Question about home purchased during marriage.

Aug 8, 2012 by

Question: 

My husband and I started together with NOTHING. Now, we own a house (just in his name, as a was a stay at home Mom with no job) However, I found the house through my family member who gave us a $40,000 deduction on the price. He has been both physically and verbally abusive to me and my(our) children. I want to be fair, but I think that everything should be split down the middle. The house, and everything in it. We have been separated since July of 2008. So, its gonna be hard. Can I get anything in this divorce without any $$.?? Or can he leave me and my 3 children on the streets with nothing because he’s the one with the $$ ??

State: 
Washington

Answer: 

Washington is a community property state which means that all property and debts acquired during marriage will be divided equally by the court if the parties have not already come to an agreement. So even if you do not have any money, you will be entitled to your share of the community property that the court deems fair. For your purposes, it is important to differentiate between community property and separate property. Separate property refers to property and debts earned and acquired prior to marriage. It also applies to property that is inherited or individually received as a gift during marriage as well as to property earned and acquired after the date of separation. This distinction is important because the court will only have the power to divide community property.

If the court is charged with dividing the community property, it will consider several factors: (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. One way that economic circumstance becomes relevant is when the court considers awarding the family home to the spouse with whom the children reside the majority of the time. If you have legal custody of the children, this factor may work in your favor. Please note that putting the house under his name does not automatically make it separate property, nor does it automatically make it community property. When determining what kind of property it is, the court will look at available evidence such as whether the mortgage payments were made with community or separate property funds. The $40,000 deduction in the house price could also be taken into consideration.

You may also be entitled to alimony, or spousal support, if the court thinks it is proper. The court will bear in mind (1) your financial resources and your ability to meet your needs independently, (2) the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable you to find employment appropriate to your skill, interests, style of life, and other relevant circumstances, (3) your standard of living established during the marriage, (4) the duration of the marriage, (5) your age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations, and (6) your husband’s ability to meet his needs and financial obligations while also meeting yours. Alimony is granted on a very fact-specific basis.

In the case that you and your husband have not reached a court-approved agreement regarding the custody of your children, the court may determine whether one or both of you will have decision making authority and residential privileges. In determining who has decision making authority, the court will consider (1) whether either parent has engaged in certain inappropriate conduct toward the children (this factor is given the most weight), (2) each parent’s history of participation in making decisions about the children’s education, health care, and religious upbringing, (3) whether the parents have a demonstrated ability and desire to cooperate with one another in decision making, and (4) the effect of the parents’ geographic proximity to one another on their abilities to make timely mutual decisions. In determining residential provisions for the children, the court will consider (1) the relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, (2) the agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily, (3) each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child, (4) the emotional needs and developmental level of the child, (5) the child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities, (6) the wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule, and (7) each parent’s employment schedule. The court may order that a child frequently alternate his or her residence if it is in the best interest of the child. For this purpose, the court will consider the effect of the parents’ geographic proximity to one another on their ability to share performance of the parenting functions.

You may also be eligible to receive child support. The court will require that you and your spouse complete financial worksheets in order to establish the appropriate child support level and apportionment of support. The court will use Washington’s child support economic table to determine the amount of the basic child support obligation based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children. The court will then apportion the obligation proportionally with each parent’s income. In certain cases, the court may deviate from the standard calculation when it considers other factors like outside sources of income, nonrecurring income, extraordinary debt that was involuntarily incurred, high expenses due to a child’s special needs, and whether one or both parents have children from previous relationships. In its child support order, the court will be required to include the amount of child support calculated using the standard calculation, the amount of child support actually ordered, and the reasons for any deviation or denial of deviation.

Therefore, you may possibly receive your share of the community property, alimony, and child support. However, the granting of such awards is very case specific. Because the amount you receive will be largely dependent on several factors and evidence of those factors, it is highly advisable that you consult with an attorney who can help you organize all the important information needed to establish the best possible case. – The Divorce.com Team

Wendy Jaffe and Divorce.com can only provide general information about divorce. DO NOT RELY ON MS. JAFFE’S ADVICE ALONE. Before acting on information provided by Ms. Jaffe or by Divorce.com, talk to an attorney first about your particular facts and the law of your state. By submitting your question to Divorce.com, you are not creating an attorney/client relationship with Ms. Jaffe or with any of the other attorneys listed on this site.

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