When can asset division in a divorce be unequal?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Property Division

One of the most contentious issues in a divorce is often the division of assets. In Washington State, the law aims for a fair split between spouses.

In some cases, this means that parties will divide marital property equally, per community property laws. However, while these rules provide a framework, it’s essential to recognize that there are exceptions.

Bending the property division rules

Sometimes, sticking strictly to the rules isn’t possible or fair. Here are specific situations that may lead to exceptions in property division:

  • Agreements between spouses: Division could be unequal if parties have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place or have already negotiated a settlement themselves.
  • Dissipating marital assets: If one spouse has squandered assets or racked up unreasonable debts, the courts may adjust the division based on this economic misconduct.
  • Separate property: Assets individuals owned before the marriage or received as a gift/inheritance might not be eligible for division and can, therefore, shift the balance of property.
  • Business ownership: The division of a business can be complex, often requiring a tailored approach.
  • Health and age: The health and age of each spouse can influence asset division, especially concerning retirement benefits and medical needs.

These are just a few examples where the standard rules for dividing community property might be bent to achieve fairness.

Navigating exceptions in high-asset divorces

Deviations from the standard rules are not just legal checkboxes; they are complex decisions that can significantly affect both parties’ futures. The stakes are high when substantial assets are at play, and the division process becomes even more delicate. Divorcing spouses must understand their rights and the implications of these exceptions.

Remember, while the law provides a starting point, the final outcome often hinges on the specific details of each case. Working through these with input from financial and legal professionals can be vital, particularly in high-asset divorces that involve substantial properties and liabilities.