Our Seattle Property Division Lawyer Outlines What You Need to Know in a Divorce
As difficult as it may be to admit, property division is often one of the most contentious issues in a couple’s divorce. Whether your financial situation is complex or you are of more modest means, disagreements over how marital property should be distributed can be incredibly stressful and time-consuming. Understanding how property division works in Washington from the beginning of the process can help minimize conflicts, and working with our experienced Seattle property division lawyer can help you get a fair outcome in your divorce.
Washington is a Community Property State
When a couple gets divorced in Washington, all property acquired by the spouses during the marriage is considered as jointly owned by both spouses regardless of how the property is titled or who holds it. For example, a bank account solely in your name may be considered community property for purposes of your divorce.
As a general rule, community property will be divided more or less equally upon divorce. However, if the court feels that a different result is needed to achieve an overall fair and equitable result, it will do so. This does not mean basing the property division on fault or other bad actions, but rather with a mind to leaving both parties in more similar financial circumstances going forward, especially in a long term marriage. One of the primary roles of a Seattle property division lawyer is to help you receive the best possible settlement in your divorce.
Community Property vs. Separate Property in Washington Divorces
That said, when and how property was acquired will determine how it is distributed. For example, assets acquired before the marriage will be considered as separate, as will property inherited by one spouse. If you purchased your house before getting married, the home might be regarded as separate property, or partly separate and party community.
As a result, one of the first steps in working with a Seattle property division attorney is to make a careful inventory of all of the property you own – not just the property that you think may be community property or that you think should or shouldn’t be included in the divorce. A good place to start is to list all property, assets, and other items worth at least $1,000 or more.
There are also many types of assets and income that are often overlooked as community property, leading to an unpleasant surprise for one or both spouses:
- Contract rights such as life insurance policies, retirement plans, severance pay, or unemployment benefits.
- Certain types of income, including stock options or other investments that are included in your compensation plan
Our experienced Seattle property division attorney will work to correctly categorize all of the marital property is as community or separate so that you get a fair settlement.
Our Seattle Property Division Attorney Outlines the Valuation Process
The next step in the property division process is to determine the value of each asset. For some assets, such as bank accounts or vehicles, the process is simple – the property’s value is reflected in an account statement or by a recognized authority such as the Kelly Blue Book. In other situations, however, determining the value of certain assets can be quite complex. For example, it can be challenging to determine the value of business interests, certain investments, or art and antiques. These assets can have significant value, so it is important to arrive at an accurate valuation to achieve a fair settlement.
For couples with complex financial affairs, you will likely need to retain the services of a valuation expert. An established Seattle property division attorney will be able to help you hire the right professionals who can assist in this process and be able to testify in court on your behalf. Furthermore, working with a valuation professional can reduce the amount of time and effort you spend arguing over the value of some of your most important assets, thus minimizing conflict and simplifying the process.
The Role of the Court
Ultimately, your divorce and property settlement must be approved by the court. If the parties agree on how the marital property will be distributed, it is likely that your divorce will proceed smoothly and with minimal interference from the court.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on how to divide your assets, you should be aware that Washington courts do have broad discretion regarding the division of property. While there is a presumption that separate property will remain separate and community property will be divided equally, the court will attempt to resolve any disagreements in light of the totality of the circumstances. As a result, the court may pull separate property into the marital estate or distribute the community property unequally. In doing so, the court may look to the following factors:
- How long the couple has been married
- Whether one spouse has a significantly higher income than the other
- The age of the parties
- Whether one spouse has health issues or other special needs
- The size and value of any assets separately owned
- Whether spousal support is needed and how much is awarded
Our Seattle property division attorney can provide you with valuable guidance when negotiating your property settlement. If you are unable to agree, they can defend you against unfair claims, as well as formulate a persuasive argument to guide the court in reaching a fair decision.
Worried About Your Property Settlement? Talk to Our Seattle Property Division Lawyer Today
At Seattle Divorce Services, we strive to guide our clients through the divorce process with as little stress and emotional turmoil as possible. That said, we are also seasoned litigators and recognize when you need an aggressive advocate for your rights. Ultimately, our goal is to get you to a better place in life and make sure that your needs will be met. To discuss your case with a Seattle property division attorney, call us at 206-784-3049 or complete our online contact form to schedule an appointment today.