As you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are entering the divorce process, you’ll be confronted with several major decisions. When it comes to dividing up property and assets, there are key factors to know before you begin. Washington is a community property state, meaning that any earnings or assets acquired over the course of your marriage equally belong to both partners, so it must be divided up in a fair manner when you go your separate ways. It’s worth it to take some time to familiarize yourself with how a Washington court will handle the division of property and assets so that you feel prepared and confident with what’s to come.
Time to Get Organized
Before you start determining who gets what, you’ll first need to make an inventory of all your marital assets. It can be helpful to create a spreadsheet or similar document that lists each item and its approximate value. For instance, listing assets such as the shared family home, your income, benefits, jewelry, and even credit card debt is essential to ensure that you both walk away from your marriage with a commensurate amount of assets. While this process may take some time to create and sort through, it is very useful to have all the numbers and information in one place when you begin your divorce negotiations.
Understanding Community vs. Separate Property
In community property states, it’s generally safe to assume that any property or assets in your possession before you married are still considered separate property. In many cases, if you inherited certain assets from a deceased family member while you were married, these inheritances may still be considered your assets when you divorce. Additionally, if you owned a rental property before you married, that property will likely remain yours, allowing you to do what you wish with it without obtaining consent from your ex-spouse. It’s important to recognize that the court has the ultimate say in how property is divided, so there may be instances where separate property may be included in the division of assets. If you are concerned about the fairness of the division of your property, it’s best to work with a seasoned divorce attorney who can support you through the process.
How the Court Determines Property Division
In many cases, divorcing couples may be able to negotiate how their property is divided through mediation or a similar collaborative process. Once they’ve reached an agreement, the judge will review it to determine whether it is fair to both spouses. When a collaborative negotiation is not possible, the judge will step in to take a more active role in determining the specifics of property division. In both circumstances, the judge must still consider several factors to ensure that the outcome is equitable for both spouses. The court will look at how long you were married, the amount of property in question, your individual financial realities once the divorce is finalized, and other relevant factors. In some cases, even if the property is divided evenly, the discrepancy in individual income between the spouses may be too large. The judge may require the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal support to the lower-earning spouse—either temporarily or on a more long-term basis—to help the lower-earning spouse adjust to their new financial situation.