Alimony is a controversial topic in divorce. The people who pay it often resent the obligation, and the people receiving it often resent being financially dependent on their exes. Still, this kind of financial support can be essential for many Washington residents.
Also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, alimony is of monetary payment from one ex-spouse to the other. This payment comes in addition to any share of the community property the spouse received in the property division phase of the divorce. It may come about through an agreement between the parties or an order from the court and may consist of regular payments or as a lump sum.
How to know if alimony is necessary
In the past, it was fairly common for men to pay alimony to their ex-wives because men had much greater career prospects than women. Today, gender doesn’t officially play a role in alimony determinations. Instead, the need for alimony is based on a number of financial factors.
When Washington courts determine whether alimony is necessary, they look at a long list of factors, including the standard of living during the marriage and any child custody arrangements. Unlike in some states, fault is not a factor, so adultery or other misbehavior during the marriage doesn’t necessarily disqualify a spouse from receiving alimony.
Essentially, courts base the decision on whether one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage, and if the divorce will leave that dependent spouse at a great disadvantage.
If the court decides that alimony is warranted, it must then determine how much alimony is necessary. It does this based on another set of factors. Essentially, the question comes down to one spouse’s needs and the other’s ability to pay.
A court may order permanent alimony in some cases, but it is often temporary. In some cases, a temporary order may be designed to give the receiving spouse time to complete education or attain a career goal that will allow them to become financially independent.
Consider your options
While courts may decide on alimony in some cases, it’s quite common for the parties to decide these matters themselves by making alimony part of their divorce settlement.
Whether you think you’ll need it or you think your ex will request it, it’s good to seek out advice from attorneys with experience in alimony and other issues in family law.