Alimony Washington State: Determining Spousal Support During Divorce

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By Divorce & Finance

Alimony washington state calculatorAlimony Washington State is commonly referred to as spousal maintenance or support and is among the several money matters spouses face during divorce or separation. Spousal maintenance isn’t an automatic award in Washington State, and neither is it based on gender.

In this article, we look at the spousal maintenance norms in the state as well as frequent questions regarding support.

How To Calculate Alimony in Washington State

In Washington State, there is no formula used by jurists to calculate the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Rather, the laws allow courts to make a decision regarding how much and how long alimony will last based on the spouse’s financial capability, marriage duration, health, age, and other factors.

– Amount of Alimony

Determination of alimony and calculation of the amount of support is mainly based on the “need” and “ability to pay.” The judges have broad discretion in determining the amount of alimony to award.

If you and your spouse agree on the amount, duration, and type of alimony, a Washington State court will likely approve your agreement and make it an order.

If the supported spouse has already received income-generating assets after property division, you would expect the judge to award a considerably low amount of alimony.

This will also be the case if the court establishes that the requesting spouse doesn’t have plenty of reasonable needs. The amount of alimony would also be significantly low if they are not the custodian of the spouses’ child.

If both spouses are still young and have been married for a few years, judges are inclined to award a maintenance amount sufficient for an “economic reset.” This means providing financial help for the supported spouse to get back on their feet by getting appropriate employment.

It is also possible for spouses to negotiate the terms of Washington State spousal support in their divorce. In such cases, spouses can work one-on-one or with mediators or attorneys to determine a reasonable amount and duration of alimony for the financially dependent spouse.

– Duration of Alimony

Washington State alimony laws provide little in the way when it comes to determining the duration of spousal maintenance. Similar to the amount of alimony, the duration of support is mainly in the hands of judges to decide.

To determine the duration of maintenance in the state, courts will consider, among many factors, the length of the marriage. For a short-term marriage, a judge will likely order alimony for a few months.

Also, judges consider the roles of the spouses. If one spouse was a stay-at-home parent and the primary caregiver of their child, alimony is likely to continue for a longer duration. This would be for the sake of allowing the spouse to regain the skills or education to get back into the workforce.

In some cases, courts will order spousal support to continue indefinitely if there is little possibility for the supported spouse to become self-supporting due to a disability or advanced age.

There are three types of spousal support that can be awarded for different purposes and duration:

  • Temporary spousal support may be awarded when a spouse feels the need to request financial help during the divorce process. Courts may find it reasonable to award temporary support to help spouses meet their financial obligations, such as attorney and court fees.
  • Short-term maintenance is likely ordered when a judge evaluates a spouse’s earning ability and establishes that they can become financially independent after getting an education or training and securing a job.
  • Long-term maintenance is also referred to as permanent support and is awarded only on rare occasions. Courts in Washington reserve this type of maintenance for spouses who are unable to acquire the necessary education or skills to find employment due to advanced age, medical condition, or a disability.

How To Pay Spousal Support Washington

The mode of alimony payment is decided by the court after considering the payor spouse’s circumstances. Similar to the amount and duration of support, courts have full discretion over the frequency and method of maintenance payments. In Washington State, judges will most likely order periodic payments – usually bi-weekly or monthly.

What’s more, judges find it convenient to issue an income withholding order along with the final judgment. This order directs the employer of the payor spouse to withhold money for spousal support and remit it to the concerned state agency.

However, this payment method isn’t viable with self-employed paying spouses and those who don’t receive a regular paycheck. For such spouses, judges may find it appropriate to order lump-sum payments.

Lump-sum maintenance payments could be made as a one-time payment if the payor spouse has the financial ability or in installments over a short period.

On rare occasions, a judge may order the assignment of the title to personal or real property to fulfill spousal maintenance obligation.

How To Avoid Paying Alimony in Washington State

Having an alimony modification or termination request approved by the court is the most straightforward way to avoid paying maintenance. Unless an agreement or order states otherwise, payor spouses may avoid paying maintenance by requesting modification or termination of alimony.

– Modification of Alimony

A court may consider modifying a maintenance order after review if the requesting spouse can show significant changes in circumstances since the issuance of the last order.

