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How Are Assets Divided in a Divorce?

June 11, 2021

Couple working on the division of assets during the divorce processDivorce is not only about the separation of a couple, it is also about the dividing of assets and debts that they have accumulated over the course of the marriage. Approximately 25,000 couples go through the painful and often contentious process of inventorying and dividing assets every year in a Washington divorce.

Even couples with few assets can find the process of dividing them up difficult. The more assets you have, the more complicated the process can be. If you’re in the midst of a divorce — whether that means you have started the process, been served divorce papers, or simply contemplating it — you need an experienced Washington divorce attorney on your side to help you work through the division of your property and assets.

For more than 50 years, William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, has helped clients in the communities of Grays Harbor County and Pacific County, Washington as they divide assets and debts in divorce. Family Law Attorney William E. Morgan has the experience you need to help you navigate your divorce and ensure that your assets are divided as evenly and equitably as possible. Call today to learn more about how he can help you with your case.

The Difference Between Community
Property and Separate Property

In Washington, community property is subject to division in divorce while separate property is not. Although it may sound easy to determine what is community property and what is separate, drawing the line is not always as simple as you might think.

Community Property

Washington law presumes that all property acquired during the marriage in joint form is community property. To rebut this presumption requires either clear documentation that the property is separate, or proof that the parties have agreed to consider the property as separate. Anything the couple acquired during the marriage, including real estate property, personal property, business assets, retirement funds, and any accumulated debt is considered community property.

Separate Property

This includes real estate property and personal property owned by a spouse before the marriage was finalized or property or assets received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Property might be determined to be separate if a couple acquired that property while living in a non-community property state before moving to Washington.

Separate property can become community property if marital assets are used to maintain it. For example, one spouse might inherit a home from a deceased parent, which would typically be considered separate property and not subject to asset division. However, if commingled marital funds are used to renovate the home, it then becomes community property. Likewise, a bank account that either spouse owned prior to getting married can become community property if marital monies are deposited into that account during the marriage.

Who Determines How Assets
Are Divided and How?

Washington is considered a no-fault state for divorce. This means that either spouse may file for divorce, regardless of the other spouse’s wishes. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses mutually agree to the terms of the divorce, although court approval of the terms is still required. A couple may submit to the court a Marital Dissolution Agreement which would include how they want the assets and debts divided. The couple may even agree to not divide all community property evenly. The court may approve this type of agreement so long as it is not overly one-sided or unfair to either spouse.

In a contested divorce, the couple will provide the court with a full inventory of assets and debts and the court will divide them equally.

Factors Considered in Asset Division

Washington law asserts that community property is divided equally, meaning each spouse gets one-half of the assets and debt. In a contested matter, a judge will weigh several factors in deciding how community property is divided. These factors include:

  • The size of the community property estate

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The assets and debts for each spouse

  • The economic situation for each spouse at the time of asset division

  • The contribution of one spouse to the other’s career

  • Child custody arrangements, particularly those relevant to occupying the family home

Any evidence of domestic abuse may also be considered by the court, although behavior such as infidelity or addiction will not be considered. However, the court may make an exception if there is evidence that a spouse spent significant community property assets or accumulated debt in the course of infidelity or addiction.

Work With an Experienced
Family Law Attorney

Even in an uncontested divorce, it’s important that you hire an attorney who can help you keep your separate property, identify community property, and help you properly value all assets and your contributions to them. An experienced Washington family law attorney will advocate for you and your best interests at every phase of the divorce process.

William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law has been that advocate for countless clients over the years as they attempt to navigate the division of assets and all other aspects of divorce. If you live in Grays Harbor or Pacific County, Washington, including the neighboring communities of Montesano, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, South Bend, or Raymond — call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how Attorney William E. Morgan can help you move forward.