During any divorce, both spouses have property rights at stake. Your financial interests can be seriously jeopardized if you enter into a divorce agreement or go to court without understanding what your property rights are. By consulting with Bellevue property division lawyers at the start of your divorce case, you will be in the best possible position to protect your financial interests. This can protect your financial future for years to come.
WA is a Community Property state. This means that most of the property acquired during a marriage belongs to both parties and will be divided in divorce. This does not mean that it will be divided equally, however. If you are your spouse are unable to decide how to divide your property yourselves, a court will consider a variety of factors in its decision. Some of these factors include:
- The length of your marriage
- You and your spouse’s age and health
- The contribution of each spouse to obtaining community property
- Child custody (conservatorship)
- You and your spouse’s education and earning potential
- The size of your personal (non-community property) estate
- Contributions of each spouse to education or training of the other
Property division is not just a matter of dividing up your household goods. Often, that is the easiest task. Here are just some of the many complex financial issues you might have to address before your divorce can be finalized:
Many couples have equity in their home at the time of a divorce. If neither spouse wants to stay in the home, the easiest solution is simply to sell the house and divide the profits (or equally bear the losses). But if one spouse wants to stay in the home, he or she will have to buy out the other spouse’s equity. There are many ways to do this. The house can be refinanced in one spouse’s name, and the profits from the new mortgage used to pay off both the old mortgage and the spouse who is moving out. If the couple has other assets, these can be used to pay off the spouse who is moving out. Property division lawyers can help you find creative solutions for addressing home equity issues.
WA is a community property state. This means that all wages earned during the marriage are considered to be owned by both spouses, and must be equally divided at the time of divorce. Wages include other employment benefits as well. An employer’s retirement contributions are also community property. Because of this, a retirement account must be divided at divorce if it increased in value due to one spouse’s labor during the marriage.
As with home equity, there are many ways to divide the value of a retirement account. The court can enter a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) that requires the plan administrator to pay part of the retirement benefits directly to the non-employee spouse. If there are other marital assets, the employee spouse can use them to buy out the other spouse’s interest in the retirement account. In cases where each spouse’s retirement contributions were essentially equal during the marriage, it may not be necessary to make offsets or equalization payments at all. It is important to get a divorce attorney’s opinion about the value of your retirement accounts and how best to divide these assets.
Some couples run family businesses. This can make for an awkward situation when the couple divorces. In cases where the breakup is amicable, the couple might be able to continue running the business together as partners. More often, however, the couple must divide the business and find a way to part ways fairly. A simple option is simply to sell the business and divide the profits. If one spouse is done with the business, the other could buy out his or her ownership and continue managing the business. If both spouses wish to continue running the business, they might need to make agreements on how to do so without disrupting their daily operations. One spouse might agree to step back from management, but still want to retain voting rights or annual dividends from the business profits. All of these goals can be accomplished with specific agreements that are clearly made in writing and enforceable by the divorce court.
Call Us Today to Speak with Property Division Lawyers in Bellevue, WA
A divorce can threaten many different types of property rights. Whether you are facing property division, alimony, child support, or other financial issues, the experienced Bellevue divorce attorneys at Aberdeen Family Law are here to help. We have helped many Bellevue residents protect their property rights throughout the divorce process. Call 206-790-6430 to schedule your consultation.