For many divorcing couples in Washington, property division is the most contentious issue that spouses grapple with. Divorcing spouses with minor children often understand that they need to cooperate for the sake of the children, at least when it comes to settling custody disagreements. However, disputes about how to share their property are often harder to resolve amicably.
People often feel entitled to certain property or do not care to share specific assets with their spouse. In Washington, when couples cannot settle their own property division matters, a judge will review their circumstances and then apply Washington’s community property statute to divide their marital resources.
Although the process may seem straightforward, there can be complicating factors that influence how difficult a particular couple’s process will ultimately prove to be. Same-sex couples who were in a long-term relationship years before marriage may have an extra layer of challenge to the division of their property.
Premarital assets could be community property
The assets that couples acquired before getting married could potentially be part of their marital estate in specific scenarios. Washington State was relatively ahead of the curve in terms of same-sex marriage. It has been an option since 2012, which was years before the federal Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that changed national rules regarding same-sex marriage. Still, there were many years when committed same-sex couples in Washington could not legally share their lives and resources with each other.
Those who lived a joint life and shared resources prior to 2012 when they could have the state recognize their marriages may find themselves dealing with a particularly complicated property division scenario. They may need to make a case to the courts to treat assets acquired after their commitment to one another but before their marriage as part of the community or marital estate.
Settlements often benefit those with complicated situations
A judge may have a hard time making sense of a couple’s unique experiences and needs, but the spouses themselves have a true understanding of their needs and unique concerns. Many same-sex couples will benefit from negotiating directly with one another to settle property division matters instead of waiting for a judge to hear their case.
Identifying and addressing challenges that could delay or complicate same-sex divorces in Washington with the assistance of an experienced legal professional can benefit those who are preparing to file for divorce.