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Protecting Family Heirlooms in Divorce: What You Need to Know About Holding on to Sentimental Objects

Divorce is a devastating circumstance for all involved, no matter how amicable the divorcing couple is. While there are plenty of things to worry about, from finances to child custody, sometimes it’s the details that make things complicated and painful. One example of this might be family heirlooms. These precious and sentimental objects can be a point of contention and pain for many parting couples. The ownership of family heirlooms following divorce depends upon a few different factors.

How Was the Heirloom Acquired?

When it comes to the division of heirlooms, how it was initially acquired is a big deciding factor. If you were left an heirloom via a will or trust or it was gifted to you personally during your marriage, in most instances, these items are considered to be separate property and they will remain yours after the divorce. This includes financial gifts.

However, sometimes separate property can become marital property during the course of a marriage. These include money deposited into a joint savings account or a car that has been retitled to include the spouse’s name. These are circumstances that are more complicated and not so cut-and-dried during a divorce.

Defining Property Types in Virginia

In a Virginia divorce, there are three different types of property that can go before a judge—separate property, marital property, and mixed property, as follows:

Separate Property

All of this property must have been acquired by a spouse before the marriage, through an inheritance, or through proceeds of a sale of separate property.

Marital Property

This is when the property in question is titled with the names of both spouses and/or was acquired during the marriage. All retirement and pension accounts acquired during marriage also count as marital property.

Mixed Property

This is when a property is part separate and part marital. One example would be a large sum of money that is inherited but is then placed into a joint bank account.

Because of these three definitions of property under Virginia law, it is important to know which category the heirloom in question falls under, as it can determine whether or not you are eligible to retain it. A prenuptial agreement will also keep property separate. If the heirloom is specifically accounted for in the prenup, it shouldn’t be an issue and will go directly to the individual named.

When to Speak to a Lawyer

While dividing assets and heirlooms may seem very straightforward, there are many circumstances that can make it more complicated. One example of this is an inherited item that has become part of daily life, such as a family car. Since every divorce is unique, it is important to speak to a divorce attorney right from the start in order to protect your interests. Instead of asking when you should speak to a lawyer, you should know there’s rarely a reason not to.

Do You Need to Speak to a Virginia Divorce Attorney?

If you are considering divorce you need to speak with an experienced Virginia divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia and look forward to helping you.

Related Links:

  • Securing Favorable Terms in Your Property Settlement Agreement

  • Your Property Settlement Agreement Is a Key Document During Divorce

  • Addressing All Issues Related to Your High-Asset Divorce