divorce judgments in United States history was rendered this week, when Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion to his ex-wife.
After a nine-week divorce trial that ended last month, Oklahoma Judge Howard Haralson ruled, in an 80-page decision, that Sue Ann Hamm should receive a total of $995.5 million, among other significant assets.
And it would seem that Mr. Hamm got off lightly. The marital estate was estimated to be worth at least $18 billion, largely tied up in Continental shares, and Ms. Hamm sought a much larger sum than what she was awarded.
Mr. Hamm controls 68% of the oil company’s stock, and the ruling does not require him to part with those shares. Still, Ms. Hamm will shortly become one of the 100 wealthiest women in the U.S.
Judge Haralson … Read More »
When parties file a complaint for divorce, they often ask the court to determine a myriad of issues: spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation, and the division of property. In Virginia, courts will decide how to divide the parties’ property through a process called “equitable distribution.”
The first step in equitable distribution is to classify all property as separate, marital, or hybrid. Generally, marital property is any property that is acquired during the marriage, whereas separate property is any property that was acquired by a party (a) before the marriage, (b) after the parties separated or (c) during the marriage from an inheritance, gift from a third party, or other source outside the marriage. Hybrid property is a mixture of the two: it is separate property that has been commingled with marital property, making it part marital and part separate. … Read More »
It is a common story. You get married. You and your new husband or wife buy a beautiful new home. Everything is grand.
But then everything, gradually, over time, becomes… less grand, downright miserable, in fact. You separate. You contemplate divorce. You visit an attorney.
The question arises: what happens to the money that you (or your spouse) used to make the down payment? What happens to that money when you divorce?
There is a general rule that applies to this scenario under Virginia law. Just as background, real estate, when purchased during the marriage, is, by default under Virginia law, marital property regardless of how the real estate is titled. That is, the real estate can be titled in both of your names or solely or in the name of one party. It makes no difference to the question of whether or … Read More »
If you are involved in a contested divorce in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the court will eventually set a date for an equitable distribution trial. At that trial, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to present proposals to the court for distribution of the marital property and debts. Occasionally, one party in an equitable distribution hearing will allege that the other has misused or deliberately disposed of marital property to purposefully deprive the other party of his or her share. This behavior is commonly known as “marital waste” or “dissipation of assets,” and the court has authority to consider such behavior in making an equitable distribution award.
But how does the court know when marital waste was purposeful? The general rule in Virginia, stated in Booth v. Booth, 7 Va. App. 22, 371 S.E.2d 569 (1988), is that “waste may be … Read More »
NFL star and 2006 first overall draft pick Mario Williams has filed suit against his former fiancée seeking recovery of the 10.04 carat diamond engagement ring he gave her in February 2012. Williams claims that his ex, Erin Marzouki, never intended to marry him, and that she had promised to return the ring if the engagement ended. The two-time Pro Bowler brings this claim under the “conditional gift rule”—the idea that a gift is not truly given until something else happens.
The thinking here is that the engagement ring is given “on the condition” that the marriage occurs. If the parties marry, the gift is completed and the ring becomes the receiver’s separate property. If the parties don’t marry, at least in Texas, the court would look at the reasons why the marriage didn’t happen. In Virginia, however, the court is … Read More »
Virginia is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court has the authority in your divorce suit to classify the property of the parties as separate, marital or hybrid, to distribute any jointly owned marital property between the parties, and to grant a monetary award to either party to ensure that the division of marital property is fair and equitable.
The law of equitable distribution is complex, and not every detail will be addressed in this blog post. The purpose of this post is instead to set forth a few simple principles to help you determine what property will be off-limits to your spouse in your divorce case. In other words, what do you get to keep? What is your sole, separate property not subject to equitable distribution?
Generally speaking, the following kinds of property will be classified as separate in Virginia:
Property … Read More »