What Factors Does the Court Consider When Determining Spousal Support?

In determining if a recently divorced spouse will receive maintenance payments, how much maintenance they payments will be worth, and how long the payments will last, Washington state law requires a court to consider the following factors, all of which attempt to balance the need of the party asking for maintenance against the ability of the party being asked to afford payments. More specifically, the factors are:

  • The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance payments, including any separate or community property that was awarded to him or her in the divorce and his or her ability to meet his or her financial needs without help from the former spouse. The court will include child support as a financial resource if the child support order already includes a sum for the parent the child will live with.
  • The time necessary for sufficient education or training that allows the party seeking maintenance to find employment appropriate to his or her skill, interests, and lifestyle.
  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage. One can think of this as how “used to” their standard of living the court expects the divorcing parties should fairly be, and in turn how long they will need to transition to independence.
  • The age, physical and emotional condition, and financial obligations of the spouse or domestic partner seeking maintenance. Washington courts will generally assume that both spouses will work and earn income after a divorce, even if one of them didn’t during the marriage. If there is some reason that they cannot, they are more likely to be awarded more maintenance for a longer period of time.
  • The ability of the spouse who will be paying maintenance to meet his or her needs and financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance. In other words, the court won’t mandate maintenance payments that a party can’t afford to make.

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Crouse Erickson