Picking Your Jurisdiction Re: State Laws Dealing with Divorce
Being located in Northern Virginia exposes our firm to many clients located in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. Sometimes we find our clients in a position where they have a choice of filing for divorce in Maryland, the District of Columbia or Virginia. There are significant differences in the laws dealing with divorce, separation, custody, equitable distribution and support in between states.
One of the most significant differences is that in Virginia, marital assets, that is assets that are subject to division or valuation by the Court in a divorce proceeding, are determined as of the date of separation. Maryland courts take a significantly different approach to this issue. In Maryland, marital assets are determined as of the date of hearing. Divorces can oftentimes take up to two years to finalize; during that time period, assets may be acquired. For example, if a spouse has a closely held company that is formed after the date of separation but before the divorce, in Virginia that asset is not subject to division or valuation because it is considered a separate or non-marital asset. In Maryland, it is considered a marital asset and subject to division or valuation.
This is just one example of the differences in the divorce, equitable distribution and support laws between Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. There are also significant differences in the areas of child support, spousal support, etc.
Practicing in Northern Virginia requires our firm to stay on top of the various distinctions in the laws and to have access to excellent lawyers in Maryland and the District of Columbia, if necessary. Sometimes there is an opportunity to pick the jurisdiction and take advantage of a more favorable law for our client.