You’ve decided to get divorced, maybe you have talked to your spouse about it, and want to do it amicably. Washington's community property law states that the assets are to be divided equitably between the spouses; this means that it is not necessarily a 50/50 split. The first step is to take stock of the assets that you both own, whether in your sole name, your spouse’s sole name, or owned jointly.
Banking, investment and 401(k) savings plans are obviously pretty easy to determine a current value for.
Other assets, such as real property, pensions, unvested RSUs and businesses require valuation of some kind. In these cases, it may be beneficial to consult with an asset division attorney.
In the Seattle area, housing is expensive. It can often be one of the biggest items in a family’s net worth. Many of us have friends who are realtors who regularly do Comparable Market Analyses (CMA) and may offer to do one for you for “free”, hoping they may be asked to list the house if it comes down to that. However, doing so may not save you any money in the long run.
Real property, like your house or rental property, is often valued at the time of divorce, either at the date of settlement or date of trial, in the unlikely event it comes down to that. (Only 1-2% of cases go to trial.)
If you and your spouse can agree on a reasonable value for the property, then lucky you! But often parties don’t agree and that can create a lot of back and forth between the parties and/or attorneys about value. That back and forth can end up costing more than an appraisal by a reputable appraiser who is willing to testify in court, should it come to that.
Likewise, getting an appraisal too quickly in the process, and without consultation with an attorney, can lead to added expense. If you have an appraisal by someone who is not willing to testify should the case go to court, your appraised value may not be used by the court. Even if the case never goes to trial, a more timely appraisal by someone willing to testify is more likely to “stick” in informal negotiations or more formal mediation than an estimate based on Zillow/Redfin, a CMA by a realtor, or an appraiser who is not able to testify.
While it is understandable that you wish to preserve your net worth and to try and save money by not consulting an attorney, that strategy can backfire. At Molly B. Kenny, our divorce lawyers in Bellevue apply our decades of experience to help you navigate the legal hurdles such that your money is used wisely throughout the process, and you end up with an equitable and enforceable division of assets.