I am not working. So can I get alimony (spousal support) ?

In Washington, if you are not working, you may request the court for alimony as part of your separation. If during your marriage, your partner agreed that you should care for the children and stay home while your spouse employed, the judge will consider this scenario. There are likely factors whether you will continue to be the custodial parent and if it’s suited for your partner to continue to stay home to care for them, for instance, in the case of kids who are minor or disabled. Your partner might have to pay you alimony while your divorce process is underway and for a short time afterward while you take steps to reappear into the workforce or find a career. If you are disabled, your partner might have to pay alimony permanently.

The goal of alimony in Washington is to ensure that neither party leaves impoverished during or after a separation.

The court encourages both parties to be self-supporting but also realizes that, especially in circumstances where one party left a job to look after the home and family, some spouses need time and financial help to become self-supporting.

Types of Spousal Support You May Get in Washington

Washington courts can award the following types of alimony:

Temporary: The separation process is almost never cheap, nor is it quick, and it’s usual that a partner needs financial help from the other while the trial moves through the court system. Sometimes a court award temporary support to ensure both spouses can meet financial responsibilities during the divorce, regardless of employment status. Temporary support is only accessible while the divorce is not finalized by the court.

Short-term: If you are become independent but may need time and financial support to get an education or job skills to find a job that will enable you to be financially stable.

For instance, if a wife left her job to raise a family while her husband employed and developed his career skills, the judge may order the husband to pay short-term or rehabilitative maintenance support for a period that enables the wife to refresh her skills or education to get back into the career.

The court will include an end date for short-term support. Sometimes a court permits a supported spouse to request a court to increase or review the support order before it expires.

However, for longer marriages or where one spouse is not able to work due to advancing age, disability, or if the supported spouse can’t get the skills vital to find a job, the court may order indefinite support.

Long-term support: Long-term support order rarely awarded but available to you if you are not able to become employed.

For instance, if you’ve only been married for 4 years, it’s unlikely the judge will award a long-term support order. But, if divorce happens after longer marriages, the court may order indefinite maintenance.

Unless the judge order states otherwise, if the paying spouse remarries or enrolls a new domestic partnership, the court will end spousal maintenance. Additionally, support payments end if either partner dies.

Qualifying for Spousal Maintenance in Washington

In Washington, the “need and ability to pay” rule applies here. The supported partner must prove a need for financial help and that the paying spouse can manage to pay. Before the judge estimates a spouse’s requirements for maintenance, the court will first divide the partner’s property, establish parenting time and custody, and determine child support for the partners.

Once the court establishes that spousal maintenance is the right fit, the judge must decide the amount, type and duration of support for each case. There is no hard and fast method for courts to apply to decide maintenance supports. Instead, the court must consider each of the following determinants:

  • the financial resources of the spouse requesting for support, including community or separate property from the separation and any child support orders that provide for the partner’s children
  • the necessary time for the supported spouse to get training or education needed to find a job
  • standard of living
  • marriage duration period
  • the age, physical and emotional condition, and financial responsibilities of the spouse seeking support, and
  • the capacity of the supporting spouse to remain financially independent while paying support.

Spouses can go together to discuss the terms of the alimony in their divorce. Whether working mediation, one-on-one, or with lawyers, if you and your partner agree to the duration, type, and amount the court will complete the order.

Maintenance Payments

Courts have full discretion over the process and frequency of support payments. In Washington, it’s common for the court to order periodic payments, monthly or weekly.

As well as if a paying spouse is self-employed or doesn’t get a regular payment, the court may order lump-sum amounts, which can be payable at once or several times over a short period of time.

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