Property division is one part of the divorce process that often requires a mediator. That’s because multiple marital assets can make it tricky to determine who gets what.
Marital property, also known as community property is used to define property ownership once a marriage is over.
One common question our divorce attorneys get is: is Washington a community property state? The answer is yes.
In this article, we will explore the basics of community property in Washington State to give you a better understanding of your rights.
What Is A Community Property Agreement (CPA)?
A community property agreement (CPA) is an estate planning tool that any married couple in Washington State can use. It is a legally binding agreement that couples can make to turn all property they own into community property. The couple can choose to have the agreement take place immediately, or they can wait for it to be only effective once one spouse passes away.
A CPA is most commonly created to help a couple avoid probate court. With a CPA in place, if a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse would not have to go through probate.
However, if a couple chooses to have a CPA take effect immediately, all of their property becomes community property. This is a huge concern during a divorce, as a CPA makes it extremely challenging to keep your spouse from receiving a share of your property that you do not wish for them to have. It’s important to remember that a CPA can only be reversed if both parties agree.
Separate v. Community Property in Washington State
In Washington, community property (also called marital property) covers any assets “acquired” while you were married to your partner or in a qualifying domestic partnership. (RCW 26.16.030) Both parties are entitled to the property and its sale and/or “management.”
The Washington State courts aim for “equitable” (fair) property division. However, your former partner may not be entitled to separate property. This includes assets that you gained before marrying your significant other or after your divorce or legal separation. It also includes any “inheritance” collected during your marriage that says it is specifically for one partner. (RCW 26.16.010)
Let’s cover a few examples of separate and community property.
Types of Separate Property
Separate property can include everything from a childhood home you purchased before you got married to a vehicle you bought after your divorce. It includes most assets that you got while apart from your significant other.
Further, as mentioned above, it includes inheritances. Therefore, if a family member passed away and left you some assets in their will, this may be considered separate property.
If you were gifted property apart from your spouse, the separate property laws might also apply. If you sell or rent out any separate property, your spouse may have no rights to the income.
Types of Community (Marital) Property
Community property is that which you or your spouse got while married or in a domestic partnership. That includes money, houses, home furnishings, appliances, and land.
The Washington State laws require that both parties must agree to the purchase to be considered community property. The same goes if you ever wish to sell the property (i.e., you must clear it with your former partner).
There is one exception to community property. Suppose you and your spouse have a written agreement that outlines an asset as separate property when it would normally be considered community property. In that case, the court will often honor it as separate property.
Work With A Trusted Washington State Divorce Attorney
With Washington being one of the marital property states, it is helpful to know your rights to community property. Washington State considers this as any property that came into play after you filed your marriage or domestic partnership paperwork (separate inheritances aside).
What happens if you purchased a property before tying the knot? That is separate property, and different laws apply.
Property division can be a handful in a divorce. A good lawyer can eliminate some of the stress and help you understand what property is rightfully yours.
Need a divorce attorney who knows the ins and outs of marital property agreements? Clearwater Law Group is the law firm to call. Get in touch today to meet with our team one on one.