The process of getting a divorce takes months to complete. Couples going through a divorce may need to attend mediation sessions, court hearings, or depositions, which all take time. Even the simplest divorces must go through Washington State’s mandatory 90-day waiting period.
During this time, it is not uncommon for one of both spouses to need to make a large purchase. Often, couples need to purchase a new vehicle, rent an apartment, or buy a new home in order for the spouses to live separately from each other. This usually requires one partner to use marital assets in order to make such a purchase.
Many divorcing spouses worry that new or large purchases during a divorce case will decrease the amount of money or property they will receive during a divorce. This is especially true when the items are not strictly necessary; in these cases, one partner might worry that his or her spouse is freely spending joint assets in order to gain an advantage during a divorce.
In almost all cases, however, a judge will consider large purchases made shortly before or during a divorce when determining how to divide up the marital estate. How these purchases will affect the property settlement depends on the amount of the purchase and the reasoning behind the purchase.
First, it is important to remember that property which is financed will not have much of an impact. If a spouse rents an apartment or leases a vehicle, that money will come out of his or her separate income. Similarly, if a spouse purchases a home or vehicle outright, that spouse will also be responsible for those payments.
However, if a spouse uses marital assets to make a large down payment on something like a house or a car, a judge will consider the amount of money that was taken out of the marital estate. The judge will consider this amount as a part of the marital estate already distributed to that spouse, so there will not be any double dipping.
For instance, if a husband takes $10,000 out of a joint savings account to purchase a vehicle outright, the court may deduct $10,000 from his share of the marital estate or award he would have received. If the marital estate does not contain another $10,000 worth of property, the husband may be forced to sell the vehicle and divide those funds with his wife.
In general, spouses are not prohibited from making new purchases during a divorce as long as the final distribution is fair and equitable. If a spouse can purchase a large item of property without putting the other spouse at a disadvantage, then the court will probably allow the purchase to stand.
Accurately and fairly dividing personal property often requires the help of a skilled attorney. The lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law have many techniques at their disposal to help divorcing couples split marital property in an equitable way, and achieve great successes using mediation, collaboration, and other dispute resolution methods.
For help dividing marital property in a divorce, contact our office today by calling 509-572-3700.