how is property divided in washington state

How Does Property Division Work in Washington?

Goldberg Jones Divorce, Divorce Process, Finances, Spotlight Leave a Comment

Washington practices Community Property. Only nine of the fifty states—and Alaska by agreement—in the union adhere to community property statutes. The rest abide by equitable distribution. So, the question arises, how does Washington handle the division of property in a divorce?

Types Of Property Division

Community Property

Washington is a community property state, which means it views all property, assets, and debts acquired during a marriage as belonging equally to both spouses. The law presumes joint ownership, no matter who acquired a particular asset. In the case of divorce, the court divides property as such.

All property acquired or earned during a marriage generally constitutes marital property. Despite a name on a title, Washington courts presume both spouses contributed to any assets acquired during the marriage, whether true or not.

Property equally acquired is subsequently equally distributed in divorce, in a fair, equitable fashion.

Separate Property

As the name implies, separate property belongs to one spouse or the other. Though it’s usually something owned before marriage, this category also includes gifts or inheritance received during the marriage.

The court includes separate property if fairness dictates, but in general, it remains with the owner. In longer marriages, things become much more intertwined and the line between separate and marital property tends to blur.

Does Washington Have Equitable Distribution?

No. Our neighbor to the south, Oregon, along with 39 other states practice what’s called “equitable distribution”. Essentially, this method views property as belonging to the individual spouse who earned it. No set rules for the division of property exist, but the court divides the assets between both parties in a fair and equitable manner.

Community property doesn’t mean courts split everything down the middle in a divorce. The court’s primary goal is to ensure both parties come out of the marriage on relatively even footing. Beyond that, they want each spouse to maintain a lifestyle similar to what they had while married.

Related Reading: How Is Debt Divided in Washington State?
Related ReadingThe Importance Of Jurisdiction In Divorce

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