Every state has unique statutory law governing what circumstances merit an award for spousal maintenance, also known as “alimony.” Washington does not issue orders to pay support in every divorce that results in one spouse earning or owning more than the other.
A variety of elements influence whether courts decide to make an award, the amount of the payments, and the duration. Here are several key considerations in determinations about spousal maintenance.
The economic status of the parties
Each spouse’s respective wealth and earning capacity are important to a judge’s decision. Some judges intend for awards to be a temporary means of support while people transition to financial independence.
Length of a marriage
Spousal maintenance orders often last for only a fraction of the length of a marriage. If the marriage was relatively short, there may be no award at all. In contrast, decades of marriage may justify an award that remains in effect for many years or indefinitely.
Washington is a no-fault divorce state. Responsibility for the cause of a divorce will not result in a person having to pay more in spousal maintenance than he or she otherwise would. However, wasteful depletion of assets during a marriage could result in a greater award. Likewise, financial misconduct during the divorce process such as an attempt to conceal assets could affect a ruling.
Courts rule on support orders in light of the circumstances at the time of their determination. If there are material changes or developments concerning factors that influenced a ruling, there may be subsequent grounds to petition for a modification.