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Tacoma Divorce Attorneys

(253) 572-7272


Division of Property in Washington State

When parties decide to end their marriage they must divide the marital property.  For a variety of reasons, this can often be an extremely contentious issue.  In some cases, this process is simple.  On other occasions, however, this process can be very complex.

In Washington State, most property acquired after the marriage is considered community property.  There are, however, important exceptions, such as inheritances, personal injury lawsuits and some kinds of gifts.  Property obtained prior to a marriage is typically considered separate property. 

These seemingly simple concepts, however, can often be subject to interpretation and often require an attorney who is familiar with the legal intricacies of Washington divorce law to ensure your property and assets are fairly divided.  Equally importantly, and often misunderstood, is the fact that all property, whether community or separate, is before the court and CAN be divided as the court deems fair and just.

This can be particularly confusing in certain instances.  For example, let's say that one party owns a house with a hundred thousand dollars of equity in it at the time of marriage.  The house appreciates another $200,000 while the parties are married.  But the parties also refinance the house while they are married and take out $100,000 dollars in equity.  At the time the parties decide to divorce, therefore, there is $200,000 in total equity left in the house.  Obviously, the question then becomes how is this $200,000 characterized under Washington State's divorce and property laws.  As with many issues, it depends.

As another example, let's say that when a couple marries, a party has approximately, $50,000 in a 401K or a retirement account.  And, at the time of divorce, this account is worth $200,000.  How is this asset valued?  Again, it depends on several factors such as what contributions were made to the account during the marriage, the length of the marriage itself and whether or not the account was ever borrowed against.

Complicated assets, tracing issues, such as the source of funds used to acquire the assets, business interests, professional practices, retirement plan benefits, and personal investments are all issues that can arise in the context of dividing property during divorce proceedings.  At the Law Offices of Jason S. Newcombe, we approach and address each of these determinations with the utmost care.

It can often be absolutely critical to properly value businesses, pensions, residential and commercial real estate, household furnishings, and jewelry.  It is also important to consider any and all tax implications when reaching a final settlement.  For example, some assets, such as investment accounts will be taxed very differently from real or personal property when sold.

Our firm has years of experience in handling large and complex marital property divisions.  In addition, we know and understand how to properly employ various valuation experts when necessary, and we will utilize these experts in a manner that is most beneficial to your case.


Washington State's basic law regarding the disposition of property and liabilities is RCW 26.09.080, which can be found below

RCW 26.09.080

Disposition of property and liabilities — Factors.


In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property, the court shall, without regard to marital misconduct, 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 including, but not limited to:

     (1) The nature and extent of the community property;

     (2) The nature and extent of the separate property;

     (3) The duration of the marriage; and

     (4) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time.

As you can see, and as discussed throughout this site, the law itself provides only guidance, no set formula.  Additionally, it is important to note that RCW 26.09.080 must be read in conjunction with a number of other divorce statutes.

Call now to learn more about Washington State's property division laws in Tacoma divorce or Pierce County family law matter.
(253) 572-7272

[1989 c 375 § 5; 1973 1st ex.s. c 157 § 8.]