Purchasing a house is a big step in life. It does not take long for the house to become a home and the center of your life. It is where you feel the most comfortable after a long day at work and where you create lasting memories with your family and friends.
This makes your home an important asset in your marriage – as well as a critical issue in your divorce.
However, what if you purchased your home before you got married? Will your spouse have a stake in the property division process?
Would the house be separate property?
Under Washington law, any property you owned before you married your spouse is classified as separate property. This means it is not subject to the division of assets. Spouses must only divide community property – or property you and your spouse acquire during the marriage. After all, you and your spouse both own this property equally under the law.
This is the reason why many people assume that a home they purchased before getting married would be separate property. However, that fact does not automatically make your home separate property. The classification of your home depends entirely on your situation and the details surrounding the maintenance of your home.
When could your ex-spouse get a share of the house?
It is true that property you obtain before marriage generally would be considered separate property. However, several conditions can turn separate property into community property.
When it comes to your house, you must consider any financial details surrounding the management or maintenance of it. For example:
- Refinancing your home and adding your spouse’s name to the deed makes the home community property
- Using marital funds to remodel or update the home or pay the mortgage could result in a reimbursement of those funds to your spouse
- Your spouse could also receive a share of the house if you made any improvements that increased the house’s value during the marriage
You should carefully review the financial records pertaining to your house to determine if your spouse has a right to it in the property division process. It is also helpful to consult an experienced family law attorney in these cases to ensure you understand the details as you move forward with your divorce.