The state of Washington follows community property law when considering assets to be split up during a divorce. This means, all gains (or losses) acquired during the marriage belong equally to both spouses, and when you decide to get a divorce, you are each entitled to an equal share of that property or asset. However, it can be easy to get confused or overlook certain assets that you may have a right to, especially if you don’t know where to begin.
Most couples look at financial assets first when dividing property. Generally, anything earned by either partner after marriage is considered community property, with both partners having an equal interest. This includes gifts of money given to the couple. It may seem straightforward, but there are quite a few financial assets besides cash that you may not think to consider, including:
- Checking, savings, and “Christmas club” accounts
- Retirement accounts, including 401(k) or IRA plans
- Educational savings accounts
- Profit sharing plans
- Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and certificates of deposit (CDs)
- Life insurance policies
Inheritances that have been gifted solely to one partner are generally considered separate property, not community property, and are usually ineligible for asset division. The exception to this is a commingled asset, when the asset has been mixed with community property to the extent that it is indistinguishable as separate property. When the courts find an asset to be commingled, it will be considered community property, regardless of where it came from.
Any real property acquired during a marriage is typically community property, so you’re entitled to your ownership interest in a divorce. Some examples of real property include:
- Your marital home
- Vacation homes or other residences
- Any rental or business properties
- Any undeveloped land
It’s important to note that the spouse who receives the home may not be entitled to the contents of the home, as the furnishings and contents will be valued separately. Think carefully about whether or not you want to keep homes or other properties, or if it would be better to sell them and take your share of the proceeds.
Personal Property and Other Belongings
Personal property is often the biggest and most time-consuming category of assets to consider for division. It can sometimes be problematic if you don’t tackle it carefully and methodically. Examples of personal property include:
- Furniture, including tables, couches, beds, rugs, and other home furnishings
- Washers, dryers, and other home appliances
- Artwork, art collections, or antiques
- China, crystal, and silver
- Coins, stamps, or other collectible items
- Personal computers, tablets, televisions, video games, and other consumer electronics
- Home office furnishings, including desks, printers, computers, and furniture
- Clothing, jewelry, and furs
- Cars, trucks, boats, planes, motorcycles, and other vehicles
- Campers, RVs, and ATVs
- Tools and other equipment
Sometimes, an unhappy spouse may try to hide assets during the divorce. He may begin rapidly spending money by purchasing personal belongings such as tools, collectibles, or artwork, and then try to undervalue them in the divorce. This is never a good idea, and if discovered, will not be looked upon favorably by the judge. Attempting to hide assets will result in the court forcing the offending party to pay back the missing money, often with stiff penalties. Severe or repeated attempts to hide assets may even result in an arrest.
If you or your spouse owned a business while married, you may have a community property interest in the assets of that business, too. This may include:
- A sole proprietorship
- A professional practice (such as a doctor, lawyer, or accountant)
- A partnership
- Any other business interests
Determining the value of a business in a divorce can be challenging, especially when the business is a professional practice that relies entirely on just one partner. It’s vital that a solo practitioner get sound legal advice and a fair valuation or risk paying more than is necessary to buy out the divorcing spouse’s ownership interest.
Get Help With Asset Division
Divorce is often difficult and complicated, and splitting assets isn’t easy. If you have any questions about asset division and would like legal help, call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today. You can reach us by phone, or use the contact link on this page to schedule a private consultation in our Bellevue offices.