Because Washington is a community property state, Washington courts generally divide marital property equally between spouses in the event of a divorce, although there are scenarios in which this is not the case. Thus, it is especially important to know which of your assets are considered community or marital property and which of your assets are considered yours alone.

What is included in community property?

Generally, community property is any money, real estate or other possessions that were acquired while you were married. This includes:

  • All of the money that you earned during your marriage, including retirement benefits, interest and other funds
  • Debts that you acquired during your marriage
  • All of the property you and your spouse obtained during the marriage
  • Any property that was paid for using your joint account or other marital funds

Even if these things are only in your name, the state considers them jointly owned.

It is also important to remember that separate property can become commingled if paid for using community funds. For example, if you make payments on your mortgage from your joint account, the house could be considered community property even if it was purchased before your wedding. It’s important to note that all property – both community and separate – is before the Court for division in a divorce in Washington.

What isn’t considered marital property in Washington?

Nonmarital property—also called noncommunity property or separate property—consists of the assets that are your sole property. Separate property can include:

  • Things that you owned before the marriage
  • Gifts given to you individually, rather than gifts to you and your spouse together
  • Your inheritance
  • Some personal injury settlements

Because of the risk of commingling, it can be important to use a premarital or postmarital agreement to legally recognize some of your higher-value property as separate property in case of a divorce. This can protect your business or your home for the future.