Spousal support, maintenance, and alimony are terms used to describe a court order for one spouse to pay a certain sum of money to the other spouse on a routine basis. A spousal support order can be temporary in duration, in that it lasts only as long as the divorce proceedings are pending. A spousal support order also can be more long term, in that it continues for some time period following the finalization of the parties’ divorce. The court’s order will define the duration of the spousal support order, as well as the events that trigger a termination of the order.

Unlike child support, there are no hard definitions as to how much spousal support one spouse will be ordered to pay the other. A general rule of thumb for Washington is that, a court will order one year of spousal support for every three to five years of marriage. The only guideline that is set in stone are factors that allow the court to determine the need of the spouse requesting support and the ability of the other spouse to pay.

The divorce judge also will perform a basic fairness test in determining the amount of support that is appropriate in a particular case. Some of the factors that a judge considers in deciding how much maintenance to award are each party’s financial resources, the ability of the receiving spouse to support himself or herself, the age, physical condition, and emotional condition of both spouses, and the standard of living established during the parties’ marriage.

Each spouse is expected to provide for themselves after the divorce is final. Spousal support is meant only to bridge the gap between shared income from the marriage and independent income after. For example, spousal support may be ordered to allow one spouse to go return to school or receive vocational training. Support may also be ordered for a short time period until a spouse is able to retire and receive pension and social security benefits.

Divorce cases and spousal support issues can be very complex, so you will need to consult a Washington spousal support attorney about your rights and obligations under Washington divorce law. With our legal knowledge of Washington divorce law, we can help you make the decisions in your case that will best benefit you and your family in your spousal support case or in any other family law matter. We are here to answer your questions, ease your mind, and help guide you through what is likely to be a difficult proceeding. At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we handle family law cases that involve all types of issues, including paternity, divorce, child custody, child support, property division, and spousal support. Contact our office today and see how we can assist you with your Washington divorce and spousal support case.