If you are one of the many people considering getting a divorce in Washington state, you might be wondering how the court will divide your assets. When we meet with new clients, they often ask us whether their property will be divided into a 50/50 split. In most cases, the court will not divide your property 50/50 between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Many factors contribute to how a court decides to divide your property, such as the amount and type of property you own.
Washington Courts Use “Equitable Division” of Property
Washington courts do not usually split a couple’s property 50/50. Instead, they use what is called equitable division. Courts consider multiple factors to determine how to divide a couple’s property fairly among both people, not simply equally down the middle. In Washington, many couples settle their divorces outside of court, and you will need to rely on your divorce lawyer to guide you through the property division process.
You will be able to negotiate with your soon-to-be ex-spouse regarding how you would like to divide up your property. If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse cannot decide how to divide your assets, the court will need to step in and make a decision on the fairest way to divide up your assets.
Division of Complex Assets in High-Net-Value Divorces
The more assets and property you own, the more challenging property division in a divorce can become. Suppose you have complex assets, such as intellectual property, investments, business interests, and real estate. In that case, you should seek the help of other types of experts to ensure that your division of property is fair. At Akiona Law, PLLC, our divorce lawyers work with an extensive network of experts, including financial experts and investigators who can help you correctly value your assets. Correctly valuing your property is one of the first steps to ensuring the court fairly divides your property.
Separate vs. Marital Property in Washington
When you are considering how a court will divide your property, it is important to keep in mind that not all property will be divided in a divorce. Washington State and many other states divide the property into categories — separate property and community property. Community property includes all of the assets that one or both spouses accumulated during the marriage. Community property also includes property owned jointly by both spouses during the marriage. On the other hand, separate property includes property that one spouse owned before the marriage and heirlooms, personal gifts, and inheritances that a spouse receives during the marriage.
Courts cannot divide separate property during the divorce process. However, it is important that your attorney correctly argues that separate property should be considered separate property. Otherwise, your spouse could end up owning the separate property that you should be entitled to after the divorce.
For example, your ex-spouse might argue that the interest earned on one of the assets that he or she had before you got married should remain separate property. Your lawyer would argue that the interest is considered marital property because it accrued during the duration of the marriage. Correctly categorizing property is essential when it comes to contending for a fair division of property in your divorce. Your lawyer will be able to advocate for your best interest during the divorce process using the facts in your unique case.
Property Division in Court
The majority of divorces are settled outside of court. Typically, each spouse will hire their attorney and negotiate a divorce settlement agreed to by both spouses. However, it is not always possible to negotiate a settlement out of court. In some cases, one spouse will refuse to negotiate. In other cases, the couple will simply not agree on one aspect of their property division. Judges typically do not divide a couple’s property straight down the middle, but will consider many of the following factors to determine how to create an equitable distribution of property:
- The nature of the community property
- The duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s separate property
- Each spouse’s economic and financial situation
- The amount of marital property in question
In some cases, courts will award one couple significantly more assets than the other couple in a Washington divorce. This is called a disproportionate award. In most cases, courts typically try to stay somewhat even in their property division, though not precisely 50/50. Disproportionate awards are rare, especially in short marriages. Courts are more likely to award disproportionate awards in longer marriages in which one spouse chose to stay at home and the other spouse chose to work outside the home. The court might award the spouse who chose to be a stay-at-home parent more assets, but this is not always the case.
Contact Washington Property Division Lawyers Today
Dividing your assets during a divorce can be extremely difficult. This is especially true if you have an emotional attachment to your property or you are concerned about how you will survive financially after the divorce. If you are the parents who will have primary custody of your children, you may have concerns about how to financially provide for your children after the divorce.
At Akiona Law, PLLC, we have helped many Seattle area clients through the process of property division. We will carefully review your financial situation and help you understand what you may expect from your upcoming divorce. We will represent your best interests every step of the way until your divorce is finalized. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation to learn how our divorce lawyers can help you.