When a married couple divorces, legally separates or their marriage is declared invalid (commonly known as an annulment), legal responsibility for property and debts must be divided. Property means more than land- it can also mean possessions (may be your home), bank accounts, investment, stock options, vehicles, retirement funds, and business and contract rights. The couple can agree on the division, or if they cannot agree, the court must divide the respective rights spouses have in their property and their debts. The division of assets and debts must be just and equitable under the circumstances.
The topic is explained bellow in the bullets form.
- Washington is a “community property” state.
- Generally all property acquired during marriage is presumed to be community property with both parties having an equal, but undivided interest in the property.
- Community property laws can be complicated.
- Couples who have been married a long time, who have significant property, or who own a business will probably need a legal advice.
- Sometimes one or both spouses may have separate property.
- Separate property means possessions or real estate that was owned before the marriage or that was received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance.
- In Washington, a court is required to determine that what is separate property and what is community property.
- And then, Court divides the property and debts between the spouses in a manner that is just and equitable.
- To do this, court uses a series of factors under the Washington laws such as how long the couple was married, employment history, how much the property the couple has and other factors.
- When the court divides property and debts just and equitably, this does not necessarily mean that the property will be divided 50/50.
- This is because an equitable division is not always an equal division.
- The court may divide property and debts unequally for a number of reasons.
- The court might give one spouse less than 50 percent of the assets if that spouse can recover from the economic setback of the divorce faster than the other.
- Bad behavior of any of the spouses does not usually effect how the property and debts are divided.
- This means that the court will not award one spouse more of the property just because the other spouse misbehaved or was at fault.
- An exception to this general rule is when the misbehavior was intended to and resulted in the waste or destruction of the property.
- A court may give one spouse more property when the other spouse did something to waste or destroy their community property.
- Property division, property settlement, and family support arrangement can have serious tax consequences to one or both spouses.
- Tax filing status may be affected by a decree of dissolution, annulment or legal separation.
- Property and debts divisions are final and cannot be modified later, except under extremely limited and unusual circumstances.
- It is important to consult with lawyer before any agreements are made or court orders are entered regarding division of property and debts.