Couples often wonder how divorce will affect their shared property. Washington is a community property state, which means that all property or debts acquired during a marriage belong equally to both partners and must be split between them. But does this split need to be exactly even?
In Washington, state law requires judges to split property in a “just and equitable” manner. This means that the division of property has to be fair, but not necessarily equal. There is no requirement that each partner receives the same amount of money, property, or other assets.
To determine a fair division of property, the couple must first document and value every piece of property that they own. The term “property” can include real estate, furniture, bank account balances, vehicles, credit card debt, mortgage debt, or virtually any type of asset or liability. Next, the couple will need to determine if each item of property is community property or separate property.
Once the couple establishes the amount and value of the community property, the court will determine the best way to make sure that the division of property is just and equitable. The judge will consider factors like the length of the marriage, the amount of property owned, whether or not there are children involved who need support, and the relative financial stability of each party after the divorce.
In some cases, a court may decide to award more property to the spouse that has the better job or higher earning potential. This is especially true if there are children involved. For instance, the court may award a high-value asset like a house to one party if that is where the couple’s children live. In exchange, the parent keeping the house will likely need to turn over most other assets to make the division of property fair.
One thing the court will not consider when dividing property is fault. Even if one spouse was solely to blame for the end of a marriage, the court will not punish that person by awarding less property. The only time that a court may award less property as punishment is when one spouse did something illegal or unfair; for example, if one spouse liquidated all of the couple’s bank accounts or investments accounts in preparation for the divorce, the court may award more property to the innocent spouse.
Dividing property equitably takes the help of a skilled family law attorney. The lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law can help you value and divide your property in a way that provides for your family’s future needs. To schedule a consultation with Pacific Northwest Family Law, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.