Part of the process of going through a divorce is dividing property, but
it can be difficult to determine what assets are considered eligible.
Property falls under the category of either community property or separate
property. Community property is subject to division while separate property
usually remains the property of the one spouse who owns it.
A divorce attorney in Seattle would explain to you that under Washington law,
community property is considered that which has been acquired throughout the duration of
the marriage. This can include the following:
- Real estate
- Retirement plans
- Savings accounts
- Art and other valuables
- Automobiles/recreational vehicles
- A business
You may control and manage community property, but within reason. For example,
neither you nor your ex is legally entitled to sell or transfer community
property without the consent of the other party. In the event of divorce,
the property is divided between you and your ex. Furthermore, the law
considers property to be community property up to the date that you or
the other person files for legal separation or divorce. That said, the
Washington State Bar Association points out that if you have children,
you may be
given the family home. The idea is that it is easier on the children, rather than adding to
the changes they are already going through as a result of the divorce.
When it comes to assets and divorce, it is possible to protect certain
property from being divided if you can prove the property is your separate
property. For example, if you owned a house before you married, that house
could be considered your own property. The same is true for investments,
retirement plans, stocks and other monetary items acquired before marriage.
During the marriage, items you receive as gifts, inheritance or any type
of compensation from a personal injury lawsuit can usually be claimed
as your separate property. However, you will need some type of proof to
show the court it is yours, in case your ex tries to say it is community
property. For instance, you could use a property deed to show ownership
or perhaps a photograph from Facebook to prove the item was a gift. An
engagement ring is traditionally given before the marriage began so it
would be considered separate property.
Transition from separate property to community property
There are situations where separate property can become community property.
If you received an inheritance from a grandparent and you place that money
into an account with your spouse’s name on it, your spouse may be
able to claim half of it. The same is true for that house you bought while
single, if you added your partner’s name to the deed. While a retirement
account established before the marriage may be under some protection,
the money and interest accumulated during the marriage may not be considered
On the other side of things, a divorce attorney in Seattle may be able
to establish that community property has become separate property if you
and your ex had set it up that way during the marriage. Perhaps your spouse
transferred legal ownership of a medical practice to you as a form of
protection against medical malpractice claims. You would probably be able
to claim that practice as separate property.
Determining whether assets fall under the community property statute can
be complicated. Therefore, it may be a good idea to meet with an attorney
to understand what your rights are.
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