Family Law Attorneys Assisting with Alimony and Support Maintenance
Serving the Areas of Tacoma, Bonney Lake, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Puyallup, and University Place, Washington
Experienced Family Law Attorneys for Spouses and Domestic Partners Seeking to Secure Alimony or Limit Their Obligation to Pay Maintenance in Washington State
Washington law provides for maintenance (also known as “spousal support” or “alimony”) following the dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. In seeking to establish your right to receive alimony or limit your obligation to pay maintenance, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of the legal principles and procedures involved. While the law is less prescriptive with regard to alimony as compared to other aspects of a divorce or dissolution, separating spouses and domestic partners will often have very different opinions about what constitutes an appropriate maintenance award.
When Is a Spouse or Domestic Partner Entitled to Maintenance?
In any divorce or dissolution, maintenance is potentially on the table. Washington’s maintenance statute does not establish any hard-and-fast rules or specific conditions that must be satisfied in order for one spouse or domestic partner to be entitled to financial support from the other.
As a general rule, however, the longer the parties have been together, the greater the chance that the spouse or partner with the least-stable financial situation will be entitled to maintenance following their divorce or dissolution. For couples that have been together 25 years or longer, there is case law to suggest that maintenance should be used to put the parties on equal financial footing on a permanent basis.
What Are the Relevant Factors for Establishing Maintenance?
In Washington, the courts are required to consider a number of statutory factors when awarding maintenance in connection with a divorce or dissolution. These factors should also guide spouses and domestic partners who are resolving their differences amicably out of court. The primary factors to be considered when establishing a maintenance award in Washington are:
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance. This includes separate property belonging to the party seeking maintenance, as well as his or her: (i) share of community property, (ii) ability to earn a living independently, and (iii) entitlement to child support.
- The time required for the party seeking maintenance to attain financial independence. The party seeking maintenance is entitled to pursue employment that is, “appropriate to his or her skill, interests, [and] style of life.”
- The standard of living established during the marriage or domestic partnership. Generally speaking, a maintenance award should allow the recipient spouse or domestic partner to maintain the standard of living enjoyed prior to the divorce or dissolution.
- The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership. As we mentioned above, the Washington courts will award permanent maintenance under appropriate circumstances following dissolution of a long-term marriage (lasting 25 years or longer). For shorter relationships, the duration of maintenance will usually be proportional to the duration of the marriage or domestic partnership.
- The health and financial condition of the party seeking maintenance. The age, physical health, emotional health, and personal financial obligations of the party seeking maintenance are all relevant considerations when calculating an appropriate maintenance award.
- The ability of the paying spouse or domestic partner to meet both parties’ financial needs. The final maintenance awarded should be appropriate in light of the paying party’s earning capacity and financial resources.
Note that we said these are the primary factors. This list is not exhaustive, and under appropriate circumstances other factors may weigh into the court’s (or separating couple’s) final determination as well.
Can a Spouse or Domestic Partner Receive Maintenance and Child Support?
Yes. Maintenance and child support serve different purposes. Maintenance is intended to put former spouses or partners on (roughly) equal financial footing – either by providing the resources necessary for a dependent spouse or partner to pursue financial independence, or by providing long-term support to a former spouse or partner who is unlikely to be able attain independence. In contrast, child support awards are specifically designed to meet the financial needs of the couple’s children until they reach the age of majority (in most circumstances).
However, as you may have noticed, receipt of child support is included in the maintenance factors we listed above. Since child support payments will typically cover expenses that would also be covered by alimony (such as rent/mortgage payments and utility bills), judges in Washington will frequently reduce maintenance awards for spouses and domestic partners who also receive child support.
Schedule a Consultation with a Tacoma, WA Family Lawyer
If you are preparing for a divorce or dissolution and would like more information about maintenance in Washington, contact Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. for an initial consultation. To schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers, call (253) 272-2997 or inquire online today.