How Does The Court Divide Assets In A Divorce?
Posted Apr 9, 2019
By Washington State Family Law Lawyer Dimitra S. Scott
Individuals entering divorce proceedings often hold many questions about the process. When counseling people through divorce we consistently encounter one question: how will the marital assets be divided by the Court?
Factors Affecting Asset Division
RCW 26.09.080 provides us with an answer in that “the court shall…make such disposition of the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors”. The statute goes on to discuss the four relevant factors:
- The marriage’s community property.
- Each partner’s separate property.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The financial situation of each partner at the time of the divorce.
Each factor holds varying significance in the division of the assets depending on the specific facts of each case—there is no exact formula. Every case is different and unique. For example, the Court must weigh the validity and equity of agreements the parties reached before or during the marriage concerning characterization of property as community or separate, and whether there was any commingling of those assets. The financial situation of each partner at the time of divorce holds significance, including how the divorce will affect each individual. The Court will also strongly consider fairness and equity in awarding assets to those spouses with no income, who stay at home to support the family’s needs and raise children.
An interesting thing to note about the four relevant statutory factors is that the fault of the divorce is never mentioned. In 1973, Washington joined other states in adopting “No-Fault Divorces”. The introduction of this new legislation meant the end of trying to prove who was at fault for the divorce in deciding who won property. Now, Washington courts use the four factors above and largely stay away from arguments regarding fault for the failure of the relationship.
Unfortunately, the statute raises more questions than it answers, and this is one frustrating aspect of divorces. The Court’s opinion of what constitutes a “just and equitable” divisions of assets may not coincide with your idea of a “just and equitable” division. To ensure you receive the best outcome possible in your divorce you need competent and experienced legal counsel. At Beresford Booth our family law team holds years of experience with divorces and we would be pleased to assist you through your divorce.
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