So it’s come down to a house divided.

More often than not, divorce is ugly. It’s also financially stressful when you and you’re once betrothed decide to split the sheets. Especially if you’re the one paying spousal support.

What is spousal support, you ask?—if you’re headed in that direction, read on for everything you need to know about it.

What Is Spousal Support?

In short, “spousal support” is the gender-neutral term that refers to money given to a spouse who has less earning ability and resources than the other. In Washington, the term is meant to indicate the idea that a spouse should seek education, training, or other career opportunities. Alimony, on the other hand, is an older term and referred to a husband support his wife for life. You will hear both terms, spousal support and alimony, refer to a former spouse’s right to financial support or maintenance in the event of a separation or divorce.

Another term that is used in the law is Spousal Maintenance. This term has fallen out of favor in standard forms. Probably because it is a little long. Support seems to align better with the idea of child support and all falls in the same budgeting category.

If you are filing for spousal support, you must do so during the divorce proceedings. In the event that you and your soon to be ex cannot come to an agreement about alimony, a judge will do so for you.

Of course, whoever is seeking spousal support, must provide proof of the genuine need for financial support before a judge in court. There also must be proof that the spouse who is being asked for financial support can, in fact, provide said support.

Have more questions about spousal support? Listed below are the seven most frequently asked questions about spousal support in Washington State.

1. Am I Eligible for Spousal Support After Divorce?

Ultimately, it is up to the judge to decide who should receive spousal support and what amount is appropriate. Of course, there are a number of deciding factors that must be considered for you to qualify in the state of Washington:

Duration of marriage: A marriage duration of 25 years or more will result in permanent maintenance of alimony. Anything less than 25 years will result in a one to three ratio—this means that for every three years of marriage, a spouse will receive one year of maintenance.

Earning capacity: If there is a substantial disparity between incomes, spousal support may be awarded in favor of helping the party with lesser financial stability gain said stability. This includes the contribution to the household and careers—i.e., as a homemaker, joint business ventures, and education.

Marital Assets: In Washington state, marital assets are divided equally. However, separate property or inheritance acquired before the marriage is something a judge will take into consideration in terms of each parties’ monetary worth.

Other various factors: This includes physical or mental health, age, provisions of a prenuptial agreement, and the circumstances leading to the end of the marriage.

The judge will also look at how much money you’ll need to support yourself in terms of necessary training or education to become employable and self-sufficient. He or she will take into account your work history, absence from the job market and responsibilities in terms of child care.  

2. How Long Do I Have to Pay Spousal Support?

There are actually four different types of spousal support:

Permanent spousal support: This can last until either the husband or wife dies. However, if the party receiving the permanent spousal support decides to remarry, they are no longer eligible to receive the support or alimony.

Temporary spousal support: Temporary support is alotted for a limited time. Some examples are until the receiving party is re-married, for the duration of the pending divorce case, or until the children of the party are grown.

Rehabilitative spousal support: “Rehabilitative alimony” is also usually paid for a limited time. The purpose is to help the receiving party go through job training, to get an education, or as a means to gain financial stability.

Spousal support in “gross”: This can equate to one single lump sum required to be paid up-front, or over a period of time, broken down into specified payments.

There is also candidacy for reimbursement alimony. This refers to the support reimbursed for expenses incurred while one spouse works full-time to put their counterpart through school or job training—and is then divorced shortly after.

Of course, any of the above are subject to review in the event of hardships, health issues and the like.

3. What Is Temporary Spousal Support?

Temporary Spousal Support refers to spousal support paid while still married while a divorce is pending. Pending finalization of your divorce, the Court can order one spouse or the other to pay Spousal Support based on preliminary financial information and declarations provided to the court. Temporary Spousal Support is meant to help a spouse without work or resources to maintain lifestyle while looking for work or training.

4. How Can I Fight Spousal Support?

If you’re wondering how to fight spousal support, your best defense is a prenuptial agreement. You can also draw up a postnuptial agreement, given that a divorce is not in the near future. These documents will protect you and your assets if your marriage turns sour.

Your only other options are to end your marriage ASAP (considering the one to three ratio), or coming to amicable agreements during your divorce negotiations.

5. What If My Spouse Refuses to Pay Spousal Support?

If your ex-spouse refuses to pay support or is behind on payments for whatever reason, you’ll need to hire a spousal support attorney and return to court. Any term of alimony given by a court can be enforced by the court.

Of course, you’ll have to collect proof of late or partial payments or lack of payments. You may have to go back to court repeatedly if your ex-spouse continues to disobey his or her obligation to pay spousal support.

Typically failure to pay alimony can result in fines and incarceration in contempt of court case. However, if the judge does not institute contempt of court case, you may have to file a wage garnishment directly from your former spouses’ employer.

6. If I Pay Spousal Support, Will I Get a Tax Break?

Alimony is a lot of money. But under the new federal income tax laws passed in 2017, you are no longer eligible for an income tax deduction for alimony.

And if you are receiving alimony, you no longer have to pay taxes on it as though it were income.

7. Can I Make Modifications to My Spousal Maintenance Agreement?

Spousal support or alimony may be modified if there has been a change in circumstances. The circumstances could be either that the ability of the paying ex-spouse has changed or the needs of the ex-spouse receiving payments have changed.

Necessary modifications may require a party desiring the modification to return to court and file a motion for the change. However, in some circumstances, you can agree to a different support amount and the Court process will be minimal.

Have More Questions?

You may not be wondering what is spousal support anymore, but you may have more questions about the process.

If you live in the Spokane area and need guidance in terms of a divorce, alimony or a spousal support attorney, request a case evaluation by mentioning this post. We normally ask $100 but until the end of October, we are offering these case evaluations. Unfortunately, this offer has created a lot of interest and we can only do a handful of case evaluations a day and cannot schedule more, so you call now before our calendar is full.