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How can the court settle disputes over jointly owned property?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Family Law

Property division in divorce can spark an extended and costly dispute with hard feelings and other complications. Of course, it is preferable to have the parties negotiate on their own and come to an amicable agreement. In many instances, that is unrealistic.

The court can intervene in a case where the sides have reached an impasse and issue orders on how to address these properties. Knowing how these issues are handled under the law is key for both sides.

What powers does the court have over jointly owned property?

For jointly titled property, the court can order that it be transferred from one person to the other. It can allow either party to purchase the interest in the property from the other and state how the proceeds will be allocated if the purchaser agrees to assume the debt. It can also order the public or private sale of the property.

An example could be a marital home. A frequent consideration with a residence is if there are minor children whose lives would be disrupted by a move. If it is financially feasible to do so, the custodial parent might want to retain the property and live there with the child. A jointly titled home could be kept by that parent, and steps could be taken so the other person is reasonably compensated for their share. This could be done by trading other property or as a financial transaction.

It is important to remember that the court is not allowed to order separately titled property, even if it is marital property, to be divided or transferred. The same is true for debt if it is not jointly titled. Factors that are considered when transferring jointly titled property include how each person contributed to its acquisition and upgrades; how each contributed to the family; how long they were married; their ages and conditions; why they are getting divorced; how the property was acquired; debts and liabilities; the liquidity of the property; and other factors the court deems appropriate.

Know the steps to reaching a fair resolution with property division

Under Virginia family law, property is divided based on equitable distribution, meaning that the court will strive for what it considers a fair result. That does not necessarily mean splitting in half. For those who have jointly titled property and are trying to find a solution to divide it, it is imperative to understand when and how the court can step in. To reach a positive result, being prepared for all eventualities is key.