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How do Washington courts divide property in divorce?

Ideally, couples are able to work together in the divorce process to come up with a mutually acceptable property settlement. Unfortunately, in some cases couples have too many differences to work the situation out on their own. If a couple has a prenuptial agreement or a valid marital agreement, many if not all of their disagreements may end up getting resolved that way. What, though, when a couple can’t come to terms and they have no agreement to fall back on?

Every state has default rules when it comes to property division. Here in Washington, the general approach is technically considered to be community property, as opposed to “equitable distribution,” but property division under Washington law is not as simple as an equal split of community property. 

Washington law dictates that courts are to see to it that there is a “just and equitable” division of property acquired during the marriage. When determining how to divide marital property, a court considers a variety of factors, including:

  • The nature and extent of the couple’s martial property;
  • The nature and extent of the couple’s separate property;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The financial standing of the parties;
  • Which party has physical custody of the children and the desirability of allowing the children to remain in the family home

Courts may also choose to apportion separate property in cases where it is necessary to achieve a just and equitable outcome. Because judges are able to exercise significant discretion when determining exactly how property should be divided, it is important for parties to work with experienced legal counsel to ensure their rights and interests are protected and advocated during the divorce process. 

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