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Distribution of Assets and Debts in a Divorce

On Behalf of | Nov 14, 2014 | Divorce |

Each Spouse Owes a Fiduciary Duty to the Other

Both spouses owe a fiduciary duty to disclose all community and separate property assets prior to the entry of a Decree of Dissolution. In re Marriage of Sievers, 78 Wn. App. 287, 310, 897 P.2d 388 (1995). This fiduciary duty is continuing; it does not cease upon physical separation, or the contemplation or pendency of a dissolution proceeding. In re Marriage of Sanchez, 33 Wn. App. 215, 218, 654 P.2d 702 (1982); Seals v. Seals, 22 Wn. App. 652, 655-56, 590 P.2d 1301 (1979).


Future Earning Potential Is Relevant in the Distribution of Property

Future earning potential “is a substantial factor to be considered by the trial court in making a just and equitable property distribution.” In re Marriage of Rockwell, 141 Wn. App. 235, 248, 170 P.3d 572 (2007); See also In re Marriage of Hall, 103 Wn.2d 236, 248, 692 P.2d 175 (1984). A disproportionate allocation of the net marital estate may be appropriate when one spouse is likely to enjoy substantially more income in the future.


The Trial Court Has Broad Discretion

Courts have broad discretion in valuing property, and the trial court’s decision will be overturned only if there has been a manifest abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Gelesby, 89 Wn. App. 390, 403, 948 P.2d 1338 (1997). Property distributions do not need to be equal in order to be just and equitable. See, e.g., In re Marriage of Tower, 55 Wn. App. 697, 780 P.2d 863 (1989); In re Marriage of Nicholson, 17 Wn. App. 110, 117, 561 P.2d 1116 (1977). A disproportionate award is within the trial court’s discretion. 20 Washington Practice, Family and Community Property Law, Section 32.8.3 (1997); In re Marriage of Davison, 112 Wn. App. 251, 258-59, 48 P.3d 358 (2002); In re Marriage of Dessauer, 97 Wn.2d 831, 650 P.2d 1099 (1982).



DISCLAIMER: This Legal Guide is provided for general educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the attorney author. The law changes frequently, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information provided in this Legal Guide is general in nature and may not apply to the factual circumstances in your situation. The applicable law may be different in the State or States where the relevant facts occurred. For a definitive solution to your situation you should seek legal advice from an attorney who (1) is licensed to practice in the state which has jurisdiction; (2) has experience in the area of law you are asking about, and (3) has been retained as your attorney for representation or consultation. (C) Bruce Clement