Divorce is a difficult process for everyone involved, and one of the most contentious issues is deciding who gets what. Part of that process is the determination of washington state alimony, also called spousal maintenance.

If you are getting divorced, it is important to familiarize yourself with the divorce process and how the court determines alimony support. At the Anderson Hunter Law Firm, we want you to know your rights and obligations after ending a marriage.

How Does Alimony Work in Washington State?

There are many factors in each marriage that affect who should get alimony, how much they should get, and for how long. There is no fixed figure to expect during settlement. A judge must evaluate all the facts as each case is unique.

The court usually awards spousal maintenance to the party who earns less in the marriage. If one spouse depends on the earnings of the other party to maintain their quality of living, they may request alimony during their divorce proceedings. The court then determines how much that spouse should receive and how long the other spouse should support them.

Either spouse can request alimony in a divorce, regardless of gender. Generally, if one spouse can support the other financially, the judge will have that spouse pay alimony to the other.

How Washington State Alimony is Calculated

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The court looks at several factors when determining an alimony amount. Each spouse’s assets, debt, age, income and earning potential, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living they are accustomed to can all factor into the decision.

The court evaluates each spouse’s earning potential based on the profession, job skills, and experience of each spouse. If one spouse stayed at home or can no longer work, that impacts alimony being awarded. They also consider the time it takes for the lower-earning party to get additional training or education to increase their earnings.

When a divorce involves children, the court will consider who has primary custody when calculating alimony. If the receiving spouse is the primary custodian, the judge awards a higher payment.

Another important factor that the court may consider when calculating alimony is the financial needs of the receiving spouse. They will consider how easily that spouse can afford housing, utilities, transportation, food, and the lifestyle they are used to with their income alone. The court may also look at any medical expenses or special needs the receiving spouse has.

The court will also consider the paying spouse’s ability to pay. If they have a high income and significant assets, the court may order a higher alimony amount.

It is worth noting that Washington State is a “no-fault” state. In other words, infidelity or abuse will not affect the distribution of assets and payments when settling a divorce.

How Long Does Washington State Alimony Last?

washington state alimony

There’s no set formula for how long alimony should last, but longer marriages usually lead to longer alimony. For shorter marriages, alimony may not be very significant or not awarded at all. Long-term marriages often end with alimony that lasts for several years or the rest of the receiving spouse’s life.

For marriages that lasted for less than 5 years, the court usually tries to put both spouses back into the financial position they were in before marriage. Alimony usually lasts until the divorce is final or for a brief period afterward.

Mid-length marriages that lasted between 5-25 years have more variability in awarding alimony. Judges often award one year of maintenance for every 3 to 4 years married, but this is not a hard rule.

For marriages of more than 25 years, there is a high chance that the judge will award alimony for the remainder of the receiving spouse’s life.

Can I Modify or Terminate My Alimony Agreement?

Unless there is a written agreement between parties stating otherwise, you can go to the court and ask for a modification of alimony. To be successful with your request, you must show the court that there has been a significant change in your earning ability, such as losing a job or having a salary increase.

If you don’t go to court to change your alimony agreement, payments end when the court-mandated alimony period ends or when the former spouse receiving alimony remarries or passes away.

If you and your former spouse want to pursue a change in alimony payments, you can consult with a family lawyer to discuss your options.

Alimony and Taxes in Washington State

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The rules for taxing alimony in the U.S. have changed since 2019. If your divorce was final before 2019, alimony payments are taxable income for the recipient and deductible by the payer. However, if you became divorced after 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the tax deduction and income reporting requirements previously required. This means that if you are going through a divorce now, the IRS doesn’t look at alimony as taxable or deductible income.

Since Washington does not have a state income tax, alimony payments will not affect your local tax payments either. You can talk with your lawyer or a tax accountant to understand the tax implications of paying or receiving alimony payments if you have questions.

Have More Questions?

Washington State courts consider several factors to determine how much alimony is owed and how long it lasts. Whether you are planning to seek or pay alimony, it is a good idea to consult with a family law attorney about how to protect your rights. While alimony can be a difficult issue to navigate, with the proper legal guidance, you can achieve an equitable resolution.

Here at Anderson Hunter, our attorneys have experience with all kinds of complex family law matters. Our law firm has been practicing in Snohomish County and the surrounding area for over 100 years, and we have the expertise you need to achieve successful legal results. We can also help you find viable alternatives to divorce litigation.

We can answer your questions regarding alimony payments no matter where you are in your divorce process. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation with our team.

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