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Domestic Violence and Alimony

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Would our Courts order the victim of Domestic Violence to pay spousal support to the abuser? Unfortunately, Yes.

Washington is a “No-Fault” State for divorce.  That means you do not have to plead and prove Marital Misconduct to obtain a divorce.  You are not even allowed to mention it.  Since the only grounds for divorce in No-Fault States is the “Irretrievable Breakdown” of the marriage, spousal misconduct, including domestic violence and abuse, is irrelevant and not admissible.

Our State laws expressly prohibit the Court from considering marital misconduct (domestic violence, adultery, etc.), when awarding spousal support or making the property division.  “The maintenance order (spousal support) shall be in such amount and for such periods of time as the Court deems just, without regard to misconduct,”. RCW 26.09.090  “The Court shall, without regard to misconduct, make such disposition of the property and liabilities of the parties”.  RCW 26.09.080 

And to add insult to injury, RCW 26.09.140 allows the Court to order a spouse to pay the attorney fees and cost for their soon to be ex-spouse “after considering the financial resources of both parties”.  There is no mention of misconduct disqualifying an abuser from having their attorney fees paid for them by their victim.  The only factor considered in awarding attorney fees is the parties’ financial resources, not their conduct.

In the few States that still allow “At Fault” divorce actions, the Court may consider misconduct as a basis for denying alimony or adjusting the division of property, but are not required to do so.

Regardless of its impact on spousal maintenance (Alimony) rulings, you should always document and report any domestic violence. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, know that there are organizations out there to help. There are many resources in Washington, but you can start by looking at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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