Family law issues are not uncommon in Washington State and when a couple decides to end a marriage, property and how it will be allocated will frequently come to the forefront. It does not necessarily have to be a high asset divorce for there to be a contentious dispute regarding how this will be handled. There could be sentimental items that both spouses want to keep for themselves. Having a grasp on the legal factors involved can either help avoid rancor or assist in settling the situation in a satisfactory manner.
The law does not dictate a specific way in which property will be divided. Any assets, regardless of what they are, can be distributed. Because Washington is what is known as a "community property" state, the law tries to come to a just and equitable division of property that was accrued while the couple was married. This does not automatically mean there will be equal division. In some cases, the spouses will come to an agreement regarding the property and the court will grant an approval. If there is not a settlement, the court will decide how to allocate the property.
Washington courts take the following issues into consideration when deciding property division issues: the community property, its nature and extent; the separate property, its nature and extent; the duration of the marriage; the financial circumstances of each person, the employment status, if there are entitlements and other issues; who pays the bills; and special considerations. Under state law, there is a special provision that determines whether or not a parent should have the opportunity to live in the family home so that it is not necessary for the children to move.
It can be difficult enough to end a marriage without the process being prolonged by family law issues that cannot be settled amicably. However, there are often properties that both parties will feel they have a claim to keep. This can be for a variety of reasons. Those who are facing a dispute over property division need to be protected with assistance from an experienced attorney.
Source: Washington State Bar Association, "Dissolution -- What you should know... -- Division of Property, Division of Bills and Debts," accessed on Jan. 25, 2016