Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) in Seattle Divorce – Seattle Divorce Attorney, Amanda DuBois


Welcome to the Divorganize session on alimony
or spousal maintenance. When I’ve gone through all these other sessions, I always start by
saying that I can’t give you legal advice, because I’m not your lawyer, and I don’t necessarily…
I can’t educate you about the laws in every specific state where you may live, so this
is not intended to be advice. This program is intended to be an educational program to
teach you to issue spot, which means to be able to see what issues might be relevant
in your particular case. And this is a situation. Alimony and spousal
maintenance is one of those things that is wildly different in different states. I mean,
I was really surprised when I started doing research to find out exactly how alimony works
in different states. So you’re really gonna have to pay attention to your specific state
laws and statutes about alimony or spousal maintenance. So um, I’m gonna go ahead and
do the overview and we’re gonna talk about the different factors, but there is a very
widely divergent way that this is looked at in different states. And so, it goes from
everything from hardly any alimony, to lifetime alimony. So in some states it’s called alimony, and
in other states it’s called spousal maintenance. And this is gonna go one of two ways for you.
Either there’s no alimony or spousal maintenance necessary, because you and your husband make
basically about the same amount of money or close enough. Or maybe if you make more money
than he does, you’re gonna have to pay him spousal maintenance or alimony. Or conversely,
if he makes more money than you do, he might pay you spousal maintenance or alimony. So
for purposes of discussion here, even though some states call this spousal maintenance,
I’m just gonna go ahead and say alimony, because it’s the word that most people are more familiar
with. So let’s take a look and see what types of
factors are involved in making an alimony decision in various states. There are some states where the alimony award
is figured out kind of by statute. And what that means is that it’s predetermined by the
legislature how much alimony will be awarded. And in some states, it’s a percentage of the
income of the higher earning spouse. And sometimes there’s actually a dollar amount, maximum
amount, of alimony that you can get. In some other states, you get alimony only if you’ve
been married a certain number of years. Like, there’s some states that say no alimony, unless
you’ve been married for 10 years. And other states say, if alimony is awarded, there can’t
be an end date for alimony, which basically means it goes on forever. Some states, they
give very specific factors that have to be looked at, and in other states the factors
are a little more vague. So, alimony is different in different states,
by the amount of the length of alimony, by the amount of alimony, by the circumstances
under which you qualify for alimony. So, what I’m gonna tell you is if you are in a situation,
well any actually any divorce situation, but if you’re in a situation where there’s not
pretty much equality between the money that you make or can make, and what your husband
makes or can make, then you really need to do your research in your state to find out
what your divorce rights are, with regard to alimony. And as part of the divorce process,
you need to kind of figure that out before filing for divorce. Usually it’s a good idea
to have some idea of how alimony works in your particular state. So, in the states…
so there’s two times when alimony becomes relevant in your divorce situation. One is
you file for divorce, and then there’s a period of time between your divorce, and when you
have your divorce finalized. That can be months, or it can be a year or more, depending on
your state and legal requirements for the amount of time of separation that has to happen
before you can get a final divorce. So there’s a temporary period, and in most
states that’s if you come up with your budget, that looks like you or he is going to need
is gonna need financial help, either one of you, then you can either come to an agreement,
about you know, I’m gonna, sometimes one of you says “Well I’ll pay the mortgage, and
you pay the car payments”, or something along an agreed financial support, which may or
may not be alimony. Or, one of you says here’s how much alimony I need, and the other says
OK, I’ll pay that for this period of time. But if you can’t agree on that, and some people
can’t or a lot of people can’t obviously, cause you don’t like each other, and you’re
into fighting about it, sometimes you end up in a court hearing. And that’s in a lot of states, it’s called
a “Temporary Orders Hearing”, and it’s a motion. And in other states it’s called, and I am
not exactly sure how to pronounce this, “pendente lite”. And that’s spelled p-e-n-d-e-n-t-e
l-i-t-e. And that means pending litigation. So what it basically means is, for this temporary
period, there has to be some sort of an order, so you have this pendante lite order which
in other states it’s called a temporary order. So you’re going to have this period of time
that you have to figure out how the bills are gonna be paid, and that’s your temporary
maintenance or alimony. And one thing that you need to be aware of is that alimony is
usually taxable to the person who’s receiving it, and tax deductible to the person who’s
paying it. So when you’re trying to figure out during
this temporary time period, between when you file for divorce, and when your divorce is
finalized, some people say “well, I don’t really want to pay taxes on the money, so
maybe the husband or the person who’s gonna make the mortgage payment.” And you’ve got
to talk to a CPA, cause I’m not a CPA, I can’t talk to you about tax consequences, cause
it’s not my specialty area. But what we’re doing is we’re issue spotting. So what you
don’t want to do is enter into an agreement with your soon to be ex, and then find out
that you have to pay taxes on that money and you didn’t factor that in. On the other hand, if you’re the one paying
alimony, you would want to talk to a tax adviser, because, you say “I don’t want to pay him
any alimony”, but you find out it’s a tax deduction to be able to pay alimony, so maybe
that’s not the worst thing in the world in your situation, if you do it very, with knowledge,
and talking to a financial planner, who’s a CPA. So if you find yourself having to go into
court, and make an argument for temporary alimony, then what you probably need to do,
is come to the judge or the commissioner, or whoever hears these motions in your jurisdiction,
and you’ll you can look… you’ll have to look online and find out exactly what’s required
