Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Don't Count on it for Long
Commonly known as alimony, spousal maintenance is financial support provided by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Maintenance is meant to assist the more financially dependent spouse. It is meant to be rehabilitative. It is not intended to be a permanent source of income, except in the most extreme circumstances. Either spouse may request maintenance from the other, regardless of how the marriage ended. (Yes, an unfaithful spouse can get spousal maintenance, fault is irrelevant in Washington).
The amount awarded is based on the need of the person seeking maintenance vs. the ability of the other party to pay. The court considers various factors, but economic circumstances are the paramount consideration in awarding maintenance. In the case of short term marriages under five years, the court looks backward to determine the economic positions of the parties at the inception of the marriage and will seek to place them back in that position. For long term marriages of 25 years or more, the court looks forward and seeks to place the spouses in an economic position where they can be expected to be in roughly equal financial positions for the rest of their lives. Most marriages ending in dissolution fall in the 5-25 year range. In these middle cases, the court looks at need vs. ability to pay and what type of education or training would put the more dependent spouse in a better long term financial position. Beyond these guidelines (which are not actually in the statutes) there is no set formula for determining how much maintenance to award and for how long to award it. When a couple has been married for some time and one party earns more than the other, maintenance is usually awarded. The tough part is figuring out just how much and for how long.
The determination of the amount and duration of maintenance is very important because it can influence how the marital property is divided and impact your income tax liability. If the payments meet the criteria of 26 USC Sec. 71 they are taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor on federal income tax returns. For this reason and the difficult nature of determining a specific maintenance provision, it is helpful to have an experienced attorney by your side. At Elise Buie Family Law Group, we will strategize and advocate for your short and long-term financial interests after a divorce.
Your Family's Future is our First Priority.