Washington is a 50/50 divorce state. This means that almost all property, assets, and debts acquired during a marriage are subject to division in a divorce—regardless of who secured them. However, it does not mean that everything will be divided in half between spouses. In reality, judges do their best to distribute community property in a way that is just and right.
How Is Community Property Divided?
How much each spouse earned throughout their marriage does not matter in a 50/50 divorce state. Unless the property is considered separate, all income, assets, property, and debts accumulated during the marriage are community property and subject to division. Separate property is any property or asset owned before the marriage, as well as inheritances given to only one spouse. However, if separate property has been commingled with community property, dividing it can be particularly complex.
Your community property may be divided by the court or through negotiation, but the process will be similar to this:
Each asset, property, and debt will first be characterized as either community or separate.
Second, a value will be assigned to each asset and property. This can be done by either selling it or having an expert appraise it.
Lastly, assets, property, and debts are divided between the parties.
Other factors that may impact the division can include the nature and extent of both the marital property and separate property, the duration of the marriage, and the financial circumstances of each spouse at the time of the division. Unless a spouse wasted community property prior to the divorce finalizing, the state will not consider negative behaviors such as an affair when deciding how property is divided.
50/50 vs. Equitable Distribution
Most other states follow equitable distribution laws when dividing property. Assets, property, and debts accumulated during a marriage are fairly allocated \between the spouses in divorce, but that doesn’t mean equal. Depending upon the specific facts of the couples’ case, what the court deems fair could very well be a 50/50 split, or it could be 40/60, 25/75, or some other division that is equitable yet unequal.
Do Assets Have To Be Divided 50/50 in Washington?
The state’s community property laws dictate that assets should be evenly distributed among spouses; however, they don’t have to be. The following situations can prevent a couple from having to split community property equally:
A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that ensures certain assets remain separate in the event of a divorce.
The couple reaches an agreement on splitting assets (as long as it doesn’t leave one spouse completely broke).
Because dividing assets and property based on community property principles may seem unfair, couples might try to decide on their own how to split up their marital property. If they cannot agree on how to divide their property amongst themselves, a Washington court will make the final decision which will ultimately follow the state’s community property laws.