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Determining spousal maintenance in a Washington divorce

Many divorcing couples in Washington wonder about many subjects, but most often, the subject of spousal maintenance or alimony generates the most anxiety. A former spouse who is ordered to pay alimony may worry about the effect of such payments on his or her financial stability. The spouse who receives alimony often feels that the award was insufficient. Understanding the legal rules that govern awards of maintenance can help both spouses accept the court's order.

Washington courts have broad discretion in determining whether a former spouse should make regular payments to the other spouse. The court must consider six factors:

  • The financial resources of the party who is seeking maintenance. Financial resources include the person's ability to meet his or her living costs independently. Any child support must be included in this evaluation.
  • The time necessary for the party seeking maintenance to complete enough education or training to find employment
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the couple during their marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, physical and emotional condition and financial obligations of the party seeking maintenance
  • The ability of the party from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her financial obligations while making maintenance payments to the other party.

After considering these factors, the court may award maintenance in such amount and for such a period as the court deems just. In making this evaluation, the court cannot consider any misconduct. The court can also consider other factors presented by either party that the court believes is relevant to its decision.

The subject of maintenance can be especially complicated for couples who accumulated significant assets during their marriage. A consultation with an experienced family lawyer can explore the various solutions to this knotty problem.