Property division 101: The basics of community property division

Property division is a crucial component of any divorce case, and involves consideration of marital and separate property.

When couples choose to file for divorce in Washington State, all of the marital property, assets and debts that they amassed during the course of the marriage must also be divided. In some cases, couples may be able to negotiate the details of the property division themselves. Other divorce cases may be more difficult, however, and could require legal assistance from a court of law.

Community property state

Washington is one of nine states that uses the community property model when distributing property in a legal separation or divorce, as reported by Washington State Legislature. Traditionally, community property states split marital property equally in half, rather than divvy up the estate according to specific factors surrounding the marriage dissolution. According to Washington statutes, however, the judge who is appointed to the divorce case will take into consideration certain aspects of the couple's situation, including how long the marriage lasted as well as each party's financial circumstances at the time of the separation. Furthermore, the judge will look at all of the property involved in the case, and make his or her decision based on the specific nature of the assets, property and debts.

For example, a judge may decide to award a greater portion of the marital estate and assets to a parent who has primary custody of the children.

What is community property?

Community property involves all of the property, debts and assets that a couple accrues over the life of the marriage. However, there may be some items that are not divisible. Separate property, according to Forbes, is not eligible for division in a Washington divorce case and may include the following:

  • Inheritance that is given to either party before or during the marriage
  • Any property that a person owns before entering into the marriage
  • Gifts that are given to either party by a third person, such as family member or friend
  • Compensation that is awarded to either party in a personal injury case

It is important to understand that separate property can change into marital property if it is combined with property and/or assets belonging to the other spouse. If a spouse deposits his or her inheritance money into a bank account that is shared with the other spouse, it may become marital property.

Legal assistance from an attorney

Many people find it difficult to navigate through the divorce process in Washington on their own, especially when emotions are running high. If you want to ensure that you are getting everything you deserve in your divorce settlement, you may want to speak to an attorney regarding your rights.

Keywords: property, division, distribution community property, separate property