Community property and the problem of marital waste

For many Washington residents, marriage brings with it the benefit of shared property ownership in items both big and small. The state recognizes community property for marital possessions that are acquired during marriage and that are comingled to become community property after a marriage happens. Married individuals can retain separate property from their spouses if they own it outright and do not comingle it for the benefit of the marriage.

When individuals own community property through marriage, they are responsible to communicate with their partner about their expenses and how they will use their shared assets. When one party deceptively or intentionally conceals financial transactions from the other in an attempt to lower the value of their shared assets, the perpetrator may be committing marital waste.

This post will generally discuss Washington law and how marital waste of community property can impact high asset divorces. No part of this post is offered as legal advice. Knowledgeable local attorneys can provide case-specific guidance to individuals with concerns.

Communication regarding the use of marital assets

Community property may be managed by both parties to a marriage. However, an individual may not take certain actions with regard to community property that may impact the property rights of both owners. For example, married individuals cannot, with regard to community property:

  • Bequeath more than half of the community property, as each party has a one-half interest in the whole of the community property owned;
  • Encumber community property;
  • Give away community property; or
  • Buy real property as community property without the involvement and approval of the other prospective owner.

When individuals attempt to get rid of community property in anticipation of divorce, their actions may be considered martial waste. There intentions may be to lower the value of the assets available to settle between them and their spouse, but their actions may be wrongful.

How a knowledgeable high asset divorce attorney can help

Property holdings between married partners can be difficult to identify and hard to understand, particularly if one partner chose to allow the other to make the majority of decisions about the property’s management. When an individual sells, invests, or hides community assets from their soon-to-be ex, the affected partner can feel as though there is no way they can have a fair settlement during the property division process of their divorce. They may need to investigate where their property has gone and what can be done about it.

A high asset divorce attorney can assist their client by working with forensic accounts to locate hidden or wrongfully transferred community property. Ensuring that both partners have a fair and effective division of community property is important to both of their futures. No one has to face these challenges alone as divorce attorneys can help them understand their options.