When you begin the divorce process, you face many important decisions that can have lasting impacts on your future. It can feel overwhelming to think about how your finances and assets will be divided—especially the property you share. How does Washington state handle the division of property during your divorce? First, it’s important to understand that Washington is a community property state, meaning that the court views any assets you and your spouse acquired during the course of your marriage belongs to both of you. Let’s take a look at how any property you own will likely be handled over the course of your divorce.
Defining “Property” in Washington State
While most of us assume that the term “property” refers to a physical home or piece of land, it also refers to other physical valuables, such as jewelry, artwork, or vehicles. Property can also be financial assets, such as your income, benefits, or any debts you owe to creditors. In community property states like Washington, the first step in determining how to fairly divide up the property is to separate the community property from any separate property. Generally, property that you or your spouse owned individually before entering into your marriage is considered separate property. Other assets, like the home you purchased together or the incomes you earned while married, are likely to be considered community property and will thus be divided up during the divorce proceeding.
A Variety of Factors Influence the Outcome
The court’s goal is to achieve an equitable division of property so that both spouses can walk away from the marriage on relatively equal footing. In order to make sure that the division of property is as fair as possible, a divorce judge will look carefully at several factors, such as the income of each spouse, whether you have any children, and your individual earning potentials. For example, if you put your career on hold in order to raise children, the court may decide to award you more assets than your spouse to make up for this financial disparity. Similarly, if you are the primary caregiver for your children and you’ve lived in your home for several years, the judge may decide to grant you the right to live in (or even take ownership of) the home in order to provide your children with the stability they need during this challenging period of transition.
Negotiating Spousal Support
One aspect of your divorce proceeding is to determine an appropriate amount of spousal support (also known as “alimony”) that the higher-earning spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse. These payments are intended to help the lower-earning spouse adjust to a new financial reality and receive any necessary training to make themselves more employable. Of course, in some cases, both spouses earned similar incomes over the course of their marriage, so there is no need for a spousal support agreement. If the court decides that a spousal support agreement is appropriate, a variety of factors will be considered before the judge makes the final determination.
Want to learn more about how property division is handled during a divorce proceeding in the Spokane area? Contact Stanley A. Kempner Jr. Attorney at Law today at (509) 309-8126 to speak with a knowledgeable and dedicated divorce and family law attorney.