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In Virginia, in the event of a divorce, courts follow the equitable distribution method of dividing property. Under equitable distribution, courts will divide property “equitably,” or fairly, between spouses, but not necessarily evenly. The property division process can be complex and have significant financial consequences, especially if a couple has high net worth.

Marital vs. Separate Property

In Virginia, a couple’s property upon divorce is classified as marital, separate, or part marital and part separate. Marital property is jointly-owned property and other property (other than separate property) obtained from the date of marriage through separation. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution during a divorce proceeding. Separate property is all property acquired by one spouse prior to marriage and property obtained during marriage by inheritance or gift (other than a gift by a spouse). Gifts from one spouse to another are marital property.

If an asset is part marital and part separate property, special classification rules apply to determine which portion of the asset is marital and which is separate. Only the marital portion of mixed assets are subject to equitable distribution. Courts will also classify and divide any marital debt the same way as marital property.

Video – Real Estate Considerations When Preparing for Divorce

Factors Considered

When dividing assets during a divorce, many factors are considered, including:

  • The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  • The contributions of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
  • The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage;
  • How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired;
  • The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
  • The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property;
  • The tax consequences to each party; and
  • The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds in anticipation of divorce or separation;

Non-monetary contributions, as mentioned above, include homemaking, child-care services, and other unpaid work. Courts can also consider other factors deemed appropriate to reach an equitable distribution. It’s important to note that “equitable distribution” does not necessarily mean equal. Courts aim to reach a fair division, but not necessarily an equal one.

Retirement Accounts

Often, retirement accounts, such as pensions, will be part separate and part marital. The marital share of a pension is the portion earned during the marriage and before separation. Any portion earned before marriage or after separation is separate property. The court can award a percentage of the marital share of any pension or individual retirement account, whether vested or nonvested, which constitutes marital property to the non-employee spouse. Under Virginia law, a court can’t award more than 50% of the marital share to the non-employee spouse. Division of military retirement assets subject to special rules.

If the employee spouse is already receiving pension payments, the payments to the non-employee spouse generally begin upon divorce. However, the court can also order direct payment of the awarded percentage of the marital share by direct assignment to a spouse from the employer trustee, plan administrator or other holder of the benefits, as the benefits become payable. This means that if the employee spouse is still working and not yet receiving retirement benefits, there will be no payment of retirement assets at the time of divorce. Instead, the court order will be sent to the retirement plan administrator and when the employee spouse retires, the plan administrator will send the relevant shares to each respective spouse.

Property Settlement Agreements

Upon a divorce, spouses can enter into a property settlement agreement setting out the terms of their separation, including the rights, interests, and obligations of the spouses after the divorce. The agreement will typically establish what assets the parties classified as marital or separate and which spouse will receive which assets, or a portion thereof, after the divorce. The agreement should also address how the marital debts will be divided amongst the spouses.

Property Settlement Agreements also usually include important terms related to the divorce, such as the date of separation, tax matters, and a clause indicating a no-fault divorce, which prohibits either spouse from filing for divorce on fault grounds. Additionally, property settlement agreements can cover issues that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over, such as private school and college education expenses.

In addition to property issues, settlement agreements also establish the parties’ agreement on other important divorce related issues, such as custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. However, it’s important to note that even if an agreement established child support, custody, and visitation matters, the agreement must be found to be in the best interests of the child and approved by a judge.

Property settlement agreements are also required for couples wishing to file for an uncontested divorce or to shorten the required separation period before divorce from 1 year to 6 months.

Family law attorneys at General Counsel, P.C. are experienced in all aspects of property division, including negotiation and drafting of property settlement agreements. Call us today so we can help you protect your interests.

Video – Real Estate Considerations When Preparing for Divorce

What Other Clients Have Said About Our Family Law Practice

Honest lawyer who keeps it real!

When you first meet with Joanna it is like you are talking to an old friend. She is very knowledgeable along with being empathetic to your situation. Don’t let that fool you though, as soon as the time is right the boxing gloves come on and she is prepared and ready to fight.


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Joanna was an absolute angel! Professional, knowledgeable, compassionate and patient. She listened to gain understanding of my concerns. She outlined a plan in a clear and concise manner. She achieved the best case outcome for my difficult situation. Very pleased with the results, and have no reservations about recommending her to anyone in a challenging situation that needs resolving by a sharp, clear-thinking pro.


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We won !!!

