Separate Property

In the state of Washington, any property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be community property subject to equitable distribution. As explained in RCW 26.16.140, property acquired after spouses separate, however, is classified as the separate property of each, not community property. For this reason, each party keeps their post-separation acquisitions which are not subject to division because of the divorce.

Community property not disposed of in a dissolution is owned thereafter by the former spouses as tenants in common, unless the terms of a settlement agreement award undisclosed proeprty in a different manner. The goal in any divorce case is to make sure that the property is divided properly so that the parties can move on with their lives.

If you are concerned about the proper way to divide your property during a divorce, then contact one of the experienced Seattle Divorce Lawyers at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson to discuss your case. Call (206) 712-2756 to schedule the initial consultation.

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Classifying the Property as Separate or Community

When determining the character of property as either separate or community, the determination is made at the time the property is acquired. Once the separate character of property is established, there is a presumption that it remains separate absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

The characterization of property as separate or community, however, does not dictate the division of assets. In these cases, the evidence must show the intent of the spouse owning the separate property to change its character from separate to community property.

Some estate planning documents can convert separate property into community property. Many parties do not realize the effect of such documents, or that the property they beleive retained its character as separate property was later converted inadvertentely to community property.

To show the intent of the spouse to make the separate property into community property, an acknowledged writing is generally required. Examples of an acknowledged writing can include any of the following:

  • a quit claim deed;
  • other real property transfer; or
  • a properly executed community property agreement.
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