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Seattle Family Law Blog

Spousal Maintenance-Making Sure it gets Paid

Making Sure it gets Paid.  An order to pay maintenance typically requires an obligor spouse to make monthly payments to the other spouse (or domestic partner). Payments are often made directly to the spouse, i.e. by check or money order (one should never pay by cash), or by automatic withdrawal and deposit into a spouse's account. Alternatively, maintenance may be paid, or collected by, the Washington State Support Registry.

Spousal Maintenance-The Basics

Spousal maintenance (or alimony as it is known in other states) is awarded to the economically disadvantaged spouse, during and after dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership, or a legal separation. Payments are meant to help a spouse with monthly needs like food, housing, clothing, car payments, and insurance.

Maintenance is awarded without regard to fault or marital misconduct of a spouse. A spouse's obligation to pay maintenance ends at the death or remarriage of the spouse receiving maintenance. Its duration and amount is based upon fairness and equity factors. The courts disfavor a permanent award of maintenance

Maintenance is not an entitlement; it is in the discretion of the court to award it or not. The court considers what is fair and just when deciding to award spousal maintenance and it looks to the statute, RCW 26.09.090, for guidance. The court must examine the circumstances of the spouse seeking maintenance and basically ask "is there need? Is the spouse dependent?"

Specifically, under the statute, asks:

1. What are the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance and the ability to meet their needs?

2. What kind of time is needed to acquire training and education to enable the spouse to find work?

3. How old is the spouse? Is he/she young and beginning a career? A family? Or Close to retirement or to drawing social security?

4. What is the spouse's physical and emotional condition?

5. What are their financial obligations?

The court looks at the payer's circumstances and asks can he/she pay? How will the spouse meet his/her financial obligations while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance?

Furthermore, under RCW 26.09.090, the court also considers the length of the marriage, and the standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.

How is Child Support Calculated?

Children are not cheap. Married or unmarried, parents alike understand this shortly after their child (or children) come into the world. The new parents' world suddenly turns from budgeting for themselves, to themselves plus one-often, followed by another, sometimes another, and so on.

As this occurs, families, in their own unique design and ways, usually curb costs and remap their household's division of labor and time: often, one parent dials back their work hours and prior income and the other parent dials up theirs to compensate. Families, in their ordinary senses, don't consider "child support" as a specific monthly total, other than spending however much it costs working and raising a family together and their unique budgets.

But when families separate-as more than half of them do in King County-one necessary question arises: how do the parents (or if they can't, then the court) determine a fair amount for parents to contribute towards their children in light of this new living arrangement?

Child support in Washington is determined by the parents' combined net incomes and the age and number of children they have together. Using that information, the amount a parent pays is determined by application of an "economic table." The economic table, similar to tax brackets, indicates how much child support a family making a certain combined amount should pay, considering the age and number of children they have together to support.

The Court of Appeals

Trial courts are entitled to broad discretion in dissolution proceedings. In re Marriage of Wright, 179 Wn. App. 257, 261, 319 P.3d 45 (2013). Because the trial court is in the best position to determine what is fair, its decisions will be reversed only if there has been a manifest abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Muhammad, 153 Wn.2d 795, 803, 108 P.3d 779 (2005). A trial court abuses its discretion if its decisions are based on untenable grounds or untenable reasons. Id. This discretion applies to determinations regarding division of property, maintenance, and child support. Wright, 179 Wn. App. at 261 (property division); In re Marriage of Valente, 179 Wn. App. 817, 822, 320 P.3d 115 (2014) (maintenance); In re Marriage of Krieger, 147 Wn. App. 952, 959, 199 P.3d 450 (2008) (child support).

Temporary Support

On a spousal support basis, a homemaker is not required to seek employment, pawn jewelry, or exhaust credit before they are entitled to spousal support as long as need is shown. Further, an unemployed individual need not pauperize themselves by selling assets to make a cash outlay for litigation, nor are they put to the election of spending their money for living expenses or the preparation of their case. It is not so, however, if an individual has ample funds for both.

When Is A Professional Education Valued?

In order to have value, a professional degree must have been procured. It is more than a simple Bachelor of Arts or Science degree. For ease of identification, let's say it is a doctor, lawyer or a Master's Degree. The question then becomes: has the community received fair compensation? It has been held by our Court that the Court must treat the education as an asset and place a value thereon. The value must consist of the cost of the education and the increased income potential. In re The Marriage of Washburn, 101 Wn. 2d 168, 677 P.2d 152 (1984).

Authored by Wolfgang R. Anderson, Attorney at Law

Allocating credit card debt is part of the process of ending a marriage

A divorce can become contentious over the issue of how to properly allocate debts acquired by the spouses during their marriage.

Credit Card Insider observes that divorce is sometimes messy not just because of the emotional aspect but because of the fact that a divorce has the potential to "wreak havoc on both parties' finances." Nevertheless, "divvying up the financial liabilities" of an ending marriage is part and parcel of the property division process. Debt division can be as contentious-if not more so-than a division of a Washington couple's community property assets. This should not be surprising since divorcing couples ready for a fresh start are not especially eager to shoulder any more of the marital debt than they need to.

4 signs that your spouse may be hiding assets in a divorce

People going through a divorce should know how to look for the signs that a spouse is attempting to hide assets.

Washington is a community property state, which essentially declares any property that a couple acquires during the marriage will be subject to division. As the Washington Courts note, community property law can be complicated and require professional assistance to navigate.

5 factors to consider when telling children about a divorce

The way parents talk to their children about a divorce in Washington is key to ensuring the kids cope with the news well.

Going through a divorce can be an overwhelming and complicated process. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 24,847 divorces or annulments in the state year 2014. In many of those cases, parents had to break the news of the end of the marriage to their children.

Three considerations for hiring a Washington divorce lawyer

Due to the sensitive nature of divorce and the impact the outcomes may have on people's futures, it is important they use care when hiring their attorneys.

In 2014, the divorce rate was 3.6 for every 1,000 residents in Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After making the difficult decision to split, many people obtain legal counsel to assist them. The legal representatives whom they choose may affect the outcomes of their cases, and thus, their futures. Therefore, those who are getting divorced should consider several factors when making their choice to make sure they hire the lawyer best suited for their families and needs.

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