Joanna represented me in a domestic violence stalking injunction case in which I was wrongly accused of stalking. She was thoroughly prepared for the hearing, and made sure to answer all of my questions before the hearing occurred so that I knew exactly what to expect, and what questions I would be asked. It is really unnerving to be accused of something that you did not do, and I am so grateful to Joanna for easing my fears and helping get the injunction dismissed! I would definitely recommend her to my family and friends, or anyone who needs an aggressive attorney that truly listens to your concerns and is totally on their side. I can’t thank you enough or recommend you enough, Joanna!


Divorce completed in 8 weeks

Joanna was attentive to every detail of my case. She was available for my questions and returned my calls and emails promptly. Joanna’s attention to detail and compassionate heart made me know I was not just another file in her case-load. She is a compassionate attorney who goes above and beyond to make sure her clients feel cared for and know that she is taking care of them. She prepared me for court by running me through all the questions that would be asked, so I never felt off guard. Joanna made a very difficult situation as smooth and painless as possible.



Ms Johana Foard and her colleagues took over my Divorce case that had been lingering for over 2 years with no hope in sight!!! My other attorney took advantage of me being out of State, after thousands of dollars! Within 3 weeks Johana and her staff closed out my divorce even after opposing counsel was dragging her feet and not sending in the signed agreement that my ex- wife and I had agreed on. Johana took it upon herself to make sure it happened! I would definitely recommend Johana and staff! Thanks Johana!!!


Professional, Passionate, Proficient and very Pleasant to work with!

Joanna assisted with navigating a difficult divorce agreement when emotions were running high. My original lawyer failed to move proceedings along at an appropriate pace, and I hired Joanna to pick up from where he left off, and from Day 1 Joanna was on the ball, holding the opposing party accountable for their actions, and ensuring a timely and suitable resolution to our case.

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I consulted with Joanna regarding a dispute over some intricacies of a contract. She instantly understood my case and was wonderful at quickly explaining what breaches had occurred and what options I had moving forward. When I didn’t understand a finer point, she was happy to explain it until I did. Speaking with Joanna is a pleasure and I cannot recommend her highly enough for her kind and straightforward professionalism.


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After consulting with a few attorneys, I hired Joanna to work my case because she made me feel at ease. I couldn’t believe how responsive she was to every question and concern I had. She often proactively followed up just to see how I was doing if she hadn’t heard from me in a few days. She is thorough, informative, and personable. Just what I needed while going through one of the most difficult times of my life.


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I hired Joanna after a long drawn out battle of a divorce. Once I finished my divorce I went to Joanna with the intention of getting my child to my planned home with my new husband. Fast forward just a few months and we are now married and happily residing in Hawaii. Throughout the process Joanna was always honest, to the point, and efficient in what she expected of the courts and how my situation looked. I would recommend her to anyone looking for someone who can get results and be forthright in what you can expect.


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A Genuine People Person who Happens to Practice Law

Joanna was by far the kindest and most considerate attorney I have hired. From our first encounter through the conclusion of our case, my wife and I had no doubt that our best interest was at the forefront of her mind. She and her team worked efficiently to make the best use of the fees we paid. Joanna also expertly explained Latin-based legal terminology to us in plain English, so that we knew exactly what was going on. The case was resolved to our satisfaction and I highly recommend her services. I will not hesitate to pick up the phone and contact Joanna again, should the need arise.


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Joanna Caccioppoli is a consummate professional, and more. She was extremely helpful throughout my divorce; not only with the outstanding legal advice she provides, but with empathy. Should you contact her, she is quick to get back to you. She works hard to get you what you deserve. She pulled my losing battle into an utter victory. I could not be more thankful to have had her in my corner.


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Joanna Foard has been my family law attorney for the past several months, and I have felt so supported and attended to. She spent so much time with me on our initial consultation, and put me at ease and felt like a friend. My case has been very challenging and there has been so much uncertainty. I felt a relief just having her represent me. She got right to work without missing a beat and truly took my financial concerns into account. She has been honest and straightforward. She has not only been incredibly responsive, but she has shown she truly cares about my situation and wants to help bring resolve and peace. She responds to emails quickly, and if I call unexpectedly, she has either taken the call or returned the call in a timely manner. She is kind and supportive. She even sent a heartfelt sympathy card when I lost my grandmother. I don’t know any attorney who would take the time to do that. She is thorough and thinks out of the box. She is clear and concise, but that’s not to say she won’t take the time needed to ensure my questions are answered. Although she is not able to see my case through to the end due to her out-of-state move, she has never dropped the ball, and has only treated me with respect and consideration. I recommend her without reservation.