In Equitable Distribution, the legal process through which we divide the assets and liabilities of a marriage between the parties, the court doesn’t automatically assume a 50/50 split. This is different than states that follow a Community Property model of division.
In equitable distribution (or ED, as we sometimes call it), it’s almost like the court starts at a 0/0 split, and then analyzes the factors in the marriage to determine how assets and liabilities will ultimately be divided. It often still winds up very close to 50/50, but it’s not a given.
When it comes to equitable distribution, the relevant Virginia Code Section (abbreviated as §) is 20-107.3, which provides 11 factors for determining how the parties’ property should be divided. They are as follows:
1. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
2. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of such marital property of the parties;
3. The duration of the marriage;
4. The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
5. The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, specifically including any ground for divorce under the provisions of subdivision A (1), (3) or (6) of § 20-91 or § 20-95;
6. How and when specific items of such marital property were acquired;
7. 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;
8. The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property;
9. The tax consequences to each party;
10. The use or expenditure of marital property by either of the parties for a nonmarital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
11. Such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.
You’ll see that both factors 1 and 2 involve monetary and nonmonetary contributions of the parties, which can be separated further into the categories of ‘positive monetary,’ ‘positive non monetary,’ ‘negative monetary,’ and ‘negative non monetary’ contributions to the marriage. But what on earth does that mean? It’s a good question, and one worth exploring, especially because the ‘positive’ contributions are often areas where wives shine.
I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but, stereotypical or not, the reality is that, in many households, the wife does the lion’s share of the work. Despite more egalitarian attitudes being present among both millennials and generation Z’ers, well, women still run the world, to paraphrase Beyonce.
Positive Monetary and Non Monetary Contributions to the Marriage
A positive monetary contribution is something positive that you do for the family that generates income. Working a job is the most obvious example of a positive monetary contribution.
A positive non monetary contribution, though, is anything positive that you do to support the family that doesn’t generate income. A positive non monetary contribution would be cooking meals, grocery shopping, doing laundry, cleaning the home, bathing and feeding the children, packing lunches, scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments, taking care of the pets, doing dishes, vacuuming, gardening, etc. It’s not necessarily just doing chores around the home – though that is definitely a big part of it, in many cases – it’s the stuff you do outside the home, like driving carpools, attending parent/teacher conferences, planning and scheduling extracurricular activities, attending work events or hosting dinners, etc. It’s all the things that you do to support your family, your partner, your children, and your pets within the home and outside of it. They’re all positive things that contribute to the well being of your marriage.
Negative Monetary and Non Monetary Contributions to the Marriage
Negative monetary contributions, on the other hand, are the things that you do that cost you money. Wining and dining a mistress, for example, would be a negative monetary contribution. So, too, would a gambling addiction, or a drug or alcohol addiction, because it costs money and has a negative impact on the overall health and success of your marriage.
A negative non monetary contribution is one that doesn’t necessarily cost you money, but doesn’t aid in the health of your marriage. An affair would be a good example; it doesn’t necessarily only have to cost you in money (the wining and dining may not be the chief issue here, after all) for it to be a negative point for the marriage overall.
How do negative and positive monetary and non monetary contributions to the marriage matter?
We look at what each partner has contributed to the marriage – both in terms of the money they earn (or spend) and the enrichment that they bring (or take away) – when we consider how the assets and liabilities will be divided between the two.
In many respects, a wife who doesn’t work outside of the home stands on equal footing with her husband because of these factors. It’s not, after all, just about what you earn in terms of money; it’s about the goodwill that you bring to the marriage, and the non-monetary things that you do to help support the health and well being of the family. It quantifies some of women’s most generally un-quantifiable work; it helps us show where we shine within the walls of our own home, even if it doesn’t bring a paycheck.
These factors are what we use to support awards of spousal support and specific divisions of assets and liabilities between the partners. Especially where one partner is more ‘at fault’ than the other, we can use these negatives – both monetary and non monetary – to show the drain that one party placed on the marriage.
It may be important to outline the negative and positive monetary and non monetary contributions that you made to the marriage – or, by comparison – to look at your husband’s. Depending on what issues are involved in your case, it may be more important. You’ll definitely want to talk to your attorney about your options, what’s important, and what will help your case be as successful as possible.
For more information, to schedule a consultation, or to request a free copy of our divorce book for Virginia women, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.