What is Community Property?

Washington is a Community property state. Upon dissolution, the Court must distribute all the property owned by the parties between them (both community and separate). The Court first determines whether the property is characterized as community property or separate property.

Separate property is that which one spouse owned before the marriage or inherited or received as a gift during the marriage. Community property is all other property that is acquired during the marriage.

Separate property can be converted into community property by commingling it. This could mean placing separate funds into a joint community account, or placing community funds (your wages) into an account with separate funds. In this situation, you can no longer tell which dollar is community and which dollar is separate. The burden of proof, by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence, is on the party who is alleging the property is separate. There is a presumption in Washington that property is community. You could also refinance a house and sign a Quit Claim Deed in the process deeding the property to the community.

Generally the division of property is left to the Courts in a divorce, with the intent that what is done is just and equitable. Factors that may determine how property is divided include the length of marriage, age, health and life status of the spouses. Also considered are each spouses’ occupation, income amounts and sources, and vocational skills for future employment opportunities.

Contact one of our established family law attorney if you have questions about whether property is community or separate.