WashingtonAlimony Guide - Spousal Support Laws
Washington Alimony Guide :: Table of Contents
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered provision of financial support a spouse for after a divorce. Alimony laws vary considerably from state to state, and courts often have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis in determing whether to award alimony, how much alimony to award, and how long alimony payments will continue.
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How Does Alimony Work?
In the state of Washington, a maintenance order, or an alimony agreement, is based on a spouse’s duty to support the other after divorce when dependency has been established. An individual going through a divorce or legal separation may file for alimony if they have become dependent on their spouse for the standard of living established during the course of the marriage, whether or not the alimony is decided in a court of law is dependent on several factors.
The amount and requirement of alimony payments will be decided by the court without consideration of misconduct. There are many relevant factors in the consideration of alimony payments.
Some of the factors included in the court’s decision are the financial resources of both spouses, including the separate estates of each party, each spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs independently, including any dependent child or children of each individual. The upkeep of the standard of living established during the marriage is the main goal of alimony payments, and as such, the earning ability, job skills, and job market for each party’s profession is largely considered during alimony cases. The time needed to obtain adequate training or education to increase the dependent spouse’s earning ability to a sufficient amount to maintain the expected standard of living is often taken into consideration for the length of time that alimony is required. Even if the dependent spouse is declared to be in relevant need of alimony support, if the more independent spouse does not have sufficient funds to meet his or her own financial obligations as well as alimony payments, it will be heavily considered by the court.
Custody of any children, and any child support required between parties of the divorce, are two other factors in the amount and consideration of alimony. If the spouse with custody of the children is unable to support themselves due to the children being of an age or condition that it hinders the individual’s ability to support the child, such as if they must remain home to care for the child, it would severely influence the case for alimony to be received by the custodian of said child or children.
In the end, if an agreement cannot be made between the two parties, alimony is awarded at the final judgment of the judge and court deciding the case.
In the state of Washington, a number of factors are taken into account when calculating the amount and duration of alimony or spousal support payments.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating alimony?
Washington has a defined list of factors, described in statutory law, that are legally required to be considered by a judge when determining alimony payments. These factors may be directly connected to the alimony calculation formula.
Is marital fault considered in Washington alimony?
Washington does not consider marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that divorces considered "at-fault" due to cheating or infidelity, abuse, or other factors do not affect the calculation of alimony payments.
Is standard of living considered in Washington alimony?
Standard of living is considered when calculating alimony payments in the state of Washington. This means that a judge will consider the lifestyle enjoyed by the alimony-receiving spouse during the duration of the marriage when determining an appropriate alimony payment amount.
Is custodial status considered when determining alimony in the state of Washington?
The judge in the state of Washington considers custodial status when determining alimony payments. This means that alimony calculations are affected by whether or not the receiving spouse has custody of the children, and custodial spouses may receive higher alimony payments.
How exactly is alimony calculated in the state of Washington?
Calculation of alimony is generally done on a case-by-case basis by the Washington family court judge who is responsible for the case. While some states have a fixed alimony calculation formula, in most cases the final amount and duration of alimony awarded (if alimony is awarded) is at the discretion of the judge.
- How long must alimony be paid?
- The duration of payments is determined by a judge in Washington family court. Alimony length is usually based on length of marriage - one commonly used standard for alimony duration is that 1 year of alimony is paid every three years of marriage (however, this is not always the case in every state or with every judge). Alimony may also be discontinued upon the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse. In some cases, judges may even award permanent alimony.
- What happens if alimony isn't paid?
- If alimony is unpaid, the owed debt is known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment. Failure to comply with a court-issued spousal support order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who failed to pay owed alimony.
- Can alimony be waived by a prenuptual agreement?
- A prenup agreement is a contract between spouses regarding marriage-related financial matters signed prior to marriage. Limitation or waiving rights to alimony is a frequent clause in modern prenuptual agreements, but some states or localities prohibit such alimony waivers.
- Can alimony be collected if you're not married?
- The legal concept of alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is dependant upon a legal marriage. However, in some areas - especially those with a concept of common-law marriage - "palimony", or support payments between non-married individuals, has been awarded by courts. However, this generally requires extenuating circumstances.
- What is alimony mediation?
When a marriage ends through divorce and alimony is expected to be paid, spouses have the choice to determine an alimony agreement either through litigation (in Washington family court) or through mutual agreement. Often, a Washington alimony mediator can be brought in to help the ex-spouses come to a mutual agreement regarding alimony and other contested issues such as property division, and thus avoid having to go to court.
- How are alimony payments taxed?
On a federal level, all qualifying Washington alimony payments are deductible by the payor, and counted as taxable income by the recipient. To qualify as alimony under IRS guidelines, the following must be true:
- The payments are in cash
- The parties live in seperate households
- The payments are strictly for alimony (as opposed to for child support, etc)
Taxation of alimony varies on a state and local level. You can learn more about Washington income taxes here .