WashingtonPost Divorce Property Division
Washington Property Division Guide :: Table of Contents
What is property division in a Washington divorce?
Also known as equitable distribution, property division is the process of dividing property rights and obligations between spouses during the process of a divorce. Property division may be agreed upon between the soupses through a property settlement, or it may be decided in court during the judicial process of divorce. The process of property division is affected by state laws such as community property laws, definitions of marital contributions, etc.
Washington is a community property state, and assets acquired both during and prior to the marriage can be subject to division following divorce. Some factors considered by Washington courts in a property division case include a list of other factors defined in Washington law. This page summarizes the most important aspects of property division laws in Washington.
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Washington divides marital assets under community property law, which means that property and assets acquired during a marriage are jointly owned by both spouses, regardless of who purchased it or whose name is on the title. In most cases, community property will be divided 50/50 between the spouses. Other factors may be taken into account by the judge when determining the fair division of certain assets.
How is Property Division Handled?In Washington, marital property, or property acquired during the marriage, is distributed equally (50-50) to each party unless the court finds such a division to be inequitable or parties agree to a different formula under which to divide property.
Washington Property Division FAQ
- Is Washington a community property state?
- Does state of Washington only divide marital property after a divorce?
- Is there a set list of statutory factors for determining property division in the state of Washington?
- Do courts in the state of Washington consider nonmonetary contributions?
- Does Washington consider a spouse's economic misconduct in property division?
- Are contributions to education considered in the state of Washington?
- Can a pre-nuptual agreement affect property division in Washington?
- How can I enforce a property division order in Washington?
- Dower and Curtesy in Washington?
Is Washington a community property state?
Washington is a community property state, which means that virtually all assets and debt acquired during the duration of a marriage are considered marital property, and are thus divided equally between the spouses in the event of a divorce. Examples of assets generally considered community property under Washington law include:
- Wages and income earned by either spouse during the marriage
- Investment income earned during the marriage
- Houses, furniture, cars, etc purchased during the marriage
- Debt acquired during the marriage (like a mortgage, car loan, etc)
Does state of Washington only divide marital property after a divorce?
Washington is one of a minority of states that not only divide marital or community property acquired during the course of a marriage, but may also divide assets earned prior to the marriage regardless of which spouse is the title owner. This may result in a significant surprise for spouses who entered a marriage with high-value assets.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for determining property division in the state of Washington?
Washington has a list of factors set by statute that specify what the court will use to determine a fair property division. Examples of factors that are often taken into consideration during property division cases include:
- Marital Fault - In states that allow at-fault divorces, the fault of one spouse may be used by the judge to justify a higher percentage to the injured spouse.
- Income and Earning Capacity - The court may consider the relative incomes and earning capacity of each spouse, which may be affected by factors such as age, education, and health. The spouse with lower economic prospects may receive a larger percentage of the estate.
- Custody of Children - If one spouse has full custody of the couple's children following the breakup, this may result in higher likelihood of receiving a higher percentage of the estate, or certain pieces of marital property (like the family house).
Do courts in the state of Washington consider nonmonetary contributions?
Washington does not have a law requiring the court to consider the nonmonetary contributions (like household chores, childcare, etc) of a spouse when determining an appropriate property division.
Does Washington consider a spouse's economic misconduct in property division?
In Washington, there are no laws requiring courts to consider economic misconduct (aka wasting marital assets) by either spouse when determing property division. In many other states, economic misconduct can result in a higher percentage of marital property awarded to the injured spouse.
Are a spouse's contributions to their partner's education considered in the state of Washington?
Washington has no statute requiring courts to consider a spouse's contributions to their partner's education or earning capacity when determining how to divide marital property.
Can a pre-nuptual agreement affect property division in Washington?
A prenuptual agreement, or pre-nup, is a binding legal contract signed by both spouses prior to getting married in Washington. A prenup containing a property division agreement can take precedence over Washington's property division laws by establishing what is considered as separate vs marital property, as well as agreeing on how finances will be structured during the marriage and divided in the event of a divorce.
The existance of a valid prenuptual agreement can prevent a Washington court from having full reign to determine how assets are divided between the spouses, and instead allow them to be divided in a way agreed to by both spouses prior to the event.
How can I enforce a property division order in Washington?
A Washington property division order is a court order issued by a court order issued by a judge, describing how property is to be divided between spouses following a divorce. A property division order is a binding legal obligation, and failure to comply with the terms in full by either spouse can result in being charged with contempt of court. If your spouse is not complying with a property division order, you can consult a family lawyer to discuss potential legal avenues.
Dower and Curtesy?
Dower and curtesy abolished (§11.04.060)