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What is alimony and how is it determined in Washington State?

A common concern among people ending a marriage is how much alimony will be paid from the supporting spouse to the supported spouse. When it comes to family legal issues, this is one that constantly arises and is in dispute. Frequently, people who are getting a divorce will disagree on what should be paid -- if anything at all. The law is clear but flexible regarding alimony and this is true whether it's a high asset divorce or a divorce of more modest means.

Alimony is financial support that will be provided from one spouse to the other after they part ways. It can be ordered if the couple is divorced, separated or taking part in a proceeding to invalidate the marriage. Anyone who takes these steps to conclude a union between a couple has the right to request alimony. Whether it's awarded and its amount will be determined by a wide variety of factors. These include finances and the economy. It doesn't have anything to do with allocating blame on one spouse or the other.

For example, when it comes to economy, if there is a vast chasm between the spouses, what they have in terms of assets and how much they might earn, then the spouse in a better financial situation might be ordered to help the other spouse financially until the person is able to self-support. The court will have a significant amount of room to make a decision as to how much will be paid in alimony and how long it will last.

Numerous factors come into play such as how long the couple was married, how old the spouses are, what their general health is and their employment circumstances. There is not, however, a formula used as there would be if there were children that needed to be supported.

The alimony awarded doesn't necessarily last forever and it doesn't have to stay the same. One spouse or the other has the ability to ask for a change to the amount ordered. Taxes can be affected by alimony. Understanding the various laws when it comes to alimony can be expedited by discussing the case with an experienced legal professional with knowledge of state law and how it dictates the amount that is paid.

Source: Washington Courts, "Family Law Handbook, Chapter 5 Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)," accessed on Feb. 16, 2015

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