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One of the matters that must be settled in a divorce proceeding is the payment of spousal maintenance, which is more commonly known as alimony. Either partner may be ordered to make spousal support/maintenance payments after a divorce. While the courts have discretion in awarding payments, there are certain factors that will be taken into consideration. For this reason, it is important to hire an experienced alimony attorney who can assist you in determining spousal support or maintenance in your divorce case. Call Twyford Law Office for a free consultation.
Washington does not provide any specific guidance to the courts in terms of a formula for awarding alimony. Instead, the courts will take various factors into consideration when determining if one spouse must make support payments to the other.
As a result of Washington being a “no-fault” divorce state, courts are prohibited from considering a spouse’s misconduct that caused the divorce, such as adultery or cruelty, when awarding spousal support. However, this does not always apply to cases in which a spouse is lying to the court about assets, income, or property, in order to pay less to their ex-spouse.
When the court makes a determination about spousal support/maintenance, in addition to considering how much the payment will be and to whom the payment will be made, it will also make a determination regarding frequency and length of payments. The judge who is evaluating the case will have complete discretion to order periodic payments (e.g. quarterly, annually, etc.) or to order weekly or monthly payments. In addition, the court may order a flat lump-sum payment to one spouse or payments for a specific period of time.
One of the considerations that will be made regarding the frequency or length of payments is the receiving spouse’s ability to manage financially without alimony payments. For example, if one spouse has primarily been a homemaker throughout the course of the marriage, the courts may order payments until such time as that spouse is able to receive training and secure employment. Once the spouse receiving payments has been trained and secured employment, the payments may be reduced or eliminated altogether.
Temporary maintenance is often awarded while a divorce is still pending, as divorce proceedings can often take a year or longer before being finalized. The party seeking support must file a motion requesting the relief. The process can vary by county, but an attorney can handle it for you.
The court does not have to get involved in ordering spousal support payments if the divorcing spouses can agree to a specific plan ahead of time. The court would take into consideration any agreement the divorcing couple has crafted and is likely to approve such an agreement provided that it is reasonable. This agreement would then become part of the final divorce decree and is fully enforceable through the courts. Only in cases where the couple is unable to reach an agreement would the courts review and set specific spousal support payments.
In some cases, it may be necessary to request that alimony payments be modified or terminated. Either party—the one paying or the one receiving—may request a change. In general, the courts will review an existing support payment based on very specific instances. For example, if the paying spouse receives a substantial raise, the receiving spouse may request a review of their current spousal support/maintenance payments. In the event the receiving spouse gets a new job and therefore has more substantial income, the paying spouse may request a review. If the partner receiving maintenance payments remarries, in nearly all cases, payments will terminate.
Maintenance payments are designed to ensure that one spouse does not face significant financial difficulties after a divorce. Your attorney can work with you to draft a preliminary proposal for your spouse, and, if you can agree on the terms of payments, in most cases the courts will accept them. However, if your spouse is adamant about not paying alimony, our Spokane divorce lawyers can help you fight hard to get the money you need to remain financially stable.
Payers of spousal support have been able to take a tax deduction for their payments for over 75 years. However, as of January 1, 2019, that is no longer the case for any divorce or separation documents put into effect beginning on that date. Under the new Tax Cuts and Job Act (TCJA), payor spouses will owe taxes on spousal support. As a result, the recipient spouse will no longer have to include the payments as taxable income. For orders made in cases that began before December 31, 2018, payers will still have the ability to take a tax deduction, whereas the recipients must report the payments as taxable income.
Only time will tell how the new tax rules will impact divorces, as without a tax incentive, spouses who are likely to owe spousal support/maintenance may be adamant in battling over the payment amount. The change in the law may also affect how child support is calculated.
If you are involved in a spousal support/maintenance dispute, contact the Spokane alimony attorneys at Twyford Law Office for a free consultation. Call (509) 327-0777 or fill out our online contact form.