Dividing assets that are considered equally owned by both spouses or what is known as community property, is often a complicated task.
Unless an agreement is already in place, it can become a hotly contested issue between couples. Although it may be enticing to quickly resolve the matter, protecting your financial assets can significantly impact your long-term future.
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Community Property Laws in Washington
Since Washington is a community property state, there are laws in place designating half of all assets and debts accrued during a marriage to each spouse (RCW 26.16.030). For example, that can include:
Real estate (homes, office buildings, shopping centers)
Personal property (checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
Commingled property (separate property commingled with community funds, e.g. money from an inheritance being deposited into a joint checking account)
When a couple is seeking a divorce, but are originally from a state that doesn’t recognize community property, then any assets acquired before moving to Washington will be considered separate property.
Any property and accrued debts prior to the marriage and following the date of separation are not marital property. Spouses also have the option of entering into a contractual agreement, which can change community property to separate property or vice versa (RCW 26.16.120).
Additional assets that are generally categorized as separate property are gifts given to only one spouse and inheritances.
How is Community Property Divided?
The amount of money each spouse has earned does not matter in a community property state, as everything accumulated during the marriage belongs to both parties and will be split equally during a divorce.
However, the division of community property can be particularly complex when there has been commingling of separate property.
The court will decide how to split up community property, and when applicable separate property, based on the:
Amounts of each type of property
Length of the marriage
The current economic reality of each spouse
Other factors that may impact the division, can include if a spouse helped their husband or wife advance in their career by giving up their own career opportunities.
The court may then be inclined to give a more substantial portion of the community assets to that spouse, in an effort to balance out the difference.
Unless community property was wasted by a spouse, the state will not take affairs or other negative behaviors into consideration when making their decision.
Our Community Property Attorneys Offer Free Consultations
For more specific information on how community property laws may affect your case, or to speak to an attorney about filing for divorce, contact Twyford Law Office.