- Report Published -
|Equitable Distribution Of Property in Divorce Proceedings|
|Virginia State Bar; Family Law Section|
|HJR 57 (1990)|
|Virginia's equitable distribution statute was enacted on July 1, 1982. Since that date, the courts have faced many issues not considered by the General Assembly when the statute was initially enacted, and they have resolved those issues to the best of their ability. After eight years of successful operation, however, the case law under the statute is unavoidably somewhat complex. This complexity has created a need for a comprehensive review and clarification of Virginia law on the classification, valuation, and allocation of marital property. House Joint Resolution No. 57 requested the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar to conduct such a review and to report its findings back to the General Assembly.|
This review serves two important public interests. First, while the courts have made equitable distribution law as fair as possible, they have been limited by their role as statutory interpreters rather than statutory draftsmen. Legislative review permits a more complete response to any problems caused by the complexity of the statute. Second, when courts and attorneys can predict the likely result of the equitable distribution process, the basic fairness of our property division system is more apparent to the citizens of our state. Increased predictability also encourages settlements and discourages extended trials, thus reducing the volume of litigation in our courts.
Lawrence D. Diehl, a member of the Board of Governors of the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar and its legislative chairman, was selected chairman of the study committee. The additional members included current members of the Board of Governors of the Family Law Section, (James R. Cottrell, Richard E. Crouch, Ronald S. Evans, Frank W. Morrison and Ronald R. Tweel), as well as representatives of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (Betty A. Thompson) and the Virginia Women's Attorneys Association (Carol B. Gravitt). Delegate Gladys B. Keating, patron of the resolution, also served on the committee. Brett R. Turner, a Senior Attorney for the National Legal Research Group, Inc., and author of the 1990 Supplement to the nationally recognized treatise, Golden, Equitable Distribution of Property, also served on the committee.
Meetings of the committee were held on June 13, 1990, September 12, 1990 and October 4, 1990. Subcommittees were formed for intensive research on specific issues, and voluminous memorandums and interchange of legal research, drafts of proposed legislation, and policy arguments on the issues were exchanged between committee members.
In order to maximize the input on some of the key issues to be studied by the committee, a survey was prepared and sent to all members of the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar, all Circuit Court and Experimental Family Court judges, members of the Virginia Women's Attorneys Association and members of the Family Law Section of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. (See Survey Appendix B) The results of the survey are shown in Appendix C.