Washington Alimony Laws and Guidelines: All About Spousal Support in “WA”

The alimony laws governing spousal support in Washington are different from what is obtainable in other states. Read further to grasp the peculiarity of the WA alimony law.

All 50 states in America are alimony states, meaning states that have enacted laws permitting a spouse who cannot work full time or with a lower income to request payments from the other spouse to support themselves after a divorce.

What is Alimony?

Also referred to as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance” in Evergreen State, alimony is the series of payments made by one spouse (the payor spouse) to another (the supported or payee spouse) after the divorce.

Before the alimony payments commence, there has to be a written order or agreement which requires the payor to support the payee with a stipulated amount of money.

This agreement eliminates any disputes in the future about why the payment was made or when it’s not made.

Type of Alimony Laws Practiced in WA

types of alimony

Types of alimony in Washington

In Washington, judges award various types of alimony, or spousal maintenance, when one spouse is financially reliant on the other. It is not intended to be a reprimand for the spending spouse or a crutch for the receiving spouse, but a way to assist the lower-earning spouse until he/she is able to better provide for themselves.

It’s worth noting that Washington state law does not guarantee alimony in the event of a divorce or offer a formula for calculating the amount or length of support. Courts make their decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Temporary Spousal Support in Washington

The parties still have a formal obligation to help one another during the divorce process. While a court is unlikely to award alimony in the final divorce order, it is very likely that a court will order temporary alimony while the final divorce order is being finalized, as long as one party needs the money and the other has the means to pay.

Because being divorced in Washington can take up to a year, this results in one party receiving temporary spousal support for approximately a year, even when it is evident to all concerned parties that spousal support would never be ordered as part of a final ruling. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.09.060 (b).)

Rehabilitative Maintenance in Washington

The court may order rehabilitative maintenance (also known as short-term maintenance) for a short period of time to allow the other spouse to update his or her education or skills in order to re-enter the workforce in situations where the reliant spouse may need time (and support) to obtain an education or job skills that will allow them to be self-supporting.

Rehabilitative support will have an end date or event specified by the judges. Many judges will also allow a sponsored spouse to request that the award be extended or reviewed before it expires.

Permanent Alimony in Washington

Permanent maintenance, (often known as long-term support) is a type of support offered to spouses that are not able to sustain themselves. If you’ve been married for two years, the court is inclined to award long-term support.

The judge may impose permanent assistance for long marriages or where one partner is unable to work due to a disability, or older age, or if the assisted spouse is unable to acquire the skills needed to find work.

Who Pays Alimony in Washington?

In Washington alimony law, the spouse that makes most of the money will share that income with the other spouse. The idea behind who pays for alimony is to considerably level up the living standard of the dependent spouse to what it was while the marriage was on.

Regarding the sex that pays, alimony in Evergreen State is gender-neutral, meaning either spouse can request support from the other. As long as the alimony can be provided to the requesting spouse, then it will most likely be granted.

So a husband can receive alimony from a wife in Washington if the above conditions are met.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last in WA?

How Long To Pay Alimony

The judge will decide how long the alimony payment should last in Washington

Washington courts while determining spousal, look at maintenance from three different perspectives, based on how long the marriage lasted: short-term, medium-term, and long-term marriages.

Alimony in Short-Term Marriages in Washington

This affects marriages that lasted for less than 5 years. In most cases, courts attempt to return the parties to their pre-marriage financial status. The court is effectively pursuing a remedy similar to rescission under this strategy, in which both parties are returned to their pre-marriage financial situation.

Even if one party obviously needs alimony/spousal support and the other has the financial means to pay, if both parties are fit and able to work, the judge is reluctant to award any maintenance after a few years of marriage.

However, Temporary alimony can be awarded for marriages that lasted less than 5 years.

Alimony in Medium-Term Marriages in Washington

There is significantly less clarity about alimony payments for marriages of 5-25 years, and judicial officials often apply their flexibility in manners that are contradictory to one another. This is regrettable since inconsistency tends to prolong litigation and raise the chances of a contested trial.

However, when reviewing spousal support grants for medium-term marriages, judges and attorneys follow some common guidelines, which is:

In Washington State, courts typically give one year of alimony for every three or four years the marriage lasted. Although there is no official regulation or case law declaring this calculation, it is an often-cited guideline and what judges are generally required to do.

Alimony in Long-Term Marriages in Washington

In marriages lasting 25 years or longer, Washington courts normally strive to put the spouses in an equal financial way for the rest of their lives, or at least until both spouses retire. The concept is that after 25 years of marriage, the spouses should be seen as monetarily equals, and their financial situations after the divorce shall reflect that.

In a long-term marriage, it’s usual for property to be split 50/50 and salaries to be evened up by alimony payments until both spouses reach retirement age.

How to Collect Spousal Support Arrears in Washington

When it comes to collecting spousal support in Washington, you have a few choices if your ex-spouse has failed to make alimony payments as ordered by the court. Debts for spousal support are frequently given priority among debtors under US law.

Factors That Influence Alimony in Washington

The average amount payable as spousal support in Washington after divorce is determined by various factors. But the major factor you have to understand is “the standard of living of the marriage.”

