In Washington State, separate property can be divided and given to the other spouse. All property is before the Court for a “just and equitable” distribution. This means that before a divorce can be finalized all community and separate property must be divided. However, the rules governing these types of divisions are complicated. Consulting with an attorney familiar with these actions is highly recommended.
Washington is a community property state. This means everything owned by either spouse regardless of who’s name is on the title, purchases during the marriage is considered part of the community. Typically, when a married couple, or a couple in a committed intimate relationship (sometimes called meretricious relationship), acquire property during the marriage, this property is considered community property regardless of who paid for it. But of course there are many exceptions to this general rule.
Separate property, on the other hand, is typically owned prior to the marriage. Another popular example is an inheritance. The inheritance can be separate property either before the marriage or during the marriage. But this can be contested. Separate property can become community property under a number of circumstances such as commingling. An example of commingling is when funds from an inheritance are used to pay part of a mortgage on a community home.
Remember, having a prenuptial agreement can be a beneficial way to protect separate property.