Going through a divorce can be a time of uncertainty, and you probably have many questions about the process. While there are many issues that arise during a divorce, one of the main concerns you might have is how your property is going to be divided. You may be wondering what is going to happen to the marital home, bank accounts, retirement accounts and pensions, personal property, and debts. How will the court divide everything?
These questions are only compounded when one of the parties has received an inheritance. What about that money your grandparents left for you in their will when they passed away years ago? Or how about the summer vacation home that has been in your spouse’s family for years? Is a person entitled to part of their spouse’s inheritance, even though it was meant as a gift … Read More »
The financial consequences of divorce may have lasting effects on a party’s monetary stability for years following the conclusion of the case. Virginia is an equitable distribution jurisdiction, meaning that in any divorce proceeding, the circuit court has the authority to classify the property of the parties as separate, marital or hybrid. The court then uses this designation when distributing the debts and property of the parties. Pursuant to Virginia’s equitable distribution statute, Virginia Code § 20-107.3, the court must consider all debts and property belonging to the parties, which includes all real, personal, tangible and intangible property.
While Virginia’s equitable distribution statute is intended to create a fair system for the division of property and debt, it may have unintended results for parties involved in a divorce who either entered the marriage with student loan debt or acquired student loan debt … Read More »
In Virginia, a spouse who spends or disposes of marital property for an improper purpose (a) anticipating a separation or divorce or (b) after the final separation of the parties may have committed “marital waste.” The court has the authority to consider such behavior in making an equitable distribution award.
Marital waste (or “dissipation of assets”) typically occurs when one party transfers funds out of a marital account or otherwise misuses marital funds after the marriage begins deteriorating. The aggrieved spouse must only show that the funds were withdrawn or used by the other spouse. The burden of proof then shifts to the alleged wrongdoer to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the funds were spent on a proper purpose. It should be noted that Virginia courts have held that spending money on living expenses post-separation does not usually constitute … Read More »
Due to modern medicine and a societal focus on healthier lifestyles, people are living longer than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the average life expectancy in the United States for men is now 76.4 years, and 81.2 years for women. It makes sense then that Americans over the age of fifty are headed toward divorce at an unprecedented rate. Sociologists at Bowling Green State University found that one-quarter of all divorces in America involve spouses over the age of fifty—the “gray divorce”—a rate which has doubled since 1990. One in ten divorces now are between spouses over the age of sixty-five.
In addition to the fact that people are simply living longer, we can speculate on other reasons why individuals over the age of fifty are seeking divorces at such … Read More »
With the rising costs of college education, many families are establishing college savings accounts for their children. While this is certainly a good and well-thought out plan for the future, it is unlikely that parents ever consider this question: What happens to the college savings accounts upon a divorce?
College savings accounts, including Virginia 529 plans, are usually titled in names of one or both parents, who are technically the “owner” or “owners” of such accounts. The child is then listed as the beneficiary on the account. Depending on the type of account and the plan’s rules and regulations, a child will have a certain number of years to use money from the college savings account for their educational pursuits.
In a Virginia divorce which involves the division of assets and liabilities, Virginia Code Section 20-107.3 mandates that the court must classify … Read More »
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.
The article Equitable Distribution: Using Separate Property For A Marital Loan explains 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 important issues when stock and investment accounts … 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 »