Separate accounts not ideal for protecting money during divorce

Ending a marriage is an unfortunately common occurrence for many families. In fact, many Washington couples whose parents went through divorces are taking steps to simplify the process in case their own marriages do not last. For some, this means prenuptial agreements, but others are taking a shortcut. By keeping their own incomes and earnings in separate bank accounts, some couples believe they can protect their money from property division during a divorce. However, this is not always the case.

Since Washington is one of a handful of community property states, the assets couples acquire during their marriages are community property by law. These marital assets are divided equally between the spouses during divorce. Even if only one spouse's name is on a bank account, a divorce court could require that spouse to divide the contents with his or her former partner.

While it may give spouses peace of mind to have an account into which they deposit their own money and from which they pay the bills the couple agrees to, this peace of mind may not carry over into divorce court. A separate account may protect a spouse if the partner decides to restrict access to any joint funds. Ultimately, though, any assets in the account are likely on the table during property division.

There are ways to avoid this issue. If a couple has not signed a prenuptial agreement, a post-nuptial agreement may address the matter. Marital agreements require spouses to avoid commingling assets, and this can be tricky. Spouses may also find that mediation or collaboration instead of litigated divorce allows more control over how they divide their assets. A Washington attorney can also provide some options for ensuring one's divorce does not result in financial struggles for years to come.

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