Washington State Alimony Laws

By Bernadette A. Safrath

Washington state law sets forth the procedure for dividing property and awarding alimony when spouses divorce or a domestic partnership dissolves. Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is a monetary award paid by one spouse to the other after marital property has been divided by the court.

Washington state law sets forth the procedure for dividing property and awarding alimony when spouses divorce or a domestic partnership dissolves. Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is a monetary award paid by one spouse to the other after marital property has been divided by the court.

Alimony and Property

The main factor a court considers when determining the amount and duration of alimony is the value of each spouse's property after the marital assets are divided. Washington is a community property state, which generally means each spouse will receive half of the marital assets. However, the spouses' financial circumstances can become uneven after a divorce if one spouse has excessive separate property. Separate property is property owned before the marriage, received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage, or property purchased during the marriage with other separate property.

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Amount of Alimony

In addition to the spouses' financial circumstances, a Washington court considers other factors when setting the alimony award. These factors include the spouses' ages and health conditions, the standard of living established during the marriage and paying spouse's ability to meet his alimony obligation while meeting his own needs. Additionally, the court will examine the time the receiving spouse might need to obtain training or education sufficient to gain employment and become self-sufficient. Such employment should be in the field of the spouse's "skill, interests [or] style of life." One factor the court will not consider is a spouse's misconduct, such as adultery or abandonment, leading to the end of the marriage or partnership.

Duration of Alimony

The last factor is the duration of the marriage or domestic partnership. This factor is the most important in determining how long alimony should be paid. For example, long-term marriages, which are marriages of 25 years or longer, generally require permanent maintenance, as determined in the 2007 case Marriage of Rockwell. The court held that spouses in such long-term marriages should be in equal positions for the rest of their lives so the financially weaker spouse will receive alimony to even the spouses' financial circumstances. This case is binding law on counties in Washington's appellate division, King and Snohomish, but is followed by many other Washington trial courts. For marriages with a duration of less than 25 years, Washington courts often follow a ratio of one to three. This means that for every three years of marriage, a spouse will receive one year of maintenance. For example, if a marriage lasted 15 years, alimony payments would last for five years and a ten year marriage would permit alimony for a duration of three years.

Termination of Alimony

Washington law states that an order for spousal maintenance or support may terminate prior to the date set forth in the order in limited circumstances. If the paying spouse dies, his obligation to pay ceases. Additionally, if the receiving spouse dies or gets remarried, she is no longer entitled to alimony.

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Alimony Laws in Tennessee

References

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Will He Still Have to Pay Alimony With a No Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania?

When spouses file for divorce in Pennsylvania, a financially weaker spouse may be entitled to alimony. Pennsylvania courts award alimony based on financial need. It is not a punishment for any misconduct that may have caused the divorce. Even if spouses are filing for a no fault divorce, one of them may still owe alimony to the other.

Wyoming Laws on Alimony

Alimony, or spousal support, is money paid by a party to a former spouse. Wyoming, like all states, has a specific set of laws governing alimony awards. Wyoming, also like all states, allows individuals to obtain a divorce without proving the other party was at fault. Alimony is not intended to punish a paying spouse, but rather to provide fair and necessary assistance to the spouse who needs it. Alimony statutes are gender neutral; both men and women can receive it.

Alimony & Inheritance

Alimony is also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, depending upon the jurisdiction, and is designed to allow the recipient spouse maintain a standard of living similar to that enjoyed during the marriage once the couple is divorced. In most jurisdictions, inheritances are not considered marital property during the distribution phase of a divorce case, but can significantly affect alimony awards post-divorce. Alimony payments can be increased, decreased or terminated due to significant changes in the financial status of either party.

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