For instance, the paying spouse can request a modification of maintenance if they fall ill or get into an accident that significantly reduces their earning capacity. If the court establishes that the reduction in income was involuntary, maintenance will likely reevaluate the factors and modify spousal support.

Until the judge issues a modified support order, the payor spouse is expected to continue making payments as initially ordered. It is also important to observe that property transfers and lump sum alimony payments are nonmodifiable.

Under the Washington State legislation, the voluntary unemployment or underemployment of the supporting spouse is, by itself, not a substantial change of circumstances.

– Termination of Alimony

Washington State divorce laws provide that unless a divorce decree or agreement provides otherwise, the obligation to pay maintenance ends upon the remarriage or registration of a new domestic relationship by the recipient spouse or the death of either spouse.


– Does Adultery Affect Alimony in Washington State?

Being a no-fault divorce state, courts in Washington don’t consider marital fault or misconduct when determining whether to award alimony. Judges consider a host of factors when ordering alimony – none of which is marital misconduct.

While adultery doesn’t factor into decisions regarding maintenance, a judge may consider ordering compensation if the misconduct had a negative financial impact on the other spouse.

For instance, a judge might award a spouse a larger share of marital assets if the cheating spouse used marital assets to fund their affair.

– How is Alimony Determined in WA?

The factors that may play a role in determining the duration or amount of alimony in Washington state are:

  • The requesting spouse’s resources, including separate and community property from division, as well as any child support orders.
  • The time frame needed by the supported spouse to get an education or job training to enable them to find employment.
  • The standards of living established by the spouses during their marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age of both spouses.
  • Both spouses’ physical and emotional conditions.
  • The requesting spouse’s financial obligations.
  • The ability of the payor spouse to make payments while providing for their own needs.

Be aware that the points mentioned above don’t place an actual dollar amount for alimony, as the final settlement is made by a judge based on broader factors.

– Are Husbands Entitled to Alimony in Washington State?

Yes. An award for spousal support in Washington State is not gender-based. As such, a husband who feels that a divorce would leave him in a dire financial position is entitled to request spousal maintenance.

However, a judge must first establish that the husband needs support and that the wife can pay support while providing for her needs.

– What Type of Maintenance Can I Receive in Washington State?

A judge can award temporary, short-term, or long-term maintenance in a divorce or separation case in Washington State.

Temporary – this type of maintenance is only awarded during the pendency of the final divorce order and usually terminates when the judge finalizes the divorce.

Short-term – this type of support is common in situations where one spouse leaves employment to take care of the family while the other spouse advances their education or career. In such cases, the court will likely order short-term maintenance (also known as rehabilitative maintenance).

With short-term maintenance, a judge will likely include an end date to the support or order that maintenance ends with the passing of a certain event.

For instance, a judge may order that obligation to pay rehabilitative maintenance ends when the supported spouse graduates from college or completes a job training.

However, Washington courts allow spouses to request a review or extension of rehabilitative maintenance before it expires if they need more time before they become self-supporting.

Long-term – for instance, a spouse who has been in a long-term marriage may request permanent alimony if they have been out of the workforce for a long time. If a judge finds that a spouse may never return to the job market, then they may order indefinite support.

– Will I Pay Tax on My Spousal Maintenance?

Before the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, payor spouses could include spousal support payments as a tax deduction when preparing their return. Recipient spouses were required to pay taxes on spousal support.

For divorces finalized after January 1, 2019, spouses don’t have to include maintenance payments on their tax returns as the reporting requirement, and tax-deduction benefits were eliminated by the Act.


Spousal maintenance Washington State may be awarded by a judge if one spouse needs financial support. Spouses may also agree on maintenance terms to avoid settling the matter in court. This article has highlighted how spousal support is determined and how it is calculated. Here are the main points to remember:

  • Alimony washington state what you need to knowA maintenance award is based on need and ability to pay.
  • Courts are guided by various factors when calculating spousal support.
  • Marital misconduct doesn’t affect a maintenance award in Washington State.
  • A substantial change in circumstances can present grounds for requesting a modification or termination of spousal maintenance.

If your spouse needs financial assistance during a divorce, it would be best to agree on alimony terms without going to court. However, you could still go to court if you and your spouse can’t agree on alimony terms, including the amount and duration.

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