Efforts to rebuild after divorce can take years, especially for those who left the workforce during a marriage. People may stay home to maintain a shared residence, provide child care and manage the necessities of the family, like grocery shopping and cooking. Those services are valuable for the entire household, but they do not result in compensation for the spouse who leaves their job or makes their career a lower priority because of their family responsibilities.
Therefore, when couples divorce, one spouse might seek financial support from the other in the form of spousal maintenance. Those who qualify can receive regular payments from their former spouse, in addition to a reasonable share of the marital property.
Washington law allows the courts to order regular spousal maintenance payments provided that one spouse has a need for such support and the other has the ability to pay. How long can someone expect spousal maintenance to last after a Washington divorce?
Maintenance depends on need and other factors
There is no specific statute that determines the length of a spousal maintenance order. Instead, a judge will decide how to proceed based on the family’s circumstances. Both the amount of maintenance ordered and the duration of the order will reflect the needs of the recipient and the ability of the other spouse to pay.
When a family law judge in Washington must decide how long to require maintenance payments from one spouse to the other following a divorce it will often be the duration of the marriage that has the biggest impact on how long the support order was. Generally speaking, judges tend to order one year of support for every three or four years of marriage.
In most cases, the goal of spousal maintenance is rehabilitation, meaning that someone acquires the skills and connections they require to become competitive on the employment market. However, there are some scenarios that might result in long-term or permanent maintenance orders. There are also scenarios in which payments may end early, such as the remarriage of the recipient or a drastic change in financial circumstances for the party paying.
Understanding state rules that govern spousal maintenance can help people better plan for their financial recovery after a Washington divorce.