for a motion in your jurisdiction, or you hire a lawyer. But, generally speaking, we’re
talking about issue spotting now, generally speaking, you’ll be required to come into
court with proof of what your bills are. So, for example, if you’re saying, you know, you
make 2,500 dollars a month, net income, which is your income after all of your taxes are
taken out; so if you’re three thousand a month, you might be asking for $500 worth of alimony.
So proof would be like a copy of mortgage statement, or rent, your lease agreement.
It would be copies of your utility bills, or your… you know, the coupon you get for
your car payment, or a copy of how much money you typically spend at the grocery store,
or what your gas is. And in some jurisdictions where I practice
for example, there are very strict rules. When you come in on a temporary motion hearing,
you have to have six months of bank statements, six months of utility bills, six months of
statements from brokerage accounts, cause the judge or the commissioner wants to see
what is your whole financial picture. If you say “I need $500 a month alimony”, from your
husband, and say he makes 3000 a month, and you make 25 hundred a month, and it would
be a stretch for him to have to pay that to you, then the judge looks and sees you guys
have $20,000 sitting in the bank, or you’re getting a bonus next month, or there’s other
aspects of your financial situation, that’s something the judge or the commissioner needs
to be able to review the entire situation. Because the job of the commissioner for this
temporary period of time is to try to maintain the status quo for you financially. So if
you’re looking for alimony in that temporary period of time, you’re gonna have to prove
what your expenses are. You’re probably gonna have to sit down, and go through the bills,
and try to figure that out. So that’s the temporary period. But what you’re
probably more concerned about is — OK after I’m divorced, now what’s going to happen?
And again, you might be in the position of earning more money, and you might be faced
with having to make alimony payments, or, you’re in the position where your husband
makes more money, and you’re going to ask for alimony payments.
So, how does that work? Well like I said, in various states, there
are some states where it’s pretty cut and dry. There’s other states where there’s very
specific state statutes, and case law, that talks about how alimony is determined in various
states. And then in some states, it’s sort of… statute
says here’s some factors that the court has to consider when making an alimony award.
And that’s not to say that you’re necessarily going to court, but if you’re going into a
settlement, then you’re strongest position in settlement is to say, “look, I’ll settle
this case, but you need to understand that if I go to court, here’s what I’m going to
be entitled to.” And that puts you in a really strong bargaining position. So it’s always
good to know what a judge would do with a situation like yours. So the judge is going to look, and factors
are different in different states, but they look at things like how long have you been
married, that’s a factor. Some states look at if it’s a short term marriage, you don’t
get very much alimony, if it’s mid-term you get a little more, if it’s long term, you
might get a lot more, or for a longer period of time. They’re gonna look at the age of
the parties, so for example if you’re 35 and you’ve got a long work life ahead of you,
you’re not going to get lifetime alimony, unless you’re in a really unusual situation. I just finished up a trial where my client
was 57 years old, she had been unemployed. She was a… she had a degree that was so
far outdated it was not even functional any more. She had not worked for over 30 years,
because she’d been home raising children, and her husband was a dentist, and he… we
went to court because he said no alimony. We’re still waiting for a decision from the
judge on that one, but – um – the judge made it very clear that she’s going to be rewarding
alimony to this woman. Another thing they look at is the educational
level of the parties. So for example, if you have a degree in, say you have a MBA, and
say your husband never finished his bachelor’s degree. But in a couple of years, he could
get that bachelor’s degree finished up. Then the judge might say, “well you’re gonna have
to pay for a couple of years, until he gets back up on his feet”. And the flip side is
true if you’re the one who doesn’t have the good job, and your husband makes a lot of
money. Then the judge might be more likely to say, you need to be, you need to get alimony
until you can get into the work force. So um, that has to do with the education levels
of the two parties, which is another one of the factors. Another factor is the income of the parties,
and that’s similar to the education level, but it… you know, maybe you have no education
at all, or maybe your husband has no education, but he makes, you know, almost a hundred thousand
dollars a year, or two hundred thousand dollars a year, and you can earn 36 as a assistant
at a school. In a situation like that, they don’t necessarily look at the education, but
they’ll look at the incomes and say, this lower wage earner needs some help going forward. They’ll look at the health of the parties.
If one of you has a disability or, you know, some chronic illness like arthritis, rheumatoid
arthritis is a common one we see, or multiple sclerosis, that limits the ability of someone
to earn an income, or some people have mental health problems, and if they’re significant
enough the court will take that into consideration when making an alimony award. And then in some states they actually have,
part of their statute says the lifestyle of the parties. So if you’ve been living a certain
lifestyle, some states say you’re entitled to continue that lifestyle up into the future,
if the parties, if the wage earner can afford to support the other party sort of in a similar
lifestyle. So that usually happens for people who make a lot of money. Like if some guy’s
making $300,000 a year, he’s gonna have to support his wife or she’s gonna support her
husband, in a way that leads to a comfortable lifestyle, it’s not just sort of a subsistence
level.

Michael Martin

6 Responses

  1. alimony who thought up this crap.lawers corrupt judges.there gonna be the ones that are gonna benefit. never marry never have kids you'll never have to go through this slayer

  2. alimony who thought up this crap.lawers corrupt judges.there gonna be the ones that are gonna benefit. never marry never have kids you'll never have to go through this slayer

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