The court will define all property, like your house, car, etc., you and your spouse obtained during your marriage community property. This is because Washington is a community property state. Even if only your name or your spouse’s name is on the title, it still falls under the category of community property if you purchased it during your marriage.
Any property you received or obtained before your marriage, or any items you received as a gift or inheritance either before or during your marriage, are separate property items. These items only belong to one spouse.
Factors that impact distribution
The court will decide which property you receive during the property division process based on four different factors. According to the Washington State Legislature, these are:
- The nature and extent of any separate property you own
- The nature and extent of the community property
- How long your marriage or domestic partnership lasted
- The economic circumstances of you and your spouse at the time when you intend to finalize your property division settlement
The court may also consider other relevant factors when making a property division settlement, but these four factors provide the foundation of the division process.
Just and equitable division
The court will attempt to divide the community property during your divorce with “just and equitable” division in mind. For example, if you have minor children and the court awards you custody, you may receive the family home. This may occur as opposed to the court requiring you to sell your home and then split the proceeds evenly with your spouse.
Additionally, the court may take into account where you will be financially after the divorce. Generally speaking, the court will try to prevent leaving one spouse very wealthy and the other with limited resources. For this reason, the court may consider your age, education, health and work prospects when dividing assets and debts between you and your spouse.