It is often stated that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. Couples may engage in power struggles around money, communication about money, or financial imbalances within the relationship. For these reasons and more, finances are also a common contributor to separation and divorce.
It doesn't end there. Finances are commonly the most contentious issue of a divorce and in many cases will continue to affect ex-spouses long after the divorce is finalized.
What is Spousal Maintenance?
Upon divorce, it is not unusual for one spouse to ask for maintenance. Spousal maintenance is money paid by one spouse to another, separate from child support and meant to support the spouse in paying bills, upholding a certain lifestyle, or other reasons.
How is this different from “Alimony”?
There is no difference. These are two different words for the same concept. In Washington State, it is called spousal maintenance. Other states may refer to it as “alimony” or “spousal support”.
How is spousal maintenance determined?
Spousal maintenance is not mandatory in Washington State (unlike child support). The court will determine whether it is found to be just and equitable to order maintenance. This is up for some interpretation, with no specific rules governing what is just and equitable. However, there are certain factors the court is likely to consider:
- Whether the person seeking support can support him- or herself
- Each party's financial resources
- The standard of living both parties are accustomed to
- How long a couple was married
- Each party's age and earning capabilities
- How much each party has contributed to the household over the course of the marriage
The court will consider these topics and more in determine whether or not spousal maintenance is granted.
In general, with shorter-term marriages, spousal maintenance awards tend also to be short term. Longer-term marriages are more likely to yield longer term awards. “Rehabilitative maintenance” is a time-limited award that is intended to afford one spouse the time to become financially independent. For more information, please contact us and consult with our family law attorneys, who are very well-versed in these topic areas.
If you've been giving your spouse money during your separation, or if you've been receiving it, it's important that you keep receipts. Your lawyer may need them to help further your case in court; the amount of money that has changed hands can affect your judge's ruling.
Your attorney may also ask you about the state of your family's finances before your divorce, so is a wise idea to gather as much information as possible. Protect yourself by knowing all there is to know about your family's finances. Even if one partner has been is in charge of the finances, the other partner should understand where the family stands, how to navigate the accounts, how to read statements, etc. Everyone needs to have at least a baseline understanding of their financial situation and knowledge about where to turn to seek clarification on the more complicated aspects of things.
If you are seeking spousal maintenance or if you are obligated to provide spousal maintenance, it is essential that you have strong legal representation on your side. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group have extensive experience and expertise in this area. Our attorneys will consult with you, advise you of your legal rights and obligations, and assist in determining the best path moving forward.