Spousal Maintenance in Washington State

When considering divorce, it is important to take into account the financial obligation you may need to pay your former spouse. In Washington State, this is called “Spousal Maintenance”. Many factors are considered when calculating spousal maintenance, there are no mandated laws. The guidelines consider how long the parties have been married, their ages, their individual work experience, their education, their respective ability to earn an independent living, their financial situation, the involvement with the minor children, etc.

Short-Term Marriages (Less than 5 years)

Washington State does not consider Spousal Maintenance a necessity in a marriage of five years or less. However, it may be agreed to, if one party has the ability to pay support to the other party who has need.

Medium-Term Marriages (More than 5 years, but less than 25)

The widest range is within ‘medium’ length marriages. In Washington State, “need vs ability” to pay generally weighs the earning power of the payer with the need of the recipient. Additionally, support is typically negotiated to equalize financial situations, or to provide basic needs. Generally, support is agreed to be paid for 25-35% of the length of the marriage, or one year of support per three to four years of marriage. Things considered are the length of time and resources for the recipient to return to self-sufficiency, an adequate quality of life, the standard of living during the marriage, and who has more responsibility for the children.

Long-Term Marriages (More than 25 years)

Because it is presumed that after decades together, a couple’s financial lives are entirely combined, Spousal Maintenance is appropriate in almost all long-term marriages. In such a case, the goal of Spousal Maintenance is to put both parties in an equal financial position for the remainder of their lives, or until both parties retire. Typically, property is divided 50/50 and their income is equalized.

Other Inclusions

Child Support is determined in conjunction with Spousal Maintenance. Refer to our resources on Child Support to gain a better understanding of the involvement to / from the paying parties in these situations.

Other things to consider:

  • Continuing education needed
  • Familial involvement / support
  • New marriage / partner
  • Property
  • Other assets

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