You call it “alimony”; Washington State law calls it “maintenance”. Washington statutes have a provision that allows the court to award maintenance between spouses. This can be a complex area of the law and there is no formula as there is in child support calculations. It’s hard to write a short informative piece on this topic because of the complexity.
The exact amount is either up to the parties to decide, or if you litigate, up to the court.
The factor’s that should be considered in finding the right amount of maintenance are:
- The financial resources of both the parties,
- The time needed for a non-working spouse or partner to get training in order to enter the work force,
- The standard of living established by the couple,
- The duration of the relationship,
- The age, health and financial obligations of the party seeking maintenance, and
- The ability of the other party to meet their own need plus pay the maintenance.
Maintenance is most appropriate at the end of long traditional marriages, where one party built a career while the other raised the kids and took care of the family needs at home. The higher the income levels and standard of living, the larger the monthly maintenance payment and the longer the duration in months or years the maintenance will be paid. Even a short term relationship can warrant helping the other party get on their feet after a break up, so don’t assume that a short relationship where both parties work will mean no maintenance. See what I mean about being complex!?
There are also tax ramifications to maintenance as it is considered income to the receiving spouse for purposes of federal tax law and can be deductible to the person paying the maintenance. However, you should always check with a CPA or other tax specialist on the rules around maintenance because there are some traps for the unwary. It can be a very effective tool for tax planning post-divorce for the high income family.
Check with your attorney if you think you might be someone who would receive or someone who may have to pay maintenance. There is a lot to discuss in this area. However, beware of the stories of your friends because every break up is different, especially when it comes to maintenance.