How does a no-fault divorce impact the way property is divided?

All states now recognize some form of no-fault divorce, although some also maintain fault-based divorces as a legal option. However, Washington is considered a “pure” no-fault state. This means, you don’t need a reason to file for divorce other than that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Courts in Washington do not need, and will not consider, any sort of accusation of wrongdoing by a spouse when considering the petition for divorce at all. Pure no-fault means that Washington only recognizes no-fault divorces. The positive aspect is that unlike a traditional “fault” divorce, either party can file for divorce at any time without proof of wrongdoing by a partner. As long as the correct legal procedures are followed during the divorce process, the court will grant the dissolution of marriage, regardless of what the other partner claims.

How Assets Are Divided in a Washington Divorce

Washington is a community property state, which means that generally, any assets or debts that occurred after the date of marriage are owned equally by both parties. Any assets or debts that belonged to an individual before the marriage are considered separate property that still belongs only to the original owner.

You may be able to negotiate an agreement with your spouse with the specifics of property ownership and submit it to the court. However, if negotiations fail, the court will step in to help take care of it.

When assets are split by the court, community property is typically divided equally between partners, including assets as well as debts. However, in cases where a fifty-fifty division is unfair or unwarranted, the court has the legal latitude to make a different arrangement. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 26.09.080) states that the court will make a decision that is “just and equitable” and balance the financial situation of each divorcing spouse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean equal in dollar amounts.  The court will make its decision based on the following factors:

  • The nature and extent of both community and separate property
  • The length of the marriage
  • The financial situation of each spouse after assets are divided

The court may consider other factors as well, depending on the specific circumstances of your divorce. In certain situations, the court may even include separate property in its decision, although this is relatively rare—separate property usually stays with the original owner. Inheritances or gifts given solely to one partner also remain with that partner, as well, although there are exceptions. When separate property has been “commingled” with community property such that the two become indistinguishable, the court will consider the separate property as community property for purposes of asset division.

For shorter-lived marriages, the court will look less at an equal division of assets and more at putting each partner back in a financial situation that’s similar to the way things were before the marriage. However, since Washington is a pure no-fault state, the one thing the court will not consider is marital misconduct during asset division.

We Can Help You

Before the court must step in and guide asset division, you may consider enlisting the services of a divorce mediator to help you. If you and your spouse can come to a mutual agreement about asset division outside the courtroom, the process can be much faster, and it will save money, too.

Do you have questions about asset division during your divorce, mediation, or another divorce-related issue and need legal help? The attorneys at The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny are here for you, and we have decades of experience handling cases like these. Reach out today by calling us, or click the contact link on this page to arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office.

 

Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny