Few things are more stressful in a divorce than the issue of money. Spouses who’ve sacrificed their careers to care for the family might not know how to make ends meet after the divorce is final. Others who’ve worked hard to keep a roof over their family’s heads may feel the strain of potentially supporting two households.
In many divorces, help often comes in the form of spousal support. But both the payor and the payee might wonder, How long does spousal support last?
The knowledgeable lawyers at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. have years of experience dealing with Washington divorce issues such as spousal support. Spousal support in Washington can be complicated. Below, we help answer your question, how long does spousal support last in Washington?
Spousal Support Defined
Spousal support, alimony, or spousal maintenance all refer to the same thing—money paid by one spouse to the other after they have separated. Usually, the recipient spouse has a financial or economic impediment to supporting themselves. Spousal support can be paid during or after the divorce to help the recipient spouse stay afloat financially.
Spousal Support Eligibility in Washington
Spousal support in Washington is neither routine nor automatic. The law sets forth specific factors that a court will examine to decide whether to award spousal support and the length of time it will last. Those factors include the following:
- The financial resources of the spouse requesting spousal support, including their share of the marital property and child support payments;
- The length of time the requesting spouse needs to obtain the education or training to find adequate employment;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- The length of the marriage;
- The physical and mental condition of the spouse seeking support;
- The age of the party seeking support; and
- The ability of the paying spouse to support themselves if an award is granted.
Spouses can agree to the amount and duration of support, or the court can order it.
But how is spousal support calculated? Washington courts have a great deal of discretion in determining the amount, length, and frequency of spousal support payments. Each award of support is unique to the marriage.
Types and Duration of Spousal Maintenance
How long does spousal support last? The answer to this question depends on the type of support the judge awards. In Washington, there are several types of spousal support with varying durations.
Temporary Spousal Support
Generally, temporary spousal maintenance is spousal support that lasts only for the duration of the divorce proceedings. You must request this type of support by filing a motion during the divorce proceeding, typically at or near the beginning of the case. This type of support ends when the court issues the final divorce decree.
Short-Term Spousal Support
Let’s say that the spouse requesting the support needs some time after the divorce to acquire education or training and get back into the workforce. Perhaps they took time off to raise children or gave up their career to support the needs of the working spouse. Thus, the court can order short-term spousal maintenance as a part of the final divorce decree.
This type of support is, in fact, temporary. Typically, it only lasts for as long as it’s needed for the recipient spouse to re-enter the workforce and become self-sufficient. A court or the parties can set it for a specified period of time. The support can also end when a specific thing happens, such as when the recipient spouse earns a certificate or degree.
The duration of temporary support is specified in the final divorce decree. The recipient spouse can request that this end date or occurrence be subject to review, just in case they end up needing a bit more time.
Long-Term or Permanent Spousal Support
A court awards long-term or permanent support when the recipient spouse is not and will not become capable of supporting themselves. In deciding whether to grant long-term or permanent support, a court will look at the following:
- The length of the marriage,
- The age or disability of the recipient spouse, and
- Whether the recipient spouse is capable of re-entering the workforce.
Generally, courts do not award long-term or permanent support for shorter marriages.
Despite the words used to describe this support, permanent or long-term support does not last forever. Washington law recognizes that even permanent spousal support should stop at some point. The paying spouse need not continue paying spousal support when:
- One of the spouses dies,
- The recipient’s spouse remarries, or
- The recipient spouse registers a domestic partnership.
Plus, the court or the spouses can specify terms in the divorce decree where certain other events could cause the support to end.
Modifying Duration or Amount
As you can see, the length of time that support continues depends on the type of spousal support. However, people’s financial circumstances change over time. Perhaps the payor spouse gets laid off or has some other unexpected financial calamity. In this case, that spouse could need the court to modify the duration or amount of spousal support they are obligated to pay.
Divorce decree modifications involve a complex area of law, so speak with an attorney if you need a modification.
Our Experienced Attorneys Can Help with Spousal Support
Understanding the duration of spousal support in Washington is case-specific. If you have questions about spousal support or need help determining spousal support in your case, the attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. are here to help. With our decades of experience handling Washington divorces, we can help you understand this complex issue and find the appropriate approach to your case. Contact us today.