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What are my chances of receiving spousal support?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2024 | Spousal support

Divorce is difficult for many reasons. It is an extremely emotional time and involves many major changes which you may not be ready for.

You are also likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed by the financial implications of a divorce. Many people worry that a divorce will destroy their financial security.

These are understandable concerns, since a divorce usually involves a lifestyle change due to going from two incomes to one.

What is spousal support?

If you did not work during your marriage or earned significantly less than your spouse, spousal support could be an option. Spousal support, also known as maintenance in Washington, refers to payments that one spouse makes to another during or after a divorce.

Unlike in past years, permanent spousal support is rarely awarded these days. The length of time spousal support is paid depends on several different factors, but it is generally designed to last until the receiving spouse regains financial independence.

You and your spouse are always free to come to your own agreement on spousal support. However, that does not always happen, especially if you have a high-conflict divorce.

Even if your spouse agrees to pay you some spousal support, you might not agree on the amount. Many times, a court must enter a final order on spousal support.

How does a court calculate spousal support?

A court calculates the amount of spousal support and the length of time it is to be paid based on various factors.

First, a court must consider the possibility of temporary spousal support while the divorce process is in progress and/or spousal support to be paid for a fixed period after the divorce concludes.

Two of the basic factors a court examines are the receiving spouse’s need for spousal support and the other spouse’s ability to pay.

Length of the marriage

Another common factor is the length of the marriage. Generally, the longer the marriage, the longer the period of payments.

There is no set calculation for a duration of spousal support compared to the length of the marriage, but a general guideline is one year of spousal support for every three to four years of marriage.

Spousal support may be ordered in short-term marriages, which are marriages of five years or less. However, the length is based on how long a court decides it will take for the receiving spouse to become financially secure.

Longer term or permanent spousal support is usually only considered in marriages of 25 years or more. The intent is often to pay the spousal support until the receiving spouse retires or passes away.

Additional factors

Other factors a court considers when determining the amount and length of spousal support include each spouse’s:

  • Age and health
  • Employment history and earning capacity
  • Income and assets

When it comes to employment and earning capacity, a court will consider whether one spouse sacrificed their own career or educational opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse. Evidence of domestic violence can also impact a spousal support award.

Knowing how these factors apply to your case is important. You will have a realistic idea of what to expect and know how to advocate for the spousal support you seek.