Today’s Roanoke Times contained a wire report on some proposed legislation in California. Apparently a woman had attempted to hire someone to kill her husband and was actually convicted of solicitation of murder. Even so, according to California law, she is to receive one-half of the couple’s property. The proposed legislation is meant to close that loophole.
Unlike Virginia, California is a community property state which means that in most instances a couple’s property is divided 50-50 upon divorce, regardless of what contributions either one of them made to the marriage or to the attainment of marital assets. In Virginia, when a couple does not have a valid agreement on the division of property upon divorce, a Circuit Court Judge decides how to divide the assets through a process called equitable distribution. The Judge has a great deal of discretion in dividing the marital assets but must consider the factors listed in Virginia Code §20-107.3. The eleventh and last factor listed is “such other factors as the court deems necessary or appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable monetary award.” Attempting to kill your spouse should count as a factor to consider as well as a factor contributing to the dissolution of the marriage, which is factor number five. It is hard to imagine a Virginia judge reaching the result that California courts are required to reach in a similar case.
It occurred to me that lawyers may need to put language in the prenuptial agreements we prepare for our clients that would forfeit a spouse’s right to receive marital property if the spouse conspires to kill his or her wife or husband. The engaged couples I have known would object to having any mention of what would happen if one of them tried to have the other killed put into an agreement.