Division of property is often one of the most emotionally frustrating aspects of getting a divorce.

Many married couples end up sharing and merging both financial assets and personal belongings, and the longer a relationship has lasted, the harder it may become to decide who should get what if the couple separates.

When it comes to what the law determines, Washington is one of seven states that considers most property acquired during a marriage to be “community property,” meaning each spouse effectively owns half of that property. If you are considering a divorce, here are a few things you should know about how Washington’s unique marital property laws might impact the division of your mutual assets.

What types of assets fall under the category of marital property?

Washington marital law holds that assets that either spouse acquires while the couple is together are community property, not just assets that a couple obtains jointly from communal funds. In addition to items purchased during the course of the marriage, community property generally encompasses all earned income, including retirement benefits, capital gains and interest on investments.

What types of assets does the law consider separate?

While most assets acquired while partners are married fall under marital property, Washington does exclude certain items from this category. Types of assets that are “separate” rather than “marital” may include inheritances, personal gifts made to only one spouse and items acquired before the couple married or after the couple had physically separated with the intention of divorce.

Making property division easier through mediation

Dividing up financial assets, property and personal items can be an extraordinarily stressful part of divorce, especially when a couple ends up in court. Judges are often constrained by marital laws that impose strict rules about how to divide assets, with results that may not make either party happy.

For many couples, speaking with a trained divorce mediator may help. These experienced professionals may be able to assist individuals going through a separation in coming up with creative property division solutions that feel cooperative, instead of punitive.