Will I Lose My Property Rights If I Move Out?

Question

I’ve been considering leaving my husband for several months.  Things between us keep getting worse, and I’d really like to move out of our house.  But I’ve heard that if I leave the house first, I might lose my property rights.  I am hoping that my husband will buy me out of the house, so I don’t want to do anything that will affect  my rights as an owner.  Is this true?

Answer

Assuming that your house was purchased during your marriage, simply moving out will not strip you of your legal or financial interest in the property.  Under Washington law, all property that is purchased during marriage is presumed to be owned by the husband and wife equally.  Moving out due to a marital separation does not change that presumption.  Keep in mind, however, that the ultimate distribution of your house (and all of your other marital assets) may not be 50/50 after the court looks at your whole financial situation (including your income, retirement assets, debts, and separate property).

Leaving your home at the beginning of a separation can affect other aspects of your case, however.  If you have children and want to be the primary residential parent, moving out of your home without your children could damage the parenting aspect of your case.

If you’d like to see more Decoupling articles on community property issues, click the tag “community property” below.

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