Our Seattle Alimony Law Firm Helps You Understand Your Rights

We get many questions about alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance). Below I address some questions you might have. For answers specific to your situation, however, schedule a free consultation with our Seattle alimony law firm.

How Long Is Alimony in Washington?

In Washington, a really rough rule of thumb that some divorce attorneys use to estimate alimony is one year of alimony for every four years of marriage. To my knowledge this is not written down anywhere, but just seems like an average of the results we have seen over the years. In any particular case the result can be quite different.

Several factors are considered when deciding how long to award alimony. These include:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Amount of the support
  • Need of the person receiving the support
  • Ability to pay of the person paying the support
  • The property distribution

As a general rule, the longer the marriage the longer the length of support. Part of the thinking behind this is that the longer the marriage, the more joint decisions made during the marriage contribute to the current need for alimony.

The amount of support can also be a factor to the extent that in some cases a court might award a smaller amount for a longer period of time or a larger amount for a shorter period of time.

Need and ability to pay are not questions with easy answers. Make sure you talk to a Seattle alimony law firm about how these might work out given your unique circumstances.

Need in part may look at the person’s potential for becoming self- supporting. This might ask questions like whether a period of school or training is needed, or how long it may take to find reasonable work, or how long it may take to advance in a career.

For long term or permanent alimony to be awarded, generally there would not  a reasonable expectation of the spouse ever being able to earn an income, such as where there is a health issue or disability that would preclude employment.

Expected ability to pay may also change over time, so that could affect the length of the alimony. For example, if the paying spouse is expected to retire at a particular point, then they may lose the ability to pay support after that date, which may need to be calculated into the length of the support.

How Much Alimony Will Your Seattle Alimony Law Firm Get for Me?

In Washington there is no specific calculation for determining the amount of alimony the court should award. Again, the court looks instead at a variety of factors including need and ability to pay.

On the upper end, one approach we have seen is for the court to simply equalize the total income available to both parties. So if one spouse can make $10,000 per month and the other spouse can make $4000 per month, then you could see an award of $3000 per month to leave each party with a total of $7000 per month total income.

Another approach is to look at a “reasonable” budget for the spouse needing support and award enough to get them to that point (without leaving the paying spouse with less). So if we had the two spouses again making $10,000 and $4,000, maybe the court would determine that the receiving spouse is falling short of meeting expenses by $2000, and so award alimony of $2000 per month.

Another consideration is looking at the degree to which one spouse has sacrificed  earning potential to serve community purposes, such as maintaining the home to support the career of the higher earning spouse.

Often the final result is some combination of the above approaches, as well as consideration of other factors such as the length of the marriage. Talk to a Seattle alimony law firm about what factors might be most important in your situation.

Will I Be Expected To Get a Job If I Have Not Worked Outside the Home During the Marriage?

Once the marriage ends, you are expected to do what you can to support yourself. The purpose of alimony is really to make up the difference between what you can reasonably do for your self and what you need to meet your reasonable expenses.

It may well be that you will need higher support while going back to school to train for a career that will help you become more self-supporting.

Should I Expect To Be Able To Maintain the Standard Of Living We Had During the Marriage?

While there might be exceptional circumstances, the short answer is no. The reason is that it generally takes more money to support two households than one. At most the court might equalize the living standards of both parties, but that would probably mean both living at a standard below what they enjoyed when together.

What Happens If I Remarry?

In some cases alimony may terminate automatically upon remarriage.

In any event, if there is a new marriage, or a cohabitation relationship, the degree to which the new partner helps meet financial need, this might be taken into account in any  action that is filed to modify alimony.

Can a Seattle Alimony Law Firm Help Me Modify My Spousal Support Payments?

Absent an agreement otherwise, alimony is modifiable. However, the courts tend to be reluctant to modify it except for a change in circumstances that could not have been anticipated at the time of the divorce.

Thus, a change of income from a promotion or change of job is unlikely to be sufficient. On the other hand, a change in ability to work which substantially changes income potential, such as a new health problem or disability, might be enough.

Can I Get Palimony?

Palimony basically refers to alimony for unmarried partners. In Washington we do not have any law that provides for palimony. Even when the court finds the existence of a Committed Intimate Relationship, which allows the court to apply community principles to divide property and debt between the partners, there is no provision for palimony.

The only way I am aware of that palimony might be awarded in Washington is where the parties have a cohabitation contract that specifically provides for it.

Call Our Seattle Alimony Law Firm Today To Discuss Your Spousal Support Options

If you have questions about receiving, paying, or modifying alimony, call us to discuss your spousal support issues with a Seattle alimony law firm. To schedule an appointment, we can be reached through the form on our website, or you can call us at 206-784-3049.