Going through a divorce in West Virginia can be incredibly stressful, even when both spouses agree it’s the right time to split. One way to make the process easier is to opt for mediation over a divorce trial. During mediation, you and your spouse will attempt to handle marital property division in a way that’s fair to both of you.
If you’re wondering how assets, debts, child custody, and spousal support are divided in mediation, here’s what to know from a West Virginia divorce attorney.
Is the Property Separate or Marital?
During mediation, you must confirm whether the law considers your property separate or marital. Marital property includes any assets or debts accrued during the marriage. Separate property includes:
- Property acquired before you were married or after a legal separation
- Gifts or inheritances given to one spouse during the marriage
- Property acquired within a separate property
For instance, assume that a relative passed away and left you a lot of money in their will. Normally, money acquired during a marriage would be considered marital property. However, since your relative left that money specifically to you, the law considers it separate property.
However, it may be possible for separate property to become marital property. For instance, the law says you’ve commingled the property if you moved your inheritance into a bank account you share with your spouse. In this case, it would be subject to division between both spouses.
How West Virginia Law Influences Property Division
Before property division can begin, determine a value for all assets and debts acquired in the marriage. Once you’ve added up the numbers, you divide property equitably.
Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean “equally.” What it does mean is that you must split assets and debts in a way that’s fair to both parties.
For the court to accept the division you’ve agreed to, it must be reasonably equitable. If you can’t come to a reasonable agreement, the court will handle the division for you. It will consider:
- How much income and assets both spouses brought into the marriage. If one spouse earns a much higher income than the other, a judge may give the lower earner more assets to make the division fairer.
- Both spouses’ non-monetary contributions and actions that may have affected the other’s earning capacity. For instance, if you stayed home to raise children, that could affect asset division and child support calculations. To illustrate further, if one spouse personally handled home renovations, the judge would consider the value they added to the property.
- Whether the actions of one spouse depreciated or dissipated the value of property. For example, perhaps your spouse had a gambling habit and pulled thousands out of the marital bank account to fuel their addiction. The judge may allocate more assets to the affected spouse to compensate.
Do Extramarital Affairs Affect Asset Division?
This is a common question, but the answer is no. In the eyes of the law, it doesn’t matter whether you or your spouse cheated. Cheating is grounds for divorce in West Virginia, but both spouses are still entitled to their fair share of assets and debts.
Trusted Advice To Guide You Through Your West Virginia Divorce
If you’re facing divorce and prefer mediation to an acrimonious divorce trial, you could use the help of a West Virginia divorce attorney who understands equitable distribution in our state. Contact Arnold & Bailey at (304) 396-1501 for a free consultation on your case today.