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What Washington divorce courts consider in alimony requests

Most couples getting divorced in the Everett area are coming out of two-income households. When both spouses work, spousal maintenance (commonly known as alimony) is not likely to come up. As long as each spouse has a substantial income and can support themselves, the family court will not award alimony to either party.

But there are still couples where one spouse is the breadwinner and the other focuses on childcare and housekeeping. Such an arrangement typically means that one spouse depends on the other for money. And after being married for decades, a person who gave up their career can struggle mightily to pay for their own housing, food, utilities and other necessities.

This situation is what alimony is intended to solve. It gives the recipient time to transition to financial independence — or, if that is not possible due to the recipient’s age, education or health, ensure that they will be comfortable the rest of their lives.

The six factors in Washington’s spousal maintenance law

Unless the other spouse agrees, getting approved for maintenance is not simple. Washington’s relevant statute provides six guidelines for judges to consider when deciding whether alimony is appropriate. They are:

  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including their share of community and separate property, their ability to earn an income, and child support.
  • How long it will take for the spouse to gain the education or experience necessary to start earning an income “appropriate to his or her skills, interests, style of life and other attendant circumstances.”
  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • How long the marriage lasted.
  • The would-be recipient’s age, physical and mental health, and financial obligations.
  • The ability of the other party to meet their financial obligations while also meeting those of their former spouse through maintenance.

Each party must make a strong case for whether or not alimony is appropriate.