WASHINGTON ALIMONY LAWYER
Learn everything you need to know about alimony, also known as spousal support
Alimony is a court-ordered amount of money that one spouse pays to the other following their divorce. The purpose of alimony is to help both spouses maintain a similar standard of living and give them time to become financially independent and self-sufficient.
Unlike child support, spousal support is not mandatory and is not calculated by a fixed formula. For example, when both spouses have comparable employment and income, support might not be ordered.
However, alimony is often ordered when one spouse has not been employed or trained for employment. This is particularly true in cases of a long-term marriage or if there are young children in the marriage.
It is crucial to have your rights and obligations thoroughly evaluated by an alimony lawyer in Washington if you are considering or facing a divorce. Your skilled spousal support lawyer can advise you on the best strategy for reaching an agreement with your spouse, fighting for support that you might be due, or defending you against paying alimony award that is unreasonable.
Spousal support can be short- or long-term. Although there are guidelines, support is generally calculated based on factors such as income and the length of the marriage. However, courts have a lot of discretion in determining the amount and duration of support.
If you make more money than your spouse, you may be concerned that you will end up paying support for the rest of your life. While lifelong support is not common, the court may order support for any set period of time.
The longer the marriage and the more time your spouse has been unemployed or underemployed, the more likely spousal support will be ordered. However, it is not absolute and does not have to last forever.
Generally, the court will set a date by which the paying spouse can no longer be required to pay. A commonly cited rule of thumb in Washington State courts is to order one year of alimony for every three years of marriage.
This is not a statutory guideline but rather an approximation commonly used by the courts. Support is often terminated when the spouse receiving support remarries, or upon the death of either party.
Generally, support is paid by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse.
Washington courts strive to lessen the hardship placed on the financially-dependent spouse in a divorce. When determining whether to award spousal support, the court looks at the length of the marriage and what the dependent spouse will need to become self-sufficient.
It also considers the ability of the higher-earning spouse to pay, but the receiving spouse’s needs are often given more weight than the ability to pay when compared to the paying spouse’s total living expenses.
Usually, the amount of support ordered will be partially determined using the income of the paying spouse. Other factors the court may consider include:
- Age of both parties
- Health of both parties
- Earning capacity of both parties
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Marketable skills, educational background, and employability
- Contributions of each spouse to the marriage or to the educational opportunities of the other
- Financial resources, including non-marital assets
- The time and expense needed for the receiving spouse to obtain the education or training necessary for suitable employment
The biggest takeaway here is that the family law courts in Washington have enormous discretion when determining the appropriate support award and the duration of the alimony payments. There is no state schedule for spousal support like child support. This makes spousal support one of Washington’s more complex and risky family law issues.
Spousal support is different from the division of community property that also occurs in a divorce. With spousal support, the court is seeking to set both spouses on a path toward equal income rather than assets.
However, the court may consider the assets awarded to the spouse receiving support and whether or not they have a separate estate — so they may look at the big picture when making its determination of how much support should be ordered.
For example, if the husband in a divorce is awarded more of the marital property than his spouse, this may be taken into consideration when determining the amount of spousal support that is appropriate because the spouse will need more assistance in getting back on their feet financially, particularly if the husband received the car, house, or other significant assets in the division of property.
In such cases, the court may order the husband to pay more in alimony than otherwise to help offset the imbalance created in the division of property.
While men are more commonly ordered to pay alimony than women, it is not a given. Historically and traditionally, men have been the breadwinner of the family, but women are just as capable of earning an income as men, and many have high-paying jobs, so the traditional roles are shifting.
Here are some examples of when support may be due and from which spouse:
- If your spouse earns more than you, you may request support.
- If your spouse is highly educated and has only been out of the workforce for a short time or if your marriage was very brief, the court may decide that you owe very little or no support.
- If your spouse currently works full-time and makes the same amount of money as you, the court may not even consider alimony.
Whether or not you were the higher earner in your marriage, advocating for your rights is key, and you may need assistance from a legal professional to ensure that the court hears your side of the story. It is important to build a strong case for or against spousal support because the court can even award spousal support in an uncontested divorce.
Due to this uncertainty, you need an experienced alimony lawyer in Washington to provide thoughtful, prudent advice and negotiate a reasonable settlement.
In most cases, spousal support orders can be changed if there is a change in circumstances for either party. This could mean losing a job, receiving a promotion, a disability or severe illness, or another significant event that affects one spouse’s ability to pay or receive support.
Support orders are changed by filing a motion for modification with the family law court. The court will consider any and all changes in circumstances when determining whether a modification to the spousal support order is appropriate. If the court agrees to modify support, it will issue an order setting forth the new amount and duration of payments.
If you are unable to meet your alimony obligations, it is better to seek a modification rather than stop paying altogether.
If you fail to make payments without any explanation, your ex-spouse could file an enforcement action in court which could lead to wage garnishment or other serious financial penalties. Be sure to speak to an attorney about your options if you feel that your existing spousal support order is no longer fair or reasonable.
Get professional guidance from a Washington divorce attorney
With the right attorney on your side, you can be sure that any spousal support order is fair to both parties and accounts for your best interests. While it is impossible to predict the outcome of a divorce case, you can rest assured that your attorney will work diligently to elevate your voice and ensure that you are not taken advantage of during the proceedings.
“My wife went to a better college than me. She worked full-time as a manager until last year. I didn’t think it was fair that she wanted alimony for the next five years. Thankfully, neither did Divorce Lawyers For Men.” – Marcus D.
Divorce Lawyers For Men™ is dedicated to providing men the aggressive representation needed to protect their interests during the divorce process and into the future. We can advise you on the best approach to alimony in your case.
Contact us online or call (360) 866-7393 to schedule your consultation with one of our divorce attorneys.