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Alimony in Washington State: The Factors of Awarding Spousal Maintenance

Alimony is a top concern for many couples going through a divorce. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is money paid in regular installments from one ex-spouse to another following a divorce. It is intended to ensure that both spouses are able to maintain a similar lifestyle to what they were used to during their marriage. It is not intended as a permanent fix to income inequality between members of a previously married couple, but as a buffer until both parties are self-sufficient.

In Washington state, alimony is known as Spousal Maintenance. Unlike Child Support, Spousal Maintenance isn’t determined by a set formula that is the same for all couples. There’s also no standard set schedule – it could be awarded temporarily during a divorce, for a few years following a marriage, or (very rarely) for life.

In the place of a set formula, there are several factors that a court looks at to determine the amount of Spousal Maintenance required. These factors are not exclusionary, meaning the court can consider any number of other factors as well. Here are the most common factors that Washington state courts examine to award Spousal Maintenance:

The Financial Resources of the Party Seeking Maintenance

What is the income of the spouse that would be receiving the Spousal Maintenance? What were they awarded in the divorce that adds to their financial resources?

The Ability of the Party Seeking Maintenance To Be Self-Supporting

How self-sufficient is the spouse that would be receiving the Spousal Maintenance? Could they currently survive on their own without financial assistance?

The Time and Education Needed For the Party Seeking Maintenance To Become Self-Supporting

If the spouse is not currently working, how long will it take them to begin? Do they have a plan for going back to school and working towards a career? What does it take to help them become completely self-sufficient?

The Standard of Living That the Parties Enjoyed During Their Marriage

What was the lifestyle that both parties were accustomed to during the marriage? If we are dealing with a high-income couple, the courts will often award enough Spousal Maintenance for both parties to continue living that luxurious lifestyle.

The Duration of Marriage

After a short-term marriage, the courts rarely award Spousal Maintenance. When they do, it is often only for a short period of time. On the other hand, after a long-term marriage, the courts may even consider awarding Spousal Maintenance for life. Those cases are extremely rare – more common is Spousal Maintenance that lasts until retirement age.

The Physical and Emotional Condition, Age, and Financial Obligations of the Party Seeking Maintenance

How capable is the spouse seeking Spousal Maintenance of going out and getting a job? Do they have disabilities that make it more difficult or even impossible for them? Are their job prospects limited by their age or other factors beyond their control?

The Ability of the Spouse To Meet Their Own Financial Obligations While Paying Spousal Maintenance

The “ideal” amount of Spousal Maintenance is a moot point if the spouse being asked to pay it cannot provide it to begin with. A divorce often results in there being less than enough money to go around. What can the spouse actually pay? How long can they continue paying that amount?

Sort Your Spousal Maintenance Out Today

At Akiona Law, we have experience representing both sides of the Spousal Maintenance issue. To hear more helpful information on the topic, check out the Akiona Law Podcast! To help resolve your own Spousal Maintenance issues, contact Akiona Law today. We believe in caring for you in your time of crisis!