With the exception of child custody, property division is probably the most common area of contention between divorcing spouses. Washington is a community property state, which means that everything you and your spouse obtained while you were married is considered both yours and your spouse’s. The same is true for any debts incurred during the marriage. If you want certain property, you will need to come to an agreement with your spouse that you leave with that property. If you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse, you will need to convince the court that you should be the one to retain the property once the marriage is dissolved.

Separate vs. Community Property

Generally, the community property in your divorce will need to be divided between you and your spouse, while separate property will be kept by the individual in possession of it. Whatever property you owned before you got married is usually considered separate by the court, as is property that was given directly to you while you were married, such as an inheritance. The court will want to know what property is separate and what is considered community in order to make an informed decision on how it will be divided.


The division of property is not always reserved for just community property. There are times when separate property is divided up by the court.

This depends on several different factors:

  • The length of your marriage
  • The financial situation of each spouse
  • The contributions of each spouse during the marriage

All of these factors are considered by the court and can make property division very difficult to navigate. For instance, if one spouse owned a business before getting married, on the surface it would appear that the business was separate property. But if the non-owner spouse sacrificed a career so that the owner could build the business, the court may decide that the non-owner spouse should be compensated. A court could also consider any increase in business during the time of the marriage that is attributable to the spouse and compensate the non-owner spouse for the increase in value.

Washington is a No-Fault Divorce State

Because Washington is a no-fault state, the behavior of each spouse during the marriage is not taken into consideration when the court divides property. It does not matter if a spouse had an affair, a drug habit, or otherwise acted poorly towards the other spouse. The only exception to the no-fault rule is if the spouse significantly depleted community property in pursuit of the bad behavior. If the spouse cashed in the savings account to support a mistress, the court could take such action into account.

Helping Clients Fight for the Property They Deserve

At Smythe Jones PLLC, our Bellevue divorce Lawyers use our experience and training to help clients get the property they need and want out of their divorce. Our team has a proven ability to fight effectively on behalf of clients—an ability we are ready to put to work for you.

Contact our Bellevue Washington property division lawyers today at (425) 436-5777 or by completing our online form to discuss your divorce and learn how we can help you fight successfully for your property.

High Asset Divorce

Bellevue High Asset Divorce Attorney


When a married couple acquires a vast amount of wealth and property during the course of their marriage, a subsequent divorce could lead to tumultuous legal proceedings. From there, the legal process risks devolving into a competition to see who can get the most of the divorce. However, divorce isn’t a game to win.

If you are about to get a divorce involving substantially valuable assets, you should retain the professional services of a Spokane high asset divorce attorney.

Why Choose Smythe Jones Law Office

  • Our legal team has served Washington residents for over 30 years.
  • We can take the reins of your divorce so you don’t have to stress about the details.
  • Furthermore, we will guide you through each phase of the divorce process to keep you in the loop when you need to make an important decision about your divorce.

Property Division in Washington

The division of property in a divorce case is based on community property principles. When people get a divorce, Washington courts will divide assets in the spouses’ community property estate between them. Property that is acquired during marriage qualifies as community property. When a spouse acquires property before marriage or after divorce, that property is considered their sole separate property. Additionally, property acquired by the spouse in their sole name during marriage through gift, bequest, or devise constitutes the spouse’s separate property as well.

The community estate can involve more than just real estate and cars. The court will divide all types of property interests during divorce proceedings.

The following items are commonly involved in high-asset divorces and must be disclosed as they may be subject to division:

  • Real estate
  • Personal belongings
  • Financial accounts
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Retirement plans and pensions
  • Business interests
  • Personal injury damages
  • Stock options
  • Stock voting rights
  • Trusts
  • Tax benefits such as a capital loss carry-forward
  • Life insurance policies, proceeds, and annuities

Avoiding Mistakes in a High Asset Divorce

Couples who are divorcing with substantial assets face a unique set of obstacles, especially in regards to valuing and equitably dividing assets that both parties accumulated throughout the marriage. It will often entail the detangling of an intricate web of joint assets that can be difficult to divide fairly. This often leads to highly contested divorces that can potentially be costly. Working with effective legal counsel who specifically handles high-asset divorce cases will help protect a spouse’s rights and interests, especially when one of these common issues arises:

  • Separate property vs. community property
  • Managing, determining the value of, and dividing real estate properties
  • Valuation of closely-held businesses and professional partnerships
  • Resolving concerns related to the ownership of a business
  • Valuing and dividing an investment portfolio
  • Splitting multiple retirement accounts and life insurance policies
  • Determining the couple’s quality of life during the marriage, then making determinations about child support and alimony
  • Dividing marital debts

In some instances, a spouse may attempt to hide assets before filing for divorce in order to keep them from their husband or wife. This may be done, for example, by making cash purchases, transferring assets to family or friends, or delaying accepting a bonus or raise until after the divorce is final. Spouses who suspect they are being deceived have the option of hiring a forensic accountant to locate the hidden assets so they may be divided by the court.

Another mistake that can be avoided by working with a divorce attorney is the waiving of any rights to the marital estate. One partner may be more financially savvy than the other and can use this to their advantage by preventing the other from claiming their half.

Protecting Your Assets in a Divorce

If divorce is imminent, having documentation will be vital in determining your fair share of the assets. Begin by gathering records for all jointly held accounts, properties, and assets, that way you can also help prevent any tangible assets from being hidden by your spouse. Examples of documentation can include tax returns, wills, trusts, financial statements, banking information, brokerage statements, loan applications and documents, credit card statements, deeds to property, car registrations, insurance inventories, insurance policies, as well as any records that can trace and verify an inheritance, gift, or any other separate property. When separate property cannot be proven, then it is community property and a court can divide it. Also, create an inventory of all household goods and their value, by using receipts or an appraiser. Antiques and heirlooms can be appraised by a professional.

A carefully crafted prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can also save you the loss of considerable assets, as well as the expense of legal fees. However, there are instances in which an agreement can be thrown out, such as being improperly executed or if a spouse provided inaccurate information. A judge can determine if the circumstances surrounding the signing of the document weren’t fair or if certain provisions in the document are unfair to one of the parties.


To avoid turning your high-asset divorce into a mud-slinging contest, you should seek legal representation from an experienced Bellevue high net worth divorce lawyer. At Smythe Jones PLLC, we have dedicated more than 30 years of our practice to helping Washington residents through various legal matters, including high-asset divorces. We are committed to providing you with comprehensive legal solutions. We will stay honest about the legal strategy we implement in your divorce, to make sure you are always making sound decisions backed by relevant legal information.