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Equitable Distribution Cases – Virginia Lawyers

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Equitable Distribution Cases In Virginia

We will do our absolute best to help you get the best result possible based on the facts of your case.

Equitable Distribution Virginia Laws Child Custody

Equitable Distribution Virginia Laws Child Custody

Fox v. Fox

Facts:

Husband and wife were married on January 10, 2000 and separated on August 17, 2009. Wife filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of the City of Suffolk on September 24, 2009. Husband then filed an answer and crossbill. Both parties requested equitable distribution in their pleadings. The trial court conducted a hearing on March 22, 2011 and requested both parties file proffers. After reviewing the post-trial proffers, the trial court issued an opinion letter dated July 28, 2011. Husband, by letter, advised the trial court of his objections and asked that the court reconsider certain issues. The court held a second hearing on December 6, 2011 and entered an amended final decree on March 27, 2012. Appellant former husband sought review of the orders of the Circuit Court of the City of Suffolk, Virginia, regarding equitable division and the award of spousal support to appellee former wife for 10 years. Both parties sought an award of appellate attorney’s fees.

Issue:

  1. Whether, pursuant to Code § 20-107.3, the trial court must include property that has no value in its equitable distribution analysis?
  2. Whether the trial court erred in awarding any spousal support to wife, who he claims was guilty of committing adultery?
  3. Whether the trial court erred in failing to consider appellee’s monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage in awarding spousal support?
  4. Whether the trial court erred in determining the amount and duration of the spousal support award?

Discussions:

Equitable distribution of marital residences

The parties jointly owned two parcels of real estate, one in Suffolk, Virginia and one in Florida. Both parties agreed there is negative equity in each property. The rent realized from those properties is insufficient to pay the monthly mortgage payments. Husband testified he does not want to sell those properties because of the negative equity. He is willing to continue the mortgage payments but wants wife to equally share the shortfall. In her post-trial proffer, wife suggested husband could either keep both properties if he refinances them, or the parties can sell them and equally divide any deficiencies. There was no agreement as to the disposition of these properties.

There are three basic steps that a trial judge must follow in making equitable distribution of property. “The court first must classify the property as either separate, marital, or part separate and part marital property. The court then must assign a value to the property based upon evidence presented by both parties. Finally, the court distributes the property to the parties, taking into consideration the factors presented in Code § 20-107.3(E).” Marion v. Marion, 11 Va. App. 659, 665, 401 S.E.2d 432, 436, 7 Va. Law Rep. 1564 (1991)

Code § 20-107.3(C) provides in part that the trial court’s options of how to divide or transfer jointly owned marital property. The court may transfer or order the transfer of property to one of the parties, permit one party to purchase the other party’s interest and direct the allocation of the proceeds, or order the sale by private or public sale. Code § 20-107.3(E) lists eleven factors to be considered in making an equitable distribution award. Specifically, paragraph 7 requires the court to consider “[t]he 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”.

In Hodges v. Hodges, 2 Va. App. 508, 347 S.E.2d 134, 3 Va. Law Rep. 54 (1986) it was held that the marital property had no equity in excess of indebtedness. We held the trial court erred in entering a monetary award, including “where the marital property is encumbered with indebtedness which equals or exceeds its value, then for purposes of a monetary award it is essentially of no value. Without value, there is no basis for a monetary award.” Although Hodges involved a monetary award and not a division of jointly held property, it instructs us that an asset with no value, or negative value, is not subject to equitable distribution.
The determination of this issue depends on the resolution of whether the trial court abused its discretion by not distributing the two parcels of real estate in equitable distribution. If the trial court had that authority, no bifurcation took place. Since we hold that the trial court did not err in refusing to divide the two parcels, there was no bifurcation.

Award of spousal support

Appellant claims that wife’s negative monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, as contemplated by Code § 20-107.1(E), bar her from receiving any spousal support. Had the trial court properly considered the factors in Code § 20-107.1(E), reasons appellant, the court would have found wife was not entitled to receive support. Appellant never argued to the trial court that wife should be barred from receiving any spousal support. In his written objections to the amended final decree, husband “objected to the award of spousal support in light of wife’s adultery and negative monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage.”

