If you are considering a divorce, one of the primary issues that you will need to solve is property division. Washington’s marital property laws follow a community property system, unlike most other states that use equitable division laws. This means that all of your marital property is subject to being split in half with your ex-spouse in a divorce. Understanding what the law classifies as marital property versus separate property can help you protect your assets from division as much as possible.
There are two main types of property division laws: community property and equitable division. Washington is one of only a few community property states that remain in the country. Under this law, a married couple forms their own community. Any property, assets, or debts acquired while the community is intact is viewed as being owned equally by both members of the marriage, regardless of which person acquired the asset.
If a divorce case goes to trial, Washington law requires all community property to be divided equally between both parties. Equally means 50 percent is given to one spouse and 50 percent is given to the other, regardless of whether this is fair to either party. In an equitable division state, however, a percentage of marital property is allocated to each spouse based on what is fair or reasonable for the circumstances.
Another term for community property is marital property. As the name implies, marital property refers to anything acquired, purchased, or earned during the course of a marriage or registered domestic partnership. The term “property” can refer to many different types of tangible and intangible assets, including:
At the beginning of a divorce case, both spouses must submit Financial Declaration Forms with total and complete information about each person’s income and available assets. Any dishonesty on these forms, such as knowingly hiding assets, will result in severe penalties.
Washington’s community property law only applies to marital property. The courts do not have the right to divide nonmarital or separate property in a divorce case. Separate property refers to assets and debts owned by one spouse before the marriage or domestic partnership. It also refers to gifts given to just one spouse during the marriage, as well as individual inheritances. If one person’s separate property generates income or profits, this is also classified as that person’s separate property. Finally, an enforceable written agreement, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, can classify an asset as separate property.
If you and your spouse acquired the property in a state that doesn’t use the community property law while you were married, such as in Oregon or Montana, this property is referred to as quasi-community property. During your divorce case in Washington, any quasi-community property will be treated the same as community property and divided into equal parts.
If your divorce case involves only simple types of property and no high-value assets, you may be able to handle property division on your own. This is more likely if you and your ex-spouse can communicate and work together to compromise on a settlement agreement. If you have a contested divorce case or complex property to divide, however, it will benefit you to hire an asset division attorney in Clark County. A lawyer will use smart and proven legal strategies to help you achieve your goals for property division. Cohen Family Law, LLC has creative solutions to ensure that you get your fair share.