What is a Wife Entitled to in a Washington Divorce?

August 8, 2022

When it comes to the division of a married couple’s property during the divorce process, Washington is one of a few states on the west coast that use the community property model. Washington is not one of the states that have passed legislation requiring equitable distribution. If you are thinking about getting a divorce in the state of Washington, you should be prepared for the judge to distribute all of your marital property in an equal manner.

The Process of Property Division During a Divorce in Washington

The first thing the court has to do is determine which assets are community property and which assets are separate. The value of the property is also needed. There are a variety of types of property. Real property includes the family home. Jewelry and clothing fall under personal property. A third category, intangible property, is where you will find income, dividends, benefits, and credit card debt. In most cases, the court will determine how to classify and value each asset based on the information provided by you and your spouse.


Community Land in the State of Washington

According to the state’s rules governing divorce, there is a strong presumption that any assets or debts accumulated during the course of a couple’s marriage are considered common property. During the divorce process, the court will divide all pieces of communal property into equal portions. Income, stocks, royalties, rents, cars, marital residence, bank accounts, 401(k) accounts, debt from credit cards, and any other assets or debts gained during the marriage are all considered community assets.

If you and your spouse do not wish to divide the community property in your Washington divorce in an equal manner, then you will need to decide what is equitable by creating a divorce settlement agreement. This settlement needs to be in writing and should be agreed upon by both. It is expected that issues will be resolved and property will be distributed fairly under settlement agreements. If the distribution is not fair or settled amicably, a mediator can be called in.

An unequal division can still occur if you prefer. Or something close to it if you can convince the court that there is a good and equitable reason for dividing your community property unequally. This can occur despite you and your spouse being locked in disagreement. You will need to answer questions as to why things should be divided unequally, though. The courts will not just agree with you.


Separate Real Estate in the State of Washington

One spouse’s separate property includes assets or debts that the spouse accumulated before the marriage. This may have been due to receiving a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Or the property could be covered by a prenuptial agreement. Additionally, one spouse’s separate property may include property that is covered by a prenuptial agreement. If a family member gives you their condo when they pass away, you do not need your spouse’s permission to sell it, rent it out, or let it remain completely vacant.

If you were to rent that condo, you would keep all of the rent money you received to yourself. In addition, your spouse’s creditors will not be able to get a hold of the money or property that you earn from separate property. In most cases, a spouse will be required to provide bank records or other papers in order to back up their claim that they own separate property.

It is worth noting, though, that in the state of Washington, the court has the discretion to include separate property in the distribution of assets upon divorce. It is important to keep in mind that commingling, whether purposeful or accidental, can turn an asset that was formerly the independent property of one spouse into an asset that belongs to the community.

For instance, if one spouse’s premarital bank account receives payments from the other spouse during the marriage, the account’s separate property status may be converted into community property.


Considerations Made Prior to the Division of Community Property in Washington

The following considerations will be taken into account by the judge when dividing a couple’s communal property:

  • Size of the estate held as community property
  • Length of the marriage
  • Assets and liabilities that are held separately by each spouse
  • Each partner’s economic situation at the time of the division
  • Either partner’s contributions to the other partner’s professional and/or educational endeavors The parenting plan for the couple’s children

Washington is a no-fault state. This means it does not matter who did what in the failure of the marriage. The reasoning will also not be considered when deciding how to divide the common property. This can be hard to understand as it seems like the innocent party so be rewarded, but the laws are very clear in this situation. It is important to understand, though, when asking what about a Washington divorce. However, if your spouse misused common assets, the judge may modify the amount of community property that is awarded to you.

When it comes to the division of property, the only time a judge will consider who was at fault is if one of the spouses spent an extraordinary amount of money to enable the other to continue their bad behavior. For example, if one partner emptied monetary accounts or dwindled away the savings account to support the habit that was the eventual demise of the marriage, the judge might consider this when addressing the settlement.


Spousal Maintenance

If you anticipate that your divorce will make it difficult for you to maintain the same quality of living you enjoyed during your marriage, you may be eligible for spousal maintenance, sometimes known as alimony. As stated before, there is no consideration of fault in the state of Washington’s spousal maintenance system. However, in the event of a divorce in the state of Washington, alimony may be included as part of the property settlement in order to assist in closing the financial gap between the two parties.

Understanding what you are entitled to during a Washington divorce is key. You want to make sure to write any questions you have down for the attorney and keep asking questions until you understand. A lot of feelings will come to the surface during these deliberations, and if you don’t have your questions written down, you might forget what you want to ask in the emotions of the moment.

In the event that you are entitled to spousal maintenance, the amount will be determined by a judge once the court has finished determining how the communal property will be divided. The court will consider how you contributed to the marriage as well as what your obligations will be following the divorce. The court will pay particular attention to all of your financial resources, your level of education as well as your earning potential, and whether or not you are also responsible for caring for the children.

In addition to this, a judge will consider your age, your physical and mental health, your financial commitments, the quality of life you experienced over the course of your marriage, and the length of time you were married. In the end, any decision for maintenance must be fair in light of your need and your spouse’s financial capability, but the court does have the option to take into account other aspects of the marriage that are specific to it.


Three Things to Consider in Washington

If you live in the state of Washington and are thinking about filing for divorce, the following are three fundamental things you will need to know. These fundamentals are applicable to the dissolution of domestic partnerships that have been registered with the state, in addition to the dissolution of marriages. They concentrate on determining when a divorce in the state of Washington will be finalized and how property and obligations will be shared.

1.) Remember that Washington is a no-fault state. The courts will not be concerned with identifying which partner is at fault in the marriage. In Washington, all that is required for a divorce to be granted is for one of the parties to claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” After that, it will be possible to finalize the divorce and sign the decree.

2.) Washington is a “community property” state. This means that it is assumed that both partners equally own any property that was acquired over the course of the marriage. There are few exceptions to this rule, such as an inheritance or a gift, but in general, any property that is gained during the course of the marriage is considered to be owned by both partners equally. It’s good to note that this also applies to debt.

3.) Washington is not a “50/50” state but rather a “fair and equitable” state. This indicates that the property and liabilities will be divided between the spouses in a manner that is “fair and equitable” and not necessarily in a “50/50” or equal manner, as would be the case in certain other states.


Experienced Family and Divorce Attorneys Can Help in Washington

A Washington divorce attorney who is knowledgeable in the ins and outs of community property and spousal support is who you need to help you navigate the messy road ahead. You want to work with an attorney you feel comfortable with and who takes the time to make sure your needs are considered. Take notes and pay attention to any documents you sign. Ask questions in order to ensure you understand everything that occurs.

It might be a good idea to have something with you, a close friend or family member, that can process what the attorney discusses with you. This is especially helpful if you find yourself emotionally struggling to focus.

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