Washington State Prenup & Divorce Statutes
You’re getting hitched in scenic Evergreen state and you’re wondering what to include in your prenup so it holds up against all the beautiful hikes, the famous Mount Rainier, and beautiful Seattle. Here is some information you need to know about Washington state prenups, including terminology and links to the Washington state family law handbook, that contains all the fine print.
Marriage in Washington State
In the great state of Washington, the laws that control marital rights are found in the Revised Code of Washington, Chapter 26.04. A listing of these laws is also conveniently available online at the Washington Legislature’s website at www.leg.wa.gov, under “Laws and Agency Rules.”
Same sex couples have been able to marry in Washington since 2012. It was not until 2015 that marriage equality became a legal right across the nation. Thankfully today, same sex couples can legally marry in any state and in doing so have the same benefits and protections as heterosexual couples. Where the same sex couple lives or where they get married no longer matters, because each state must recognize same sex marriages even if the couple was married in a different state. Cheers to that, Washington
State of Washington Prenuptial Agreements
A prenuptial agreement (referred to as a prenuptial agreement or a marital agreement in Washington) is a private contract between two people who plan to marry.A prenuptial or marital agreement in WA is more likely to be enforced by a Washington court if the agreement is fair and if both spouses have been honest and clear about their finances, including their salary, other income, possessions, property, and debt in their financial schedule. If a couple does not follow the terms of their agreement while they are married, this can make the agreement unenforceable.
Attorneys are not required to draft a prenuptial agreement in Washington. However, the presence of attorneys may help ensure enforcement. If you or your fiancé have questions or concerns about your legal rights with respect to the agreement, it is a good idea for you to consult independent legal counsel.
Washington State Terminology:
Property that is not marital: Separate Property
Property that is of the marriage: Community Property
What to include in a Washington State Prenup?
Here are some things you should keep in mind for your Washington prenup:
- Make sure it is in writing!
- The terms contained in the prenup must be lawful terms
- Both you and your fiancé must sign the agreement – and, we recommend initialing the bottom of each page!
- Your agreement must be signed voluntarily (this means without being under duress, intimidation, deceit, etc.)
- You should have your signatures notarized! This is not a requirement in all states, but is best practice.
- Financial disclosure (this is what your Schedule A or B financial schedule is for!)
How a Marriage Could End in Washington
A marriage in Washington state can end by a “decree of dissolution of marriage” (aka a divorce) or a “decree of invalidity” (aka an annulment). Washington state also has something called a “decree of legal separation,” which does not end the marriage, but can affect property and finances, among other things, similar to a divorce.
Legal separation vs. Dissolution of marriage in Washington State
Spouses in Washington state may choose to separate rather than divorce for a variety of reasons. A legal separation in Washington means that the couple is separating but not ending their marriage. An action for legal separation can be later converted into an action for dissolution, aka divorce. The legal term for divorce in Washington state is “dissolution of marriage.” One or both spouses can file for dissolution of marriage.
Statutes & terms to help know
*Major prenup hack alert!* We’ve created a “prenup encyclopedia” for your reference so you can seamlessly get through any concepts or phrases that are necessary for your prenup.
The official term for jointly owned property
Washington is a “community property” state- this means that, generally, all property acquired during marriage is presumed to be community property unless there is a prenuptial agreement. Community property laws can be complicated, and couples who have significant property, or who own a business will want to seek legal advice on how to best protect their assets.
The official term for independently owned property
“Separate property” is defined in Washington as possessions or real estate that was owned before the marriage, or that was received during the marriage as a gift or as an inheritance, or that was bought with separate property money. In some cases, determining what is separate property can be unclear, so having a prenuptial agreement is a good way to clarify.
Spousal Maintenance Upon Divorce
Spousal maintenance (often referred to as alimony) is financial support paid by one spouse to the other spouse during and/or after a divorce or separation.
If you file for divorce or legal separation in Washington, you have a right to request spousal maintenance, which is generally based on financial and economic factors and is not based on fault. If there is a big economic difference between the spouses, spousal maintenance may be ordered by the court to help one of the parties achieve financial independence orto put the parties on more equal financial footing after the dissolution. If you would like to specify in advance how spousal support should be considered, a prenuptial agreement may be right for you!
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No commitment necessary.
(Not speaking about your marriage – commitment is absolutely necessary there).