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Posted On March 17, 2021 Divorce
Divorce is never an easy undertaking and can be especially stressful when jointly owned property is involved. In Washington, property is divided according to community property laws. This means that any property, including a house, acquired during the marriage belongs to both parties. The couple can either work out an arrangement on their own if one party wishes to keep the house, or if they can’t agree, the judge will render an order awarding the home to one spouse or that it be sold.
In general, community (or marital) property is split equally in Washington (RCW § 26.16.010). Property is considered “community property” if either party acquires it throughout a marriage. For instance:
There are exceptions, and some items are considered “separate property.” Separate property such as the following are typically not divided in a divorce:
However, separate property can get commingled with community funds and lose its separate property status.
The following factors can help you figure out who may get the house or whether you will have to sell it.
Rather than selling a house during a divorce, often it is easier for one spouse to buy the other spouse out. In other words, the buying spouse pays their ex according to the current value of the home or by offering to take over their share of the mortgage. The buying spouse will need to refinance to remove the selling spouse from the mortgage. This is commonly done when children are involved so that they can remain in the family home.
A buyout, however, is not without issues. If the parties lack other, more liquid assets, it can be challenging to find the cash to buy the other party out. In those circumstances, the parties may elect to do an offset against other assets. For example, the selling spouse receives a more significant share of an investment or retirement account as compensation for the real estate interests.
Given the complexity surrounding the division of real estate in a divorce, it is important to consult with an experienced Washington divorce attorney. They are familiar with the law governing real estate transactions at the outset of a separation or divorce and can help with paperwork, unforeseen pitfalls, negotiations and guide you through the entire buyout process. Easing the burden, while also ensuring your property is fairly divided.