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Is Washington a 50/50 State for Divorce?

Divorce is a stressful experience, and the last thing you need during such a time is ambiguity and uncertainty. With divorce laws including division of property varying between states around the country, it can be difficult to know where you stand.  

This blog explains whether Washington is a 50/50 state when it comes to the division of property, debt, and marital assets. For legal advice or to book an appointment, contact our knowledgeable team at Truce Law today. 

Is Washington a 50/50 State for Divorce? 

Divorce laws can vary widely from state to state. Washington is a community property state, which means, aside from a few exceptions, all assets and debt acquired during the marriage are subject to division between both parties, regardless of who secured them. This doesn’t mean they are automatically divided 50/50 between spouses. Several factors go into deciding which party receives debts, assets, and properties like the marital home. 

Equitable Division 

When deciding which party receives which asset, property, and debt, the courts look at many factors to ensure equitable division. Equitable division means that the division is fair and just. This may be approximately equal in terms of dollar value, but not always. 

While the court will likely attempt to split everything as close to 50/50 as possible, sometimes it can be closer to 40/60, 70/30, or any other division. This is called a disproportionate award, and occurs when the parties or court make adjustments from 50/50 due to the circumstances. 

To clarify, one spouse may have been the sole breadwinner throughout the marriage, but this does not mean that spouse is entitled to 100% of whatever was saved. Generally in a shorter marriage whatever is saved will be divided 50/50. You will see disproportionate awards, like 60/40, occur in longer term marriages where one spouse has not worked and they receive a disproportionate share of property in lieu of spousal support.

The courts will take into account: 

  • The length of the marriage 
  • Each person’s unique financial and economical situation 
  • The amount of property to be divided 
  • The nature of the community property 
  • The type of separate property each spouse has 

Separate property is typically property or debt that one spouse had prior to entering the marriage. This also applies to gifts and inheritances when they were awarded to just one spouse, whether this was before the marriage or during it.  

What’s the Process? 

The process behind dividing community assets is conducted either by the court or through negotiation. Generally, the process looks like: 

  1. Each asset, property, and debt will be assessed as either community or separate. 
  1. An individual value will be assigned to each asset and property. For most debt and generally cash and retirement accounts it is obvious what the value is by looking at the most recent statements. Some property is more complex and will need to be appraised by an expert in that field. Complex property would include the marital home, a family business, or an antique collection.
  1. Once values are determined the community assets and debts are compared and divided “fairly and equitably” between the parties. Generally, separate property and debt will not be divided.

Looking For a Divorce Lawyer in Washington State? 

In summary, property division is often 50/50. However, that is not the letter of the law. What is required is that the division of assets and debts is “fair and equitable.” More often than not, fair and equitable turns out to be 50/50, but that is not guaranteed.

If you’re going through a separation or divorce, we understand the difficult situation you’re facing and the emotions that can come with it. At Truce Law we use our knowledge, experience, and passion to reach the best outcome for you. For further information, click to contact our offices in Seattle, Tacoma, or Olympia.

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