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Though it may seem like a negative for some in Washington, planning for a divorce while still happily married may pay off in the end. Ten percent of marriages fail in the first 5 years and about another 25 percent will not see their 10th anniversary, according to reports from the U.S. Census Bureau. With this in mind, authorities suggest that even prior to marriage, spouses should work to ensure that they are protected if a divorce happens and property division becomes necessary.

The first and maybe most important step when preparing for a possible divorce may be to have a clear understanding of the finances of a family. Prior to a marriage this can mean discussing student loans and other debts. After years together, the discussion could involve investments, homes and retirement income. Regardless of how long a couple has been married, they should consider having a thorough review of family finances each year.

One of the initial determinations in a divorce in Washington is the status of property in a property division. In our state, property can be either separate or marital. Separate property is that which was either brought into the marriage by a spouse or inherited. The catch is that for property to be declared separate it may be necessary to prove that it never comingled with marital assets. All non-separate property is presumed to be marital and available for division in a divorce proceeding.

Once a person, particularly one planning to stay at home and not work, understands the finances of their family, they may be in a better situation should a property division be required as a result of a divorce. It is more difficult for a spouse to hide assets or obtain the upper hand if both know about the existence of all accounts and assets. In addition, the annual discussions should include a review of all debts to prevent later surprises.