Rule 5A:18 require that objections to a trial court’s action or ruling be made with specificity in order to preserve an issue for appeal. A trial court must be alerted to the precise issue to which a party objects. The purpose of the rule is to ensure that any perceived error by the trial court is “promptly brought to the attention of the trial court with sufficient specificity that the alleged error can be dealt with and timely addressed and corrected when necessary, Errors can usually be corrected in the trial court, particularly in a bench trial, without the necessity of appeal.”

In his letter of reconsideration, husband asked the court to reconsider the duration of the term of support, not that any support be terminated altogether. Thus, despite having had the opportunity to do so, husband did not alert the trial court to his claim that the court erred in failing to properly consider the statutory factors and in making an awarding of spousal support. Therefore, the trial court was not timely advised of the alleged error and had no opportunity to consider, address, or corrects it. We will not consider this assignment of error on appeal.
Failure to consider negative monetary and non-monetary contributions

Rule 5A:20(c) requires us to hold that this issue is waived because it is not part of appellant’s assignment of error. It is because an appellant did not include an argument in his questions presented, the Court would not address this issue on appeal. Declining to consider an issue on appeal because it was not “expressly stated” in the questions presented. The only issue raised in husband’s assignment of error is that the trial court never considered wife’s negative monetary and non-monetary contributions. Because appellant did not include the issue of properly applying negative monetary and non-monetary contributions in his assignments of error, he cannot now argue this issue on appeal.

Some of the courts we cover in Virginia:
Fairfax Circuit Court Richmond Circuit Court
4110 Chain Bridge Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
400 North Ninth Street
John Marshall Courts Building
Richmond, VA 23219
Fairfax General District Court Richmond General District Court
4110 Chain Bridge Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
920 Hull Street, Northside
Richmond, VA 23224-4070
Fairfax Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court Richmond Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court
4110 Chain Bridge Road
Fairfax, VA 22030-4020
Oliver Hill Courts Building
1600 Oliver Hill WaySuite C181
Richmond, VA 23219-1214
Prince William Circuit Court Loudoun Circuit Court
9311 Lee Avenue
Manassas, VA 20110
P. O. Box 55018 E. Market St., 3rd floor
Leesburg, VA 20178
Prince William General District Court Loudoun General District Court
9311 Lee Avenue
Manassas, VA 20110-5586
18 East Market Street
Leesburg, VA 20176
Prince William Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court Loudoun Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court
9311 Lee Avenue
Manassas, VA 20110-5555
18 East Market Street
Leesburg, VA 20176
Virginia Beach Circuit Court
2425 Nimmo Parkway
Building 10, 4th Floor
Virginia Beach, VA 23456-9017
Virginia Beach General District Court
2425 Nimmo Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23456-9057
Virginia Beach Juvenile & Domestic Relations District
Court
2425 Nimmo Parkway, Building 10
Judicial Complex 10 AMunicipal Center
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Amount and duration of support

In reviewing a spousal support award, we are mindful that the trial court has broad discretion in awarding and fixing the amount of spousal support. Accordingly, our review is limited to determining whether the trial court clearly abused its discretion. In exercising its discretion, the trial court must consider all the factors enumerated in Code § 20-107.1(E) when fashioning its award, but it is not “required to quantify or elaborate exactly what weight or consideration it has given to each of the statutory factors.” The trial court’s findings “must have some foundation based on the evidence presented.” Where that evidentiary foundation exists and the record discloses that the trial court has given consideration to each of the statutory factors, we will not disturb its determination as to spousal support on appeal. There is sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s award for a specific duration.

Judgment:

The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded to the trial court to award the wife partial appellate attorney’s fees.

We have client meeting locations in Fairfax Richmond Virginia Beach Loudoun Prince William Fredericksburg & Lynchburg.

Equitable Distribution Cases In Virginia

We will do our absolute best to help you get the best result possible based on the facts of your case.

We also cover the following courts in Virginia:
Herndon General District Court
765 Lynn Street,
Herndon, VA 20170
Vienna General District Court
127 South Center Street,
Vienna, VA 22180
Falls Church General District Court
300 Park Avenue, Room 107E
Falls Church, VA 22046-3350

Article written by A Sris
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Disclaimer:

These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.