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High-asset divorce, community and separate property in Washington

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2021 | Divorce

In a Washington State divorce, people will be in dispute over a litany of different issues. While some of the most emotionally charged factors center on child custody, visitation and support, those who have amassed significant assets will be thinking about property division from the start. This can be contentious and troubling, especially if the case is stricken by acrimony. Of course, some cases are relatively cordial and it takes little more than some slight flexibility and negotiation and the parties can split amicably. This is unfortunately rare. From the start, it is wise to understand the basics of how assets and debts are divided and adapt based on the individual circumstances in every case.

Fundamentals of property and debt in a divorce

According to the law, property encompasses money, possessions, financial accounts, businesses and more. Washington has a community property template meaning that if property was acquired while the couple was married, it will be divided between them. Separate property would be categorized as items that the parties brought into the marriage individually or acquired for themselves alone while they were married. An inheritance from a relative would be considered separate property even if it came about during the marriage.

However, this can be complicated by properties that might have been owned by one spouse before the marriage and appreciated in value while they were married. For example, if there was a business that one spouse had started beforehand and it improved markedly while they were married, there could be a dispute as to how much the other spouse contributed to its growth and is entitled to as part of the divorce settlement. It is not as simple as splitting it.

Courts try to find a fair solution for couples to share property in a divorce. Equitable division is the goal, but that does not necessarily mean 50-50. The court will take each case individually and assess it on its merits. The length of the marriage, the type of work and education the parties had, their property and contributory factors will be weighed when the court decides. With a residence, other issues could come into play such as if there are young children who would have their best interests served by remaining in the home.

Having assistance with a high-asset divorce can be helpful

High-asset divorce can be challenging. The law can be somewhat confusing with property division, especially for those who have accumulated wealth and disagree as to how it will be shared. If there is a large portfolio the couple has accrued and both want a certain amount as part of the divorce settlement, it could be difficult to find common ground. Even if there is room to collaborate and settle the outstanding issues, it is important to have professional help from experienced advocates who understand these cases.