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Family law: Protecting assets in the event of divorce

Most Washington couples in the process of dissolving their marriage, and people who have been through the divorce process, know that the division of assets often contributes to the stress felt at this time. It seems more and more married couples, particularly millennials, are choosing to keep their finances separate. However, according to divorce experts, married people who maintain separate accounts to avoid complications in the event of divorce are operating under a common misconception. A family law attorney can explain specific state laws, but essentially, people should never assume they will retain their own assets during divorce.

Couples who maintain separate bank accounts, perhaps along with a joint account for some expenses, may be making a solid practical decision, but the benefit of such a system is mostly psychological. From a legal standpoint, in a community property state, such as Washington, any asset -- with some exceptions -- acquired during the marriage is considered marital property, regardless of whose name is attached to it. However, those who have kept some separate resources may find it eases cash flow in the event of an acrimonious divorce, even if they do have to factor the funds into the settlement at some point.

Experts offer some ways married people can protect their money in case they do eventually face divorce. Some couples opt for a prenuptial agreement (prenup). This is a legally-binding contract prepared to ensure a fair distribution of assets in the event of divorce. Couples who choose this option also benefit from having to openly discuss their finances. In the absence of a prenup, married individuals should be sure they keep copies of all their own accounts for the month preceding the marriage as proof of what they brought into the marriage, should asset division ever be an issue.

While many Washington couples may find benefit from maintaining separate finances, it is important that they are armed with accurate knowledge and that they do so for the right reasons. Those who are about to marry can also take steps to protect their assets in the event of divorce. Many people rely on an experienced family law attorney to help them with making these types of important decisions that could affect their financial future.

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