Property and Debt Distribution
When you get married, the law presumes you have formed a common economic unit. When parties get divorced, the law expects the assets and debts of the marriage unit (“the marital estate”) to be divided between the parties (distribution). Washington is one of approximately 8 “community property” states in the U.S.
If the parties can’t agree, the court must go through a multi-step process that first involves identifying all the property and debt that belongs to the couple, or either individual. Next, these items are analyzed under the community property laws to determine their “characterization”- community property, separate property of the husband or separate property of the wife.
See our Property-Debt page for the steps in this process.
Major assets, like real estate or retirement funds, can be “mixed character”, making things even harder to figure out for divorcing spouses. Items of significant value must then be assigned a fair market value and debt balances obtained. Finally, once the items are distributed to a “his” and “hers” list, the total values rarely come out equal and thus an “equity equalization payment” must be calculated and some means found to “finance” the “buyout”. We can quickly assist you to get through these steps and to easily compare proposed distributions “apples to apples”. We can also tell you with some confidence how the court will rule on many the property issues.
In addition, we can help you with complicated rules on how to split pensions – be they private companies subject to ERISA (by “Qualified Domestic Relations Orders”); federal employees subject to CSRS and FERS regulations (by “Court Orders Acceptable for Processing”); state and county government employees subject to DRS regulations in state law (by “Property Distribution Orders”); or military retirements subject to the Uniformed Former Spouses Protection Act (by “Qualified Military Support Orders”).
If you CAN reach agreement on property and debts we can help you to memorialize that mutual understanding into a fully enforceable “Separation Agreement” that will be incorporated into your divorce decree while maintaining privacy through filing the actual agreement with the court under GR22 “sealed records” provisions. You don’t have to wait for the 90 day waiting period of RCW 26.09.030 to run in order to have the peace of mind and security of knowing your property issues are resolved.