BURKHALTER LAW PLLC
MEDIATION, ARBITRATION, DISPUTE RESOLUTION
DIVORCE, CHILD CUSTODY, FAMILY LAW
S. Scott Burkhalter, Lawyer
HOW IS SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE OR ALIMONY DETERMINED
SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE – ONE’S NEED & THE OTHER’S ABILITY TO PAY (BUT, BE SURE TO READ AT THE END)
Amount & Time: “As the Court deems just”
Spousal maintenance is governed by RCW 26.09.09. The amount of spousal maintenance to be paid and the length of time the maintenance is to be paid is “as the Court deems just.” In making that determination, the Court considers several factors:
(a) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including separate or community property apportioned to him or her, and his or her ability to meet his or her needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;
(b) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find employment appropriate to his or her skill, interests, style of life, and other attendant circumstances;
(c) The standard of living established during the marriage or domestic partnership;
(d) The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership;
(e) The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance; and
(f) The ability of the spouse or domestic partner from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs and financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance.
Need & Ability to Pay
One way to evaluate spousal maintenance is simple math. Consider the income of each of the party’s, their post separation, reasonable expenses, and the child support transfer payment (if applicable). After doing the math, if one spouse has a surplus and the other a deficit, then this would amount to the basic spousal maintenance transfer payment.
SPOUSE A SPOUSE B
-Child Support +Child Support
= (+ surplus) = (- deficit)
In this example, SPOUSE A has the ability to pay spousal maintenance and SPOUSE B has a need for spousal maintenance. Thus, there would be a spousal maintenance transfer payment from SPOUSE A to SPOUSE B.
HOWEVER, there has been a trend with the Court in light of recent decisions. The long standing school of thought is the duration of the marriage. Using guidance from an article written by Judge Winsor in 1982, the Court considers the length of the marriage being 0-5 years as a short term marriage, 25 or more years as a long term marriage, with anything in between being yes, a mid term marriage. Typically, in a short term marriage, there is little, if any, spousal maintenance or alimony awarded. In a long term marriage, it is quite possible the Court may equalize the incomes of the parties for the remainder of their lives. As to the mid term marriage, it is a toss up with the Court usually balancing the award of property so as to achieve a fair and equitable result. As with any family law matter, all of the issues in a case need to be balanced against each other so as to achieve a "just" and "equitable" result.