As family law attorneys, one of the first questions we often hear from our clients is “how much is this going to cost me?” The answer to that question (as with many legal questions) is often: it depends. Clients want to know how much child support and spousal maintenance they’ll be paying. This article hopes to explain why the answers to these questions are not as clearcut as clients (and we) wish they were.
Child Support: Although there are child support worksheets and a child support schedule that help us determine how much child support you will be paying, more detail is needed before we feel confident in our advice. While you might be able to provide your income information during an initial meeting, it is unlikely that you can provide all of your spouse’s income information. There are also some unknowns as to how the court may impute an income to a unemployed or underemployed person. Adding to the complexity, in cases involving spousal maintenance the amount of spousal maintenance can affect the child support payment, so without knowing the spousal maintenance amount it is difficult to determine the child support that will be ordered. This is only the beginning. There are also deductions, taxes, deviations and more!
Spousal Maintenance: There is no statutory formula for determining how much spousal maintenance a spouse will have to pay to support the economically disadvantaged spouse. Instead, there are statutory factors helping a court determine whether to award spousal maintenance, and if so, for how long. Most of the time, only after looking at financial declarations from both parties, and information relating to the factors in the statute, are attorneys able to provide a well-educated estimation of the amount of spousal maintenance the court may order.
In some ways it would be nice if there was a simple calculator we could use to type in numbers, and give clients a guaranteed amount they will be paying or receiving in child support or spousal maintenance. On the other hand, families are all different and because the formula and factors provide for exceptions and wiggle room we are able to argue for a support or maintenance level that makes sense in your family’s circumstances.
If you need to discuss your child support or spousal maintenance issue with a Seattle area family law attorney, we’d be honored if you choose us!