Between parenting issues, child support, and asset distribution, there are already several complicated areas requiring your time and attention during a divorce. Spousal maintenance is an important step that is distinctly recognized in Washington law that cannot be forgotten. Whether you are the lesser earning or greater earning spouse, financial support is a critical piece that is often rife with emotional baggage.
RCW 26.09.090 allows the court to grant spousal maintenance that is just and equitable “without regard to misconduct.” In other words, issues like infidelity and abuse are not matters within the purview of the court when determining support. There are six factors the court will look towards when granting an award.
a) The Financial Resources of the Parties
The Court will look at both separate and community property to determine whether parties have substantial resources available. In making this determination, the court reviews whether these resources are sufficient for each party to mee their needs independently. Obviously, the more resources a party has available, the less likely they need spousal maintenance.
b) The Time Required to Educate or Train
Perhaps – with proper education or training – the lesser earning spouse will have the opportunity to meet their own needs. Often, the court will grant a support award that provides for a time necessary to complete that education or advance their career appropriate to the party’s skills and interests.
c) The Standard of Living During the Marriage
If the parties were used to buying yachts and living the high life during marriage, it’s more likely than not that the court will grant maintenance to a spouse to maintain (at least in part) that lifestyle. These factors must be read as a whole, however. So, a short marriage of this nature might not lead to a substantial award.
d) The Duration of Marriage
Different circumstances and attorneys will provide different estimates. On average, one year of support for every four years of marriage is a good estimate. For shorter marriages, though, the Court may be willing to grant maintenance at all.
e) The Age, Condition, and Obligation of the Lesser Earning Spouse
A younger partner with more opportunity to increase their earning capacity has a lesser chance of being awarded spousal support. A spouse with disabilities may be entitled to more or longer-term support.
f) The Ability of the Greater Earning Spouse to Meet Their Needs
Just because one partner has a substantial need for spousal maintenance does not mean that the greater earning spouse will have to pay support. If both parties lack the means to pay support, then the Court should not award maintenance to either party.
A financial declaration if often used to help attorneys at divorcing spouses determine their needs and the ability of their spouse to pay support. With the help of counsel, you will better understand your rights and responsibilities. The experienced litigators at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. are available to ensure your rights are protected. Call today for a free phone case evaluation.