Property division is an extremely important part of any dissolution or separation. Individuals have a right to a just and equitable share of all the property to which they have a legal claim. At V. Freitas Law, we investigate, indentify, and claim all property to which our clients' have a legal right with the goal of placing them in as solid a financial position as possible. Property division can be relatively simple or complex, but every case requires careful accounting, study, research and advocacy. V. Freitas Law provides highly skilled legal counsel on property division issues including valuing small businesses and working with experts.
Washington is a community property state. That means that both spouses own an equal interest in all of the property acquired during the marriage from community funds. Unless a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement specifically provides otherwise, all income earned by the spouses during the marriage is community property. All property acquired from community income is community property. That includes any pension earned during the marriage as well as all funds in 401(k) or other retirement accounts. All investment accounts and banking accounts that contain community income are community property.
Unless a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement was signed specifically providing otherwise, separate property is property that was owned by a spouse prior to the marriage and was not co-mingled with community property or gifted to the community during the marriage. While the definition of community and separate property seems simple enough, there is frequently debate about whether an asset is a community asset or a separate asset.
It is possible for an asset to consist of both community property and separate property. A common example of that is the family home. If one spouse owns a home prior to the marriage, the down payment and the equity in the home up until the marriage is separate property. If the couple resides in the home during the marriage and the house payment is made from community property funds after the marriage, that portion of the home equity attributable to an increase in value after the marriage is community property.
In a dissolution action, the court has the power award all of the community and separate property of both spouses in a fair and equitable manner. The court is not limited to dividing and allocating just the community property. The court is similarly not required to make an equal, or 50/50 division of the community property between the spouses. The court has a great deal of latitude to decide what a fair and equitable division of the community and separate property is in each case. A court will enforce a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement as long as it was entered in a lawful manner. It is important to have the assistance of an attorney familiar with family law to review your assets and advise you on what a fair and equitable division of your assets should be.