How Does the Court Decide Who Gets What?

Often a client wants to know if she will get the house, or will the husband keep his car and the grandfather clock his Aunt left him in her will. It is hard to predict what a court will do about specific assets because a court does not decide the division of property and debts in a vacuum. Before deciding who gets what property, the court considers the entire financial package including a) each party’s incomes, b) each party’s financial futures, c) what other property is being received by each party, d) what maintenance and child support is involved, and many other factors. The Washington legislature has told Courts to consider the following in RCW 26.09.080:

In a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, legal separation, declaration of invalidity, or in a proceeding for disposition of property following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property, the court shall, without regard to marital misconduct, make such disposition of the property and the liabilities of the parties, either community or separate, as shall appear just and equitable after considering all relevant factors including, but not limited to:

(1) The nature and extent of the community property;

(2) The nature and extent of the separate property;

(3) The duration of the marriage; and

(4) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to a spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time.