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What is separate property in a divorce in Washington?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2022 | Divorce

There are many emotions that people go through when they divorce in Washington. They may be angry, depressed, shocked and experience other emotions as well. While they are dealing with these emotions, they still need to make very important decisions that will affect their future life separate from their spouse. Couples need to divide their shared life, which includes dividing all of their property.

The division of property can be a complicated process for couples, depending on the amount and type of property that they may own. However, couples will generally only divide their marital property. This is property that either spouse acquired during the marriage. It does not matter which spouse’s name is on the title to property or on a certain bank account. If it was acquired during the marriage, it is considered shared and the couple needs to divide it.

Definition of separate property

Each spouse may also own separate property, which each spouse will keep at the end of the divorce. Under Washington law, this is property that either spouse acquired prior to the marriage. It also includes any inheritance or gifts that a spouse receives individually during the marriage. Determining separate property can become complicated because each spouse is also entitled to the profits that the separate property earned through no actions of the parties.

This could be increases in value to a 401(k) account, based on how the market performed or increases in the value of real estate simply through market forces. The spouse with the separate property may need to trace the increases to the separate property to receive them in the divorce.

It can be complicated to simply determine which property is separate and which property is marital in a divorce in Washington. Once couples make that determination, they will need to determine the value of the marital property so that they can divide the property equitably. Experienced attorneys understand the complications of property division in a divorce and may be able to guide one through the process.