Courts in Washington divorce cases must make an equitable and just distribution of the couple’s property and liabilities. In some cases where one spouse owes the other, spousal maintenance or alimony may be used to achieve an equitable and just distribution. In a recent case, a husband challenged the award of spousal maintenance to pay off his share of the community debt.
The evidence showed the wife had a home worth about $500,000 with a mortgage and about $400,000 in other assets at the time of the marriage. A prenuptial agreement provided that the husband had no interest in the home. The husband had a checking account with a small balance and a vehicle. He also had an interest in a limited liability company he established and shares of another company, with values listed as “unknown.” He owed $8,000 on the vehicle, $36,000 in back taxes, and $55,000 on a promissory note to the wife. The wife’s assets were depleted during the marriage and the couple accrued significant community debt in the wife’s name.
In accordance with the prenuptial agreement, the trial court awarded the home to the wife. It also ordered the husband to repay the promissory note. The trial court found a BMW in the wife’s name was community property. In her petition, the wife listed the vehicle and the debt on it as property to be awarded to the husband. She ultimately changed that position, partly because the husband had not obtained separate financing. The trial court awarded the vehicle to the wife, noting the husband had surrendered his driver’s license and therefore would not be allowed to drive for a significant while.