Monday, September 29, 2008

Washington State's Community Property Laws -- It's Not Always 50-50

Many people are under the misunderstanding that community property means a 50-50 division in a divorce. While that may be true in some other community property states such as California, it is not true in Washington.

Washington law provides that property must be divided "equitably". Specifically, Washington provides:

"the Court shall, without regard to marital misconduct, make such disposition of the property and liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to:
1. The nature and extent of the community property
2. The nature and extent of the separate property
3. The duration of the marriage, and
4. The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of the property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time." (Revised Code Of Washington 26.09.080)

Often "just and equitable" will mean a greater than 50% to a spouse who has forgone a career and does not have the ability to build retirement assets. The other surprise to some people is that separate property is considered when making this distribution.

I worry about people who believe they can do their divorce without lawyers. Particularly if one has more financial savvy than the other and perhaps also more bargaining power.

You should always at least consult with an attorney for advice in your particular situation.

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