In the State of Washington, divorcing couples are required by law to enter an Order of Child Support and related worksheets. Child support is determined by the parents’ net income. The Economic Table determines the basic child support obligation of both parents using their combined net incomes. The amount of child support is further based on the total number of children in the family, but the parents’ financial obligations to children of other relationships, as well as their own financial circumstances, are also a factor. Parents have some latitude in setting the amount of child support in certain situations, but generally this amount is determined by law.
The collaborative process, as well as uncontested and amicable solutions, offers parents the opportunity to reach their own agreements, and to provide their children financial support based on their specific needs and circumstances, while still operating within the framework of the law.
Spousal support, or alimony, which is called spousal maintenance in Washington, entails a payment of money from one spouse to the other. Unlike child support, it is not obligatory, nor is it determined by an economic table. Instead spousal maintenance is guided by a set of factors laid out in the law. These factors include consideration of the length of the parties’ marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, the receiving spouse’s financial need and ability to support himself or herself, including the ability to provide financially for any children in the household and the paying spouse’s ability to pay and still meet his/her own financial needs.
Spousal maintenance is a device that can be used from an equitable approach, to help reach a fair financial result between spouses. It can also be used to help a lower earning spouse, or a spouse just entering or returning to the work force to get through the transition of becoming self-supportive.
A financial specialist is often used in the collaborative process to create a detailed financial report and analysis of the parties’ projected financial futures. This can be an extremely beneficial tool in helping the parties reach a durable resolution regarding spousal maintenance.