To determine the final amounts for rehabilitative and permanent support in WA, the courts in WA take into consideration the income of the spouses, plus other factors like:

  • earning capacity of each spouse.
  • the ability of the paying spouse to pay, considering assets, the standard of living, earning capacity, as well as earned and unearned income.
  • the extent of contribution the supported spouse gave to the other’s educational pursuit or professional license during the marriage
  • how long the marriage lasted
  • the needs of each spouse
  • the assets and debts of each spouse including separate property
  • each party’s tax consequences
  • the ability of the supported spouse to gain employment without interfering with their children’s care
  • each spouse’s health and age
  • each party’s balance of hardships
  • whether there is a documented history of domestic violence against the children or either party
  • will the dependent spouse be self-supporting within a reasonable period
  • any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse
  • any other factors which the court wishes to consider

This is the main measure the court uses to determine the amount to be paid in Evergreen State. The principle behind the standard of living of the marriage is that after the marriage breakup, both spouses should continue living within the same standard they lived while the marriage lasted.

How Alimony is Calculated in WA

How Alimony is Calculated

How Alimony is Calculated in Washington

The amount to be paid as spousal support in Washington is calculated after considering the above-stated factors. Whichever option is adopted it is reflected in the Alimony Calculator

But to be explicit about how to calculate spousal support in WA, you may need to consult your spousal support attorney.

>>> Washington Spousal Support Calculator

Importance of Using a Skilled Washington Spousal Support Attorney

If you’re getting a divorce in Washington and need to negotiate or re-negotiate spousal support, you’ve definitely got a lot of questions and want to seek competent legal guidance. Though state Supreme Courts have supported lifetime spousal support, your circumstances may or may not fulfill the requirements. WA courts may judge your case differently based on the merits of you and your previous spouse. There are so many variables to consider.

If you want to get spousal support for the rest of your life or if you want to fight against it in Washington, an expert divorce lawyer can help. Depending on the objective and the desire of the adversary attorney to bargain in good faith, you’ll need attorneys that are
both empathetic and strong.

For the convenience of our members, we have an up-to-date directory of WA divorce and spousal support attorneys who can help with a variety of issues. For legal advice and
representation on spousal support that is powerful and well-informed.

Click Here to Get our Free Iowa Alimony recommendation.

FAQ About Washington Alimony Laws

Here are Frequently Asked Questions about spousal support laws in WA:

Can a Husband get Alimony in WA?

Yes. In Washington, alimony payment is gender-neutral, meaning the sex that pays or receives is not the main determinant, but other factors as stated above. For details click here.

Who Qualifies for Alimony in Washington?

Just as either spouse can pay or receive, the party that qualifies to receive spousal support is the dependent party while the marriage lasted. This means that in WA, the spouse that had lesser or no income when the marriage was on is also the one qualified to receive alimony. Click here for details

How Long do you have to be Married to get Alimony in WA?

To understand how long alimony lasts in Washington, you have to take into consideration how long the marriage lasted.

However, bear in mind that there is no limit to the duration you can pay or receive alimony for marriages that lasted 10-20 years or more. Any marriage that lasted below 20 years will not pay nor receive alimony that exceeds 50% of the duration of the marriage.

Is Alimony Tax Deductible in Washington?

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which altered the link between alimony and taxes dramatically in Washington and all over the US, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible for the payer and are no longer recognized as income for the recipient spouse as of January 1, 2019.

Is Alimony Mandatory in Evergreen State?

Alimony is mandatory in Washington as long as one of the spouses earns or owns assets that can be relied upon to support the other spouse after the marriage breaks down.

With the final decision, the court will usually issue an income withholding directive, which requires a paying spouse’s workplace to withhold money for support and forward them to the appropriate government department. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.09.120.)

Can Alimony be increased in Washington?

Alimony amount or duration can be increased or decreased due to changes in the financial circumstances of the parties in different ways, including:

  • an increase or decrease in the income of the alimony recipient
  • if it’s determined that the original alimony awarded is inadequate
  •  loss to the alimony recipient’s financial assets
  • an increase in the justified expenses of the alimony recipient
  • when the financial condition of the receiving spouse fails to improve as originally expected

Can you go to Jail for Not Paying Spousal Support in WA?

Technically, you will not be jailed for not paying alimony in Washington. While there are varying consequences for not paying alimony, you can still end up in jail as a result. Here is how.

If it’s a Washington court-ordered spousal support that you refuse to pay, it means you are in violation of a court order meaning you can be prosecuted for being in contempt of court if contempt proceedings are brought up against you. This could attract a jail term in WA}.

How to Modify Spousal Support in Washington

How to Avoid spousal support

How to Avoid spousal support in Washington

When necessary, Washington law allows for a spousal support modification. When it comes to alimony, courts in WA usually try to do their best to create judgments that are fair and effective in the long run. Nevertheless, conditions change over time, and these changes may compel a revision or modification of the initial order.

When filing for a spousal support modification in Washington, keep in mind that the courts will only entertain the motion if there has been a significant and long-term change in circumstances. A brief problem is unlikely to be significant enough to warrant a revision in the initial alimony ruling. Likewise, dissatisfaction with the support order is not a valid reason for a revision in WA.

The following are some of the most common reasons for requesting an alimony modification in Washington:

  • Retirement
  • Relocation
  • Changes in income or employment
  • Birth of a new child
  • Health changes, including disability
  • A new dependent
    (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.09.160.)

How to Avoid or End Spousal Support in WA

In Evergreen State, the spouse paying the alimony can successfully avoid or stop the alimony payment if he/she is able to prove any or all of the following points:

  • that the dependent spouse is guilty of infidelity
  • the spouse proves that he has no source of income
  • Remarriage
  • the spouse remarries and has to take care of the new spouse however, he/she will continue paying the child support for children if any
  • if the spouse is disabled and unable to earn a living
    (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.09.170 (2).)

Alimony Laws in all 50 States

A Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontana
NebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota
P-S  PennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
T-U  TennesseeTexasUtah
V-W  VermontVirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.