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Federal Way Property Division

Property Division in Federal Way

During divorce proceedings, property division can be one of the most complex aspects to deal with. The division of assets and liabilities in Federal Way and many other places is governed by specific laws and statutes designed to ensure fairness and equity for everyone involved. Understanding these laws is crucial for those going through a divorce to protect their interests and assets.

Understanding Community Property Laws

Federal Way follows the principle of community property when it comes to property division during divorce. Community property laws dictate that debts and assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered joint property and are subject to equal division between spouses upon divorce.

This means that any property acquired, income earned, or debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage belong equally to both parties, regardless of whose name is on the title or account.

Are There Exceptions to Community Property?

Yes. While community property laws form the foundation of property division in King County, there are exceptions. For example, if the asset was acquired as a gift or inheritance, it may be considered separate and not subject to divorce proceedings.

Moreover, assets owned by one spouse before the marriage may be classified as separate property. This can get complicated, however.

What Is Equitable Distribution vs Community Property?

Unlike a strict community property state, where assets are typically divided equally during divorce, Washington follows the principle of equitable distribution.

Equitable distribution lets the court divide the marital property in a way that is considered fair, considering several factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s financial contributions, and their future earning potential.

In some cases, the court may also consider contributions as a homemaker or caregiver, child custody arrangements and responsibilities, the tax implications of property division, and any other agreements or arrangements made by the spouses regarding property division.

RCW 26.09.140 Disposition of Community Property and Liabilities addresses the division of community property and liabilities in divorce cases. It provides guidelines for the court to follow in determining the equitable distribution of debts and assets acquired during the marriage.

What About Spousal Support and Property Division?

To provide financial support after divorce, the court may also award spousal support or alimony to one spouse. Spousal support may be granted based on factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse's financial resources and needs, and the standard of living established during the marriage.

It's important to note that spousal support and property division are separate issues, although they may intersect in certain cases.

How Do I Protect My Interests When It Comes to Property Division?

While property division in King County can often prove to be complex and even emotionally challenging, there are steps you can take to protect your interests as much as possible during divorce proceedings.

Gather Documentation: Collect all your financial records, deeds, titles, and other relevant documents to show the court a much clearer picture of what the marital assets and debts were.

Consult With Legal Professionals: Knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys in Federal Way can provide valuable guidance and advocacy throughout the property division process.

Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation or collaborative divorce sometimes offers a more amicable and cost-effective way to resolve issues and disputes that arise out of these cases.

Focus on Long-Term Goals: Don’t get too caught up over specific assets. Instead, shift your focus more on achieving a fair and equitable division to set you up for financial stability and independence following your divorce proceedings.

What Is Considered Marital Property?

Marital property typically includes all assets and debts acquired during the marriage. Regardless of the name listed on the titles or accounts, this can include earned income, purchased real estate, retirement accounts, and debts that were incurred during the marriage.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 26.09.080 Disposition of Property states the factors the court must consider when dividing property in divorce cases. Again, these statutes emphasize equitable distribution based on the duration of the marriage, the financial contributions of each spouse, and their future earning potential.

What Is Separate Property, and How Is It Treated in Divorce Proceedings?

RCW 26.09.090 Separate Property defines it as assets acquired before the marriage, gifts, inheritance, and property acquired after a legal separation, which generally remains with the spouse who owns it and is not subject to division in the divorce.

What Happens to the Family Home During Divorce Proceedings?

It comes down to several factors, including each spouse’s specific circumstances, their preferences, and the laws. Here are some common scenarios you may find in Federal Way:

Home Sale

A common outcome of divorce is selling the family home and dividing the sale proceeds between each spouse. This option is often chosen when neither spouse wants to keep the home or when selling it just makes the most sense because it is a more practical way to divide the marital assets equally.

Spousal Buy Out

In some cases, one spouse wants to keep the family home and will offer to buy out the other spouse. The spouse who wants to keep the house will usually refinance the mortgage under their name or use other assets to compensate the other spouse for their share of the home’s value.


Some divorced spouses may choose to co-own the home, which is often the case when there are children involved and they want to maintain stability. Co-ownership arrangements can involve different agreements like one spouse living in the home while the other receives rental income. Using the home as a temporary residence until the children reach a certain age or milestone is also an option.

Deferred Sale

When selling the home isn’t feasible or an outcome the spouses want, the court may defer the sale. This means the home will be sold at a later date, like when the youngest child graduates from high school, for example. In such cases, one spouse can continue to live in the home while making mortgage payments.

Spousal Award

It is also possible that the court will award the family home to one spouse as part of the property division settlement. This decision is often based on the needs of the children, the financial circumstances of each spouse, and agreements and arrangements made between both parties.

Can Property Division Orders Be Modified After the Divorce Is Finalized?

In Federal Way, property division orders are typically considered final and binding once finalized in the divorce decree. Nonetheless, there are circumstances under which property division orders may be modified.

  • Fraud or Misrepresentation: If one spouse concealed assets or misrepresented financial information during the divorce proceedings, resulting in an unfair property division, the aggrieved spouse may petition the court to reopen the case and seek to modify the property division order.
  • Substantial Change in Circumstances: If there is a significant change in circumstances after the divorce, a disability affecting one spouse's ability to earn income, or a drastic change in the value of marital assets, the court may consider modifying the property division order to ensure fairness and equity.
  • Noncompliance With Court Orders: One spouse may seek enforcement of the original order or petition for a modification if the other spouse fails to comply with the terms of the property division order, such as refusing to transfer ownership of property or hiding assets.
  • Discovery of New Assets: If, after the divorce, new assets that were not disclosed during the initial proceedings are discovered, the aggrieved spouse may seek to modify the property division order to include these newly discovered assets in the marital estate and ensure equitable distribution.
  • Mutual Agreement: In some cases, spouses may mutually agree to modify the property division order outside of court, either through informal negotiations or alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or collaborative divorce.
What Should I Do if I Suspect my Spouse Is Hiding Assets During the Divorce?

If you suspect a spouse is hiding assets during the divorce, you want to take a few actionable steps as soon as possible. Start by gathering documentation to help substantiate your claims and provide evidence of any discrepancies you are noting.

Next, consult a family law or divorce attorney experienced in handling these types of cases. Taking a few proactive steps and seeking the guidance of legal professionals helps protect your interests and allows you to pursue a more favorable and fair outcome in your divorce case.

Client Reviews
Laurie has worked on my very challenging and contentious divorce and I could not have asked for a better family law attorney. She was able to handle all of the twists and turns of my case with ease. I highly recommend Laurie to anyone looking for an excellent, ethical and hard working counselor. Chandler
Laurie is an incredible divorce lawyer! She did an amazing job with my divorce, and it was a real dog fight the whole way. She is a true fighter. And you can tell that she really cares about her family law clients and the results that she achieves for them. John
My lawyer guided me through a very challenging time in my life when I was going through my divorce. She worked hard and explained every step of the way what was going on so I could understand the process. I was very happy with her work. Barbel