Whether or not spousal support (also known as alimony or spousal maintenance) ends depends entirely on the language in the final orders. Some spousal support orders remain in effect for only a certain period of time. Other spousal support orders stay in effect indefinitely. Spousal support also automatically terminates if the support order doesn’t say otherwise when your spouse remarries or one of you dies. There are also conditions under which you can modify a support order based on changes in your life.
Washington law currently states that spousal support terminates upon the remarriage of the spouse receiving support or upon the death of either spouse. Cohabitation is not the same as remarriage, and that can be frustrating to the spouse required to pay support while your ex is shacking up with some new person. The law, however, can be changed by the support order. For example, support could continue despite remarriage if there is specific language stating that it will continue despite remarriage. It can also require your estate to continue support payments if you die or require you to pay your spouse’s estate after his or her death.
Support orders can be changed, too. Since support is based on the general need of the spouse requesting support and the ability of the paying spouse, substantial changes in either of those may allow for a modification of the support order. So, if you unexpectedly lose your job and no longer have an income, you may be able to end spousal support until you get back on your feet. And if your ex suddenly strikes it rich, there may no longer be a need for spousal support. But, again, the language matters because if the order states that support is non-modifiable or cannot be changed, you are out of luck.
These can be complicated matters and the lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law can help. We have experience negotiating spousal support and can advise you as to whether you might be able to change current orders. Contact an experienced Washington divorce attorney today so that we can explain your rights and responsibilities about paying spousal support in the state of Washington.