Alimony in Washington
One of the matters that must be settled as part of a divorce proceeding is the payment of spousal maintenance which is more commonly known as alimony. Either partner may be ordered to make alimony payments after a divorce. While the courts have discretion in awarding alimony payments, there are certain factors which will be taken into consideration.
Calculating Alimony Payments in Washington
Washington does not provide any specific guidance to the courts in terms of a formula for awarding alimony. Instead, the courts will take various factors into consideration when determining if one spouse must make support payments to the other including:
- Length of Marriage– the longer a marriage has lasted, the more likely one spouse is going to be awarded spousal support payments. This is particularly true in the event the spouse was a homemaker during the term of their marriage which may have had a negative impact on their earning potential.
- Division of Property and Debts – if one partner received a bulk of the marital property while the other received the bulk of the debt, the partner with the debt burden is less likely to be required to make alimony payments.
- Child Custody and Support – another financial aspect of whether a spouse will be ordered to pay alimony will likely be whether they are paying child support and/or have custody of a minor child. The court’s interest is to ensure the spouse who is ordered to pay support have the means to make those payments.
Various Methods of Alimony Payments
When the court makes a determination about alimony, in addition to considering how much the payment will be and to whom the payment will be made, they will also make a determination regarding frequency and length of payments. The judge who is evaluating the case will have complete discretion to order periodic payments (e.g. quarterly, annually, etc.) or to order weekly or monthly payments. In addition, the court may order a flat lump sum payment to one spouse or they may order payments for a specific period of time.
One of the considerations that will be made regarding frequency or length of payments is the receiving spouse’s ability to manage financially without alimony payments. For example, if one spouse has primarily been a homemaker throughout the course of the marriage, the courts may order alimony payments until such time as they are able to receive training and secure employment. Once the spouse receiving payments has been trained and secured employment, the payments may be reduced or eliminated altogether.
Couples Can Agree on Alimony Payments
The court does not have to get involved in ordering alimony payments if the divorcing spouses can agree to a specific plan ahead of time. The court would take into consideration any agreement the divorcing couple has crafted and is likely to approve such an agreement provided that it is reasonable. This agreement would then become part of the final divorce decree and is fully enforceable through the courts. Only in cases where the couple if unable to reach an agreement would the courts review and set specific alimony payments.
Modifying or Terminating Alimony in Washington
In some cases, it may be necessary to request alimony payments be modified or terminated. Either party, the one paying or the one receiving may request a change. In general, the courts will review an existing support payment based on very specific instances for example, if the paying spouse receives a substantial raise, the receiving spouse may request a review of their current alimony payments. In the event the receiving spouse gets a new job and therefore has more substantial income, the paying spouse may request a review. If the partner receiving alimony payments remarries, in nearly all cases, alimony payments will terminate.
Alimony payments are designed to ensure that one spouse does not face significant financial difficulties after a divorce. Your divorce attorney can work with you to draft a preliminary proposal for your spouse and if you can agree on the terms of alimony payments, in most cases, the courts will accept them. However, if your spouse is adamant about not paying alimony, we can help you fight hard to get the money you need to remain financially stable.