What is Spousal Support? Answering the Most Common Questions

Nov 7, 2022

Spousal support, or alimony, is the type of support that one spouse gets after their marriage has legally ended. And whether you’re the one receiving or paying for the support – you’re probably riddled with questions about it.

So, let’s see what are some of the most common questions about spousal support.

Is Spousal Support the Same as Alimony?

Alimony is an older term, and it’s usually used when a husband needs to support his wife for life. Spousal support is a gender-neutral term, and it refers to money that’s given to a spouse who has fewer resources. 

You may run into both terms, but they both generally refer to the funds needed to support a former spouse in the event of a divorce.

Am I Eligible for Spousal Support?

In Washington state, the judge decides who should receive the spousal support, as well as what amount and length of time are appropriate.

To do this, judges need to think about a lot of deciding factors:

  • Marriage length – if you and your spouse have been married for 25 years or more, permanent support will be set in place. But, if you’ve been married for less than 25 years, a spouse will receive support for one year for every three years of marriage.
  • Earning capacity – if there’s a large difference between incomes, spousal support is usually awarded to the person with lesser financial gain.
  • Marital assets – while marital assets are divided equally in Washington, separate property or inheritance that happened before marriage will be taken into consideration of each spouse’s monetary worth.
  • Other factors – may include health, age, details of the prenuptial agreement, and the reasons for the end of the marriage.

How Long Do I Need to Pay Spousal Support?

Permanent spousal support can last until one of the spouses dies. However, if the receiving spouse remarries, they won’t be eligible to receive support anymore. 

Temporary spousal support is just that – temporary. And depending on the situation, it can last until the receiving spouse remarries, while the divorce case lasts, or until the children become adults. 

Rehabilitative spousal support is also usually temporary, and it’s meant to help the receiving spouse get additional job training, or education to get financial stability.

Spousal support in “gross” is a specific sum that’s either paid at once or over a period of time.

Can I Fight Spousal Support?

The best way to fight spousal support is through a prenuptial agreement. If you didn’t sign one, you can create a postnuptial agreement if a divorce isn’t in the near future.

My Spouse is Refusing to Pay Spousal Support

If your ex-partner is behind on payments, you can hire a spousal support attorney and return to court. The court has the power to enforce the payments. 

Can I Change My Spousal Maintenance Agreement?

If your circumstances change, there’s a possibility that you can modify the spousal support. 

Keep in mind that you might need to go back to court and file a motion for the change. But, if both spouses agree, the court process won’t last long.

Can I Oppose the Spousal Support Award?

Yes, you can, but only if you have a good reason for it. You can’t really claim poverty if you keep buying lavish clothes. 

The best option is for both spouses to take a reasonable position – and present that position to the other side, as well as the court.

Is Spousal Support Mandatory in Washington?

Spousal support is not mandatory in Washington State, and it’s up to the court to decide whether it’s necessary.

Will Child Support Affect Spousal Support?

Child support is mandatory in Washington state, and given that paying for child support covers a lot of costs for the parent, the court may award a smaller sum of spousal support (or none at all). 

More specifically, child support should be able to cover the place where the child lives and any utilities. In that case, the parent who’s living with the child won’t have any additional expenses for these things. 

Who Pays Taxes for Spousal Support?

Since January 1, 2019, the payor of the spousal support is paying taxes, but the recipient needs to report the spousal support as income and therefore pay taxes on it as well.

Do You Need Help With Your Divorce Case?

Get a divorce lawyer in Spokane who can help you navigate all the details about your divorce. Gallagher Law specializes in family law, so we’ll be ready to help you with child support, spousal support, property division, visitation rights, and anything else you might need.

Schedule your consultation today!

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