Spousal and Child Support Attorney Serving King and Snohomish County
In addition to the emotional stress of a divorce, there is often financial stress. If you have minor children, or if circumstances require you to support your spouse financially, you will have to pay your fair share. Determining what is “fair” is partly based on straightforward calculations, but other issues may factor in. At Luminosity Law in Mountlake Terrace, it is our job to work with you, whether you are the one responsible for paying or receiving support, to ensure that the amount is properly calculated (where appropriate) or within a reasonable range for amount and duration.
Understanding spousal support
Whether you call it alimony, spousal support or spousal maintenance, it boils down to money paid by the spouse who earns the greater amount of money to the spouse who earns a lesser amount. In Washington, there is no “formula” to determine spousal maintenance awards, however, the goal is that it be “just and equitable” to both spouses and is based on what the paying spouse can afford and what the receiving spouse needs. Yes, it can be as confusing as it is contentious. In short, this is what the courts look at when determining if, for how long and how much spousal support is awarded:
- When spousal support is being requested, both you and your soon-to-be-ex are required to truthfully and accurately complete a Financial Declaration and provide proof of income. Paying or receiving child support is a factor that may change the amount of spousal maintenance that would be paid or received.
- The length
of the marriage plays a significant role in determining spousal maintenance.
The rule of thumb in Washington is:
- Short-term marriages of 0 to five years: Enough money to support the lesser-earning spouse for “everyday needs” for a minimal time until he or she can get back on their feet financially. If ordered, this may last for as little as a few months.
- Medium-term marriages of roughly five to 25 years: The lesser-earning spouse could receive funding that lasts for a period of years, depending on the length of marriage, the need for one spouse to “rehabilitate” his or her earning capacity, and other factors.
- Long-term marriages of more than 25 years: Spousal support may be awarded for a number of years, through retirement age or for as long as the remainder of life, depending on many factors specific to each marriage. The point here is to put the lesser-earning spouse on an equal footing as the greater-earning spouse and make sure that both parties have roughly half the amount of the family’s assets.
- Spousal support may be long-term or temporary. “Temporary relief orders” may be used to help sustain the lesser-earning spouse through the pendency (duration) of the divorce process.
In the State of Washington, “the court has a great deal of discretion to decide how much and for how long maintenance will be paid. The court considers many factors (such as the length of the marriage, health and ages of the spouses, and employment history), but there is not a formula like there is for child support.” When spousal support is being sought or being fought, it is in your best interest to work with one of our experienced King County and Snohomish County support attorneys.
Child support is a legal obligation
Both parents have a duty to provide for the financial support of their children until they reach the age of 18 (or 19, if they are still in high school) to cover the cost of food, clothing, housing, medical care, and health insurance and basic education expenses. That means that both parents could be ordered to pay support; however, it is usually paid to the custodial parent (the parent with residential child custody) by the non-custodial parent.
There are a number of factors that go into how child support is decided, and it starts with the completion of the Washington State Child Support Schedule. The combined income of both parents is used to determine a child support amount. Each parent is expected to pay child support based on the proportion of their contribution to the total net income. There are other factors that the courts may consider when determining child support, including:
- Bonuses and overtime pay or 2nd jobs
- Voluntary unemployment or underemployment
- How much time the child spends in each household
- A child’s special needs (such as disability or medical issues)
There are also times in which an existing child support order needs to be modified), such as a job loss or change in jobs, income increase or decrease, birth of another child, or change in medical or daycare costs. The courts take modifications seriously. As your child support lawyers, we make sure that any changes are equitable and ensure continued economic security for your child.