Asset Divisions in Seattle Divorces – What to Expect

Property Awards of assets in a typical King County Divorce Case

When a court performs assets divisions in Seattle divorces, which assets are before the court?  What does before the court mean?

All of the martial assets.  Yes, everything.  This means that everything from your kitchen aide mixer to the condo in Hawaii is property that can be awarded to either party by the court.  

Washington is a community property state.   The court will make a fair and equitable distribution of the marital assets.  Any property received during the course of the marriage is considered community property. 

This means that when a couple earns income during the marriage, the income is considered community property.  If your wife who is a flight attendant buys 100 shares of Alaska Airlines during the marriage, that’s community property. 

On the other hand, if she bought it before you two got married, it’s separate property.  With some exceptions, only community property will be split between the parties.  The rest remains with the spouse who owned the property before.

What kind of assets division splits can I expect to be awarded in King County divorces for small business owners?

It’s highly dependent upon the income of both spouses.  Broadly speaking, the court will typically award 50/50 property awards to people of relatively equal income.  If the wife earns nothing and you earn $120,000 a year, don’t expect that result. 

In those cases, the wife typically gets 55-60% or more of all the assets.  You get what’s left and a bill of spousal maintenance to pay to your soon-to-be ex-wife. There are some exceptions.  For example, inheritances are not considered community property and thus won’t be split.

How do asset divisions in Seattle divorces work?

First, the court decides what kind of asset the property is.  Is it separate property or community?  If it’s separate, it sets that aside.  If it’s community, that’s thrown in the proverbial “pot” for distribution to the parties at divorce.

What kind of property can be included in asset divisions in Seattle divorces?

How about everything?  Here’s some examples of what can be included:

  • Family Home
  • Stock Options
  • Pensions
  • 401(k) and Investment Portfolios
  • Business Assets
  • Professional Practices such as Medical or Dental Practices
  • Closely Held Corporations and family run businesses
  • Offshore accounts
  • Multiple bank accounts
  • Social Security Benefits
  • Retirement Accounts


Once the pot is established, the court factors in the length of the marriage and income of the parties in deciding what the husband will pay to the wife.

In divorce cases with children, the family home is normally awarded to the spouse who is taking care of the children.  In theory, the other spouse should receive a larger share of other assets to make up for the lose of the home.  However in practice, we find that the party that gets the home usually ends up with a larger share of the community estate. 

If the home is the major asset of the family, the other spouse often receives an “equitable equalization distribution” which is sometimes just a lien on the home.  In those cases, the party keeping the home usually has a period of time to pay off the other spouse.  From personal experience, these are no ideal for the business owner or preferential professional.  

You usually end up with a worthless piece of paper when your wife refuses to repay you the debt she owes you.   If you have the typical language in a divorce decree, you could really be in a bad situation without an ability to enforce the decree and force your wife to pay you.  We are very careful about the language that we will agree to in a divorce decree.