Marital property refers to all possessions (including ownership interests) acquired during a couple's marriage. This also includes all debts incurred by the couple during marriage, with some exceptions. Washington's marital property laws recognize the concept of "community property," in which almost all property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be jointly owned by the spouses and therefore subject to equal division upon divorce.
What is Marital Property According to Washington Law?
Washington is one of a few remaining community property states in the country, which means items considered marital property are generally split equally. According to Washington law, marital (or community) property is that which was acquired by either party during the course of the marriage, with some exceptions. Community property generally includes:
- All earnings of either spouse during the marriage (including interest on investments, capital gains, retirement benefits, and other assets);
- All property obtained with earnings during the course of the marriage; and
- All property obtained with community funds.
For couples that move from a state that doesn't recognize community property, the property each spouse acquires in that other state is considered separate property in the event of a divorce in Washington.
What Isn't Considered Marital Property in Washington?
Items (including real estate and other assets of value) not considered community property are called "separate property." These assets generally aren't part of the property division in a divorce. Separate property in Washington may include:
- Gifts to only one spouse;
- Items purchased prior to marriage; and
It's important to keep in mind that an item may lose its separate property status if it's commingled with community funds, particularly if the separate property is hard to identify as such.
Washington Marital Property Laws at a Glance
Statutory language is rarely written in a straightforward way, which is why reading a summary of the law can help you better understand the statute itself. In the following chart, you'll find an overview of marital property laws in Washington as well as links to relevant statutes.
Washington Revised Code Section 26.16.010, et seq. (Rights and Liabilities - Community Property)
|Community Property Recognized?
|Dower and Curtesy
Dower and curtesy abolished as per Section 11.04.060.
Washington Revised Code Section 26.09.002, et seq. (Dissolution Proceedings - Legal Separation)
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Washington Marital Property Laws: Related Resources
For additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links listed below.
Learn How Washington Marital Property Laws Affect You: Talk to a Lawyer
Divorces are stressful, but when you feel like your spouse is trying to take more property that they're entitled to, it becomes even more stressful. While this article provides a good overview of the marital laws in Washington, it's important to remember that each situation is unique. For this reason, it's best to discuss your specific situation with a local divorce attorney to learn exactly which property is part of the community and which property is separate.