Whether you’re thinking about filing for divorce or you and your spouse have definitively decided to end your union, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as you can. Even if you are unsure of whether you will ultimately decide to divorce, connecting with an attorney proactively will help to ensure that you can make truly informed decisions from this moment forward. Although it may not seem like your actions now could impact and eventual divorce settlement, in reality, everything you do is potentially consequential starting now.
What Is Community Property and Why Does This Concept Matter?
As an experienced divorce lawyer – including those who practice at Robinson & Hadeed – can explain in a more personalized context, Washington State honors a property division legal theory known as “community property.” In a nutshell, this means that – if you choose to file for divorce in Washington State – all of the assets and liabilities that you and your spouse acquired over the length of your marriage will be treated as equally owned by both of you. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
Practically speaking, this will mean that if you and your spouse don’t have a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement in place that allows for alternative property division terms, a judge will likely be compelled to divide your assets and liabilities equally between you and your spouse.
With that said, if you and your spouse are in a position to agree on an alternative arrangement, the fate of your marital property will not be determined by a judge. Only divorce cases that are contentious and require judicial intervention must necessarily be decided according to the rigid property division rules enforced by the state.
Setting Goals and Expectations
It’s important to keep a realistic perspective when setting goals for your property division process. For example, if your spouse is likely to be unreasonable and uncooperative during this process, it may be to your benefit to prepare for mediation or even a contentious court battle instead of setting your heart on the idea that you’ll be able to reach an equitable agreement without formal assistance.
It’s also important to set some realistic expectations regarding how your assets and liabilities will be managed until your divorce has been finalized. For example, while you may be interested in investing in a new business, filing for bankruptcy, or selling your house, you may need to wait until your marital property settlement is finalized before you make any significant transitions. Otherwise, you could end up in legal hot water over your approach.
If you have questions about how you should be preparing for your divorce or how you should be handling your assets until your divorce is finalized, please consult an attorney proactively. Do not make assumptions that could get you in trouble and undermine your goals down the road. Seek personalized legal guidance to better ensure that you are making the best possible decisions on your own behalf during this challenging and complex time.