The division of assets and debt is often one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce, as we often place both emotional and financial value on our belongings. They way property is ultimately divided may have long lasting impacts on your financial stability and lifestyle. We are here to assist you in this process, to negotiate on your behalf, and to protect your best interests.
Community Property State:
Washington is a community property state, as defined in RCW 26.16
Any money you earn and any property you acquire during the course of your marriage is considered community property and subject to division. This means it belongs to both of you equally and may be split equally during divorce. Keep in mind that property may include real estate, vehicles, investments, business interests, financial holdings, pensions, and more. Similarly, all debts accrued during the course of your marriage are also considered to be community and are subject to division. There may be exceptions as to what is considered community versus separate property, and it is important to have a solid understanding of how your property will be characterized. Our attorneys can advise you around these complex distinctions.
Options for Property & Debt Division:
When a couple pursues divorce or legal separation in Washington State, there are two options for property and debt division:
- Ex-spouses may reach a mutual agreement through negotiation and submit it for court approval, or
- They may leave it to the court to make the decision and ultimately issue an order determining the division of property and debts.
As with other aspects of your divorce, it is best for you and your ex to come to a property division agreement on your own. You need to have appropriate legal representation to guide you through the negotiation process and help you to protect your best interests. In the case where an agreement can be reached, parties may divide their property and debts any way they mutually choose.
However, if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree, you are essentially forcing the court to decide who gets to keep what. When the court is making the determination, they will consider the type and amount of each property, the length of the marriage, and each spouse's current economic circumstance. The court will then issue an order of asset and debt division.
Whether the division of assets and debt are determined through a negotiation process or a court decision, the process will include breaking down, characterizing, and valuing each asset and debt. Each asset and debt will be categorized as community or separate and then valued. Valuation may be determined by selling the item, using the known/proven dollar value, or having an expert appraisal if necessary. This information will be used in determining asset and debt division between parties.
The process of ending a relationship is complicated and generally quite emotionally charged, with the division of property being particularly contentious. The impacts of how property and debt are divided can affect your life long after the divorce proceedings are finished and what property division is determined upon divorce is very unlikely to be reversed later. It is essential that you work with a skilled, knowledgeable attorney during this time, who will advocate for your own best interests and for a division of assets that you feel is equitable. Our attorneys are very well experienced in this area and we are here to help.