Community Property: Yours vs. Ours

Getting divorced can be a very stressful time, and trying to separate belongings and finances combined for years – or even decades – can make things more difficult. When one spouse tries to come away with more than is considered their share, things can get messy. How do you know what you are entitled to? What is your property and what is considered “community property?” Understanding the legal idea of community property can help you know what to expect in your divorce.

“Separate property” of a spouse is defined by the Revised Code of Washington as the property and financial rights that one spouse owned before marriage, or acquired after marriage by gift (to only one spouse) or inheritance. This property remains the separate, personal property of the person it belongs to usually.

“Community property,” therefore, is everything else! This means that all earnings (wages, interest on investments, retirement benefits, etc.) by both spouses are the property of the community – both of you. Property purchased during the marriage or with the above community earnings is also community property. It does not matter if one spouse paid for the house, a car, or all of the bills, both spouses have an interest in the property. Therefore, this property is usually divided between the spouses during divorce.

The same idea of community property is also applied to debts. The debt you acquired during the marriage would be considered the debt of the community, not just whoever signed up for it. Debt acquired before marriage would remain separate.

So, who gets what?

A large part of the divorce process is figuring out who gets what property, assets, and debt. The law has room for flexibility. There are exceptions or certain circumstances that would change what is considered fair. Parties to a divorce have plenty of opportunity during the divorce process to agree to the terms that seem fair to them. If the parties cannot agree during settlement negotiations or mediation, then the divorce will go to trial. During a divorce trial, both spouses (or their attorneys) present their cases for division of assets and parenting, then a judge decides how to divide the contested items or what percentage of the total value of the property each spouse should be awarded.

One benefit to hiring an attorney during a divorce is having someone to help you figure out what property is separate and what is part of the community. An experienced Family Law attorney can help the process go smoothly and efficiently by making sure that each side is adhering to the law or theories of equity (fairness), and advocating for you when something isn’t right. If you have questions or want to start the divorce process, call Katrina S. Zafiro today to schedule your consultation.

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Zafiro Law

As an attorney, I am passionate about helping my clients achieve peace of mind in navigating the complex areas of family law and immigration law. Your case will get my full and dedicated attention—whether you are seeking to navigate the complexities of your family law matter or overcome the challenges of your immigration law case.

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