Washington state recognizes two major types of property ownership in the context of marriage: separate property and community property. It’s important to recognize the legal definitions of both property types, as well as the differences between the two.

Separate property refers to property that was individually owned by one spouse individually before the marriage. Separate property may also include property that was received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage, and property that was acquired after the spouses separated. RCW 26.16.010. Sometimes if separate property is mixed with community property the lines can be blurred.

Examples of Separate property:

Community property refers to property that is owned by both spouses together, and is generally property that was acquired during the marriage by either spouse, regardless of who earned the money or whose name is on the title. RCW 26.16.030.

Examples of Community property:

  • Real Property (land and buildings)
  • Income
  • Vehicles, Furniture, and other moveable assets
  • Joint bank accounts
  • Debts or assets acquired during the marriage
  • Stocks, 401k accounts, royalties

Washington state is a community property state, which means that absent a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, all property acquired during the marriage is generally considered to be community property. In the event of a divorce or legal separation in Washington state, generally each spouse will retain their separate property, however, the court does have the authority to divide separate property in certain situations. Community property is subject to division between the spouses. There may be different factors to consider on what that split may look like.

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