For couples who don’t have a valid prenuptial agreement, property settlement agreement or community property agreement in Washington, the court decides how to divide their property and debt. Washington is a community property state, which means that all marital property is under shared ownership of the married couple.
What counts as community property?
Everything that you or your spouse bought during the marriage is community property. Even if only one person’s name is on the title, the law’s view of marital property overrides what the title says. Inheritances and gifts, however, typically don’t count as community property. In Washington, property that you or your spouse acquired while living together before marriage may count.
Debt that either spouse takes on during the marriage is community debt even if one of them didn’t know about it. The divorce is not enough to protect yourself from your former spouse’s debt. Even if the court orders them to pay back a certain debt, creditors could come after you for repayments. Washington allows you to sue your former spouse if they put you into a situation in which you have to pay off the debt they agreed to handle.
What is just and equitable?
Washington divides property and debt based on what’s “just and equitable,” which doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split. The court takes into account whether one spouse managed the home while the other worked and how long the marriage lasted. When it comes to child custody decisions, the judge usually prefers joint custody unless there’s a reason to give sole custody to one parent. If one parent has custody over the kids, then the judge is more likely to give them the family home when deciding on how to divide the property.
Property and debt division in Washington goes based on what the judge determines is just and equitable, which could be 50/50 or a different distribution. A couple may draft their own plan for division and submit it for approval if they prefer.