How Debt is Split in a Washington Divorce

A divorce involves so much more than ending your legal marriage. Because the outcome of a divorce can impact your life for years to come, it’s important to understand how asset division, specifically debt you and your spouse accrued, works.

Washington is a Community Property State

Washington is one of nine states that abide by community property laws, rather than equitable distribution.

As a community property state, divorcing couples must split all assets that were acquired during the marriage (including debts) equally. The goal is to eliminate disagreements and arguments among couples when filing for divorce.

Dividing Debt in a Divorce

Community property involves assets acquired during the marriage. Therefore, assets acquired (bought, inherited, gifted etc.) before marriage or after a legal separation would not fall under the umbrella of community property.

In most ways, debt is treated similarly to other assets. If the debt was acquired before the marriage (such as school loans), that would be separate property. However, debt acquired during the marriage (credit card debts, car loans, mortgages, etc.) would be community and therefore shared in the event of a divorce.

When is Debt Ever Not Split?

Even if it was acquired during the marriage, there are some occasions when debt would not be considered communal or divided equally among both spouses. Courts may consider debt separate if:

  • It was acquired secretly.
  • It was acquired exclusively by one party.
  • It did not benefit the marriage.

For example, if you were unaware that your spouse was running up thousands of dollars in credit card debt during the marriage, you may not be responsible for it after the divorce.

At our Seattle family law firm, we believe in high-quality counsel that comes at reasonable rates. Everyone deserves exemplary legal care, and that is what you will find at Wakefield Legal, PLLC. Help is always just a call away! Request your case evaluation online or call (206) 966-6933.