Community Property in Divorce
How community and separate property are divided in a divorce in the State of Washington.
BackgroundWashington is a Community property state. Upon dissolution, the Court must distribute all the property owned by the parties between them (both community and separate). The Court first determines whether the property is characterized as community property or separate property.
Separate and Community PropertySeparate property is that which one spouse owned before the marriage or inherited or received as a gift during the marriage. Community property is all other property that is acquired during the marriage. Separate property can be converted into community property by commingling it. This could mean placing separate funds into a joint community account, or placing community funds (your wages) into an account with separate funds. In this situation, you can no longer tell which dollar is community and which dollar is separate. The burden of proof, by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, is on the party who is alleging the property is separate. There is a presumption in Washington that property is community. You could also refinance a house and sign a Quit Claim Deed in the process deeding the property to the community.
Division of Property in DivorceGenerally the division of property is left to the Courts in a divorce, with the intent that what is done is just and equitable. Factors that may determine how property is divided include the length of marriage, age, health and life status of the spouses. Also considered are each spouses' occupation, income amounts and sources, and vocational skills for future employment opportunities. The court is obligated to determine what is separate and what is community. The court then divides the assets fairly. Typically the court will give the separate property to the spouse who acquired it, but that is not required. The longer the marriage, the more likely the court would ignore that distinction.