According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia saw 29,465 divorces in 2013. When divorce happens, dividing assets such as motor vehicles can become complicated, which is why hiring a lawyer can be helpful. How motor vehicles are divided in Virginia divorces depends on fair market value, categorization of property, and how much each spouse contributed to the purchase and maintenance of the vehicle.
How Virginia Evaluates Assets
During a divorce, Virginia courts use an equitable distribution system; however, that doesn’t mean they will divide property equally. Instead, certain factors help a judge decide what each person should receive in distribution and how they contributed to a certain asset or piece of property during or before the marriage. Virginia divides property into three categories: separate, marital, or hybrid, so the courts consider the following factors to assist with equitable, but not always equal, division of assets such as motor vehicles:
- Spousal contributions, either in the form of wealth or not, to the well-being of the family
- Monetary and non-monetary care and maintenance of property
- Duration of the marriage
- Mental and physical health of each spouse
- Why the marriage is ending
- How and when certain items were acquired and entered into the marriage
- The debts and liabilities of each spouse
- The value of all marital property
- Tax consequences for dividing a certain piece of property
- How property was used during the marriage
Dividing Vehicles in a Virginia Divorce
Because Virginia operates under the rule of equitable distribution, it’s important to understand how the state classifies property before dividing it. Which spouse gets the cars, trucks, boats, or other motor vehicles depends mainly on if the items are:
- Marital property. Virginia defines marital property as any asset acquired with shared wealth or property that became a shared asset due to equal contributions to the maintenance and repairs of the property. In the case of a vehicle, if both spouses signed a loan and purchased a car together with shared money, a judge might consider this marital property.
- Separate property. If one spouse owned a vehicle when he entered into the marriage, and he used his own money for repairs and maintenance, the courts would most likely rule that the car is his property. The court may view this as totally separate from the marital assets and exempt from division.
- Hybrid property. Perhaps a spouse purchased a vehicle before the start of a marriage. However, over time, his wife periodically made payments on the auto loan or contributed money or labor to the maintenance and repair of the vehicle. Because both spouses contributed to the functionality of the car and the expense of the car itself, the court might rule this as hybrid property.
Determining the Value of Vehicles
If the judge rules that a vehicle is either marital or hybrid property, you will need to prove the value of the car, truck, or boat. You can do this by gathering paperwork to serve as evidence of its value and your personal contributions—and to ensure that each party is receiving a fair amount in the process of dividing of assets. Important factors in determining the value of motor vehicles include:
- Fair market value (FMV). To determine the actual monetary value of a vehicle, you might visit a popular valuation site like Kelly Blue Book (KBB)—an online inventory of vehicles that keeps up-to-date prices and values of cars, trucks, motorcycles, or boats like yours.
- Contributions to the vehicle. If one spouse was responsible for the majority of the purchase of the vehicle, as well as the monetary contributions to its upkeep and thereby its preserved monetary worth, she might receive a larger portion of the value of the vehicle—either paid to her after its sale or by payment from the other spouse.
Our Attorneys Can Help
If you have questions about how to divide your vehicles during a divorce, we can help. The team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi provides quality legal help and answers during the asset division process. If you’re ready to get started on your case, contact us by filling out our online form.