Spousal Support in Washington State
Spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or alimony, is a financial award paid from one spouse to the other in the event of a divorce. These payments vary in amount and duration, depending on various factors.
What Factors Determine Alimony Amounts?
Washington courts generally consider the length of the marriage when determining the amount of spousal support one party will pay to the other. The guidelines are typically outlined as follows:
- Short-term marriages: When a couple is married for less than five years, spousal maintenance is typically temporary and only factors in basic needs. In some cases, support may only last a few months.
- Mid-term marriages: Spousal support for marriages that last between 5-25 years varies greatly. Many factors are considered, which makes estimates difficult to predict.
- Long-term marriages: For marriages that extend beyond 25 years, spousal support is typically higher and may last until retirement or death.
Ultimately, the court’s goal is to help both parties maintain reasonable financial stability. In general, a judge will recognize that a longer marriage may result in more dependence of one spouse on the other and therefore may require larger support payments for a longer period of time. If one party is financially dependent on the other in a short-term marriage, it is likely a more recent occurrence. As such, it may not take as long for the dependent party to reenter the workforce and achieve a livable income.
Financial Needs vs. Ability To Pay
In addition to the length of the marriage, Washington spousal maintenance rulings also consider the recipient’s financial need vis-à-vis the payer’s ability to pay. Each party’s income and financial obligations are weighed to determine an amount that is fair to both parties. Washington is a no-fault divorce state—in other words, when it comes to alimony, it does not matter which spouse’s behavior may have caused the marriage’s dissolution.
Can Spousal Maintenance Undergo Modification?
Modification refers to changes to the spousal support ruling that was entered in at the entry of final decree. In Washington State, the terms of the divorce will dictate whether or not modification is possible at a later date, but typically a party’s circumstances must undergo a substantial change in order for modification to be applicable. For example, if one party loses their job, that is unlikely to be sufficient cause for modification. However, if said party loses their job because of a recent disability, the courts may deem this justifiable to review.
Consult a Spousal Support Lawyer in Washington State
If you expect to owe or receive spousal support in your divorce, consultation with an attorney is important. Some parties may intentionally lower their income or hide assets to manipulate maintenance amounts—a thorough spousal support lawyer can ensure the final ruling is fair to your financial situation. Contact Lacoste Family Law today to discuss your case with a complimentary consultation. You can email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (509) 392-8000.