Even if you and your spouse still care deeply about one another, you may realize that going your separate ways feels right at this point. Perhaps you have different visions for the future, or one of you wants to explore a new career opportunity in another state. Whatever your reasons for seeking a divorce may be, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the prospect of navigating this process. Fortunately, enlisting the guidance of an empathetic and experienced Seattle divorce attorney can give you the clarity and confidence you need to move forward. For example, your attorney can help you understand how Washington courts typically handle the division of assets and debts. As you start laying the groundwork for your post-divorce life, it’s helpful to anticipate what property or other assets you can expect to take with you into your life’s next chapter.
Washington state, like a few other states, is considered a “community property” state when it comes to divorce. As you and your spouse seek a dissolution of marriage, you will need to determine which assets are considered community property and which qualify as separate property. Community property refers to any assets you acquired during the marriage, like a home, rental property, car, or other investment. Additionally, the wages and wealth of both spouses earned during the marriage are typically considered community property. During your divorce, the court will seek to ensure that any community property is divided equitably between you and your spouse. It’s important to recognize that “equitably” does not automatically mean “equally.”
Separate property refers to property or assets you or your spouse owned before entering the marriage (or received from an inheritance). For example, if you purchased a home with your own funds a few years before you married, the court may consider this to be separate property. You may be able to keep this asset wholly in your possession after the divorce, as long as it was not mixed with martial property. If you want to prove that an asset the court considers to be community property is actually separate property, you must support your position with “clear and convincing” evidence (i.e., approximately 75 percent certainty). The discussions surrounding community and separate property can grow complicated quickly, so consider enlisting the support of a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to help you navigate these complex negotiations.
When you file a Dissolution of Marriage petition in Washington, the court will seek to divide property in a way that is “just and equitable.” As mentioned previously, just and equitable does not always mean an even fifty-fifty split. The court will look at several factors in its approach to property allocation between the two parties to ensure that both spouses will have the necessary financial resources to start their post-divorce lives. For instance, you and your spouse may decide to sell your home, but the proceeds may not be split exactly down the middle. The court may decide to award more of the funds from the sale of the house to the spouse whose individual income is not as high as the other spouse’s earning capacity. It’s important to note that while the court seldom divides separate property, the judge may sometimes do so to obtain an equitable division of property. The ultimate goal of the court is to ensure that neither spouse is left destitute and unable to care for themselves in the wake of the separation.
Family law courts in Washington recognize that no two marriages are exactly alike, meaning that no two divorces are identical. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach to property division, the court uses a number of factors to arrive at a divorce agreement that works best for both parties. For example, the court will look at the duration of the marriage, the incomes and earning capacities of each spouse, the quantity of community property, and whether each spouse has separate property. If the couple has children, the court will also look at how the parenting plan and custody arrangement will affect the economic needs and burdens of each spouse. Other relevant factors, such as whether the couple has a child with special needs or one spouse suffers from long-term health issues, will also be taken into consideration.
Even if you and your spouse are parting on amicable terms, the divorce process can be difficult and emotional at times. However, it’s helpful to recognize that you do not have to go through this challenging time alone. Working with a seasoned and empathetic divorce attorney can provide you with the reassurance and guidance you need to face each step of the process with greater clarity and confidence.
Reach out to the Hemmat Law Group by calling (206) 682-5200 to speak with a caring and experienced Seattle divorce attorney.
The Hemmat Law Group (HLG) was founded in 1994 by Steven Amir Hemmat, a former DOJ Trial Attorney. We specialize in family law, supporting victims of the legal system.
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