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The Real World of Alimony (Spousal Maintenance) Under Washington State Divorce Law

Washington Divorce law views spousal maintenance on the basis of what is called the “economic partnership model”. However, it usually focuses on the length of the marriage. If the marriage is less than five years you very rarely get maintenance.

The only time I see maintenance/alimony awarded in marriages less than five years is where one party is unemployed or would end up on the street if their partner just left them. Even in those cases, the awarded at temporary orders reads something like: “The [husband/wife] shall pay to the wife maintenance in an amount of $500 for six months or until the wife secures full-time employment. If full-time employment has not been found in 6 months the [husband/wife] may petition the court for an extension but only for good cause shown.” I have written orders like that many many times. At the temporary orders stage the judge or commissioner makes his or her ruling and says “Counsel, Write up the Orders”. Tradition has it that the primarily prevailing party draws them up; although sometimes a lawyer much older than you will assume that he or she will do the honors. We then often times have to go back in and argue over them. But that is usually if the attorneys either don’t know each other or one is inexperienced. As lawyers we also sit in the back of the courtroom and wait for our case to be called. During that time we talk with other attorneys about their cases or watch how the judges and commissioners decide other cases in Family Court.

On the other hand marriages longer than 20 years almost always do involve some form of maintenance, or “evening out” of the income and assets over time. The goal of the Court in such long-term marriages is mainly to maintain the partys financial standing at the same level for a considerable time after the marriage.

Spousal maintenance in Washington has traditionally been defined by an oft-quoted (and legally cited) bar journal article by Judge Windsor. It has been cited in many Washington divorce Supreme court cases.

Recently, there has been discussion regarding a new metaphor. A recent (2006) Washington State Bar Journal article discusses the subject. Maintenance can be highly discretionary and the cases I have dealt with on appeal have been difficult to overturn. That is basically the general consensus: the Judge or Commissioner must have really, really screwed up before they overturn it. Yes, you are thinking the right thing: it is very important to win at the lower levels. Don’t sit back and comfort yourself that “If they make the wrong decision I can just appeal.” This is not tax or corporate law. There are fewer analytical rules to follow. And this is alimony in the real world.

The Real World of Alimony (Spousal Maintenance) Under Washington State Divorce Law

Washington Divorce law views spousal maintenance on the basis of what is called the “economic partnership model”. However, it usually focuses on the length of the marriage. If the marriage is less than five years you very rarely get maintenance.

The only time I see maintenance/alimony awarded in marriages less than five years is where one party is unemployed or would end up on the street if their partner just left them. Even in those cases, the awarded at temporary orders reads something like: “The [husband/wife] shall pay to the wife maintenance in an amount of $500 for six months or until the wife secures full-time employment. If full-time employment has not been found in 6 months the [husband/wife] may petition the court for an extension but only for good cause shown.” I have written orders like that many many times. At the temporary orders stage the judge or commissioner makes his or her ruling and says “Counsel, Write up the Orders”. Tradition has it that the primarily prevailing party draws them up; although sometimes a lawyer much older than you will assume that he or she will do the honors. We then often times have to go back in and argue over them. But that is usually if the attorneys either don’t know each other or one is inexperienced. As lawyers we also sit in the back of the courtroom and wait for our case to be called. During that time we talk with other attorneys about their cases or watch how the judges and commissioners decide other cases in Family Court.

On the other hand marriages longer than 20 years almost always do involve some form of maintenance, or “evening out” of the income and assets over time. The goal of the Court in such long-term marriages is mainly to maintain the partys financial standing at the same level for a considerable time after the marriage.

Spousal maintenance in Washington has traditionally been defined by an oft-quoted (and legally cited) bar journal article by Judge Windsor. It has been cited in many Washington divorce Supreme court cases.

Recently, there has been discussion regarding a new metaphor. A recent (2006) Washington State Bar Journal article discusses the subject. Maintenance can be highly discretionary and the cases I have dealt with on appeal have been difficult to overturn. That is basically the general consensus: the Judge or Commissioner must have really, really screwed up before they overturn it. Yes, you are thinking the right thing: it is very important to win at the lower levels. Don’t sit back and comfort yourself that “If they make the wrong decision I can just appeal.” This is not tax or corporate law. There are fewer analytical rules to follow. And this is alimony in the real world.

Child Support in New York

Any couple that goes through a divorce has to deal with many issues, but those that have children usually go through even more acrimony when dealing with custody and support for their children. Child support is financial support provided by the noncustodial parent. Child support includes, cash payments (based on the parent’s income and the needs of the child), health insurance for the child, payments for child care, and payments for reasonable health care costs that are not covered by health insurance. Family Court determines the amount of child support the noncustodial parent will pay. Under New York State law, parents are responsible for supporting their child until the child is 21 years old.

There are guidelines in which the court uses to determine the amount of child support that is owed to the custodial parent, based on the noncustodial parent’s adjusted gross income and on the number of children involved. The court first determines the noncustodial parent’s gross income. The court then multiplies the adjusted gross income by the standard guideline percentage for the number of children. These percentages are as follows:
17% for one child
25% for two children
29% for three children
31% for four children
at least 35% for five or more children.
Then the noncustodial parent’s share of child care, medical, and educational expenses is added to the income percentage amount. The combined amount, percentage of income plus share of expenses, is the basic child support amount.

For incomes over $130,000, the court determines whether or not to use the percentage guidelines and may consider other factors in setting the full child support payment.

The main problem that many noncustodial parents have an issue with is that many fill out long and tedious expense forms and when it comes time to determine the monthly the courts do not take into consideration the expenses of the noncustodial parent. If you cannot pay your child support you can file a “petition for modification” with the court that issued the support order. Only the court can change what you owe. Just because you think you cannot pay, do not stop paying. Continue to pay what you can while you wait for the court to make a decision. You should know that the court will only change the amount of support you need to pay if there has been a substantial change in your ability to pay.

Dealing with child support and child custody it can be very emotional, remember that in the end you want what is best for your children.