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What factors may be considered when awarding spousal support?

There are many decisions that Washington couples need to make when they decide to divorce. They may be preoccupied with dividing their property, and - if they are parents - developing an appropriate parenting plan. One topic, however, that they may find is difficult to address is that of spousal support, also known as alimony.

Of course, the spouse paying spousal support does not want to pay too much, while the spouse receiving spousal support wants to make sure he or she receives a fair amount. While sometimes spouses are able to work out a spousal support plan on their own, others must turn to the court to make this important decision.

Per Washington Code section 26.09.090, the court will seek to reach a spousal support order that is just. There are certain factors that the court may consider in such situations, although spousal misconduct will not be one of them.

First of all, the court will look at the financial resources of the spouse seeking spousal support. This means taking into account what that spouse received in the property division process along with what the spouse requires to meet his or her financial needs. This includes whether the spouse is also receiving child support. However, the court may also consider whether the paying spouse will be able to meet his or her financial obligations and needs after paying spousal support.

Moreover, it may be the case that the spouse seeking spousal support has to build up the skills they need to find a job that meets that spouse's lifestyle, interests and skills. Also, the financial obligations of the spouse who is seeking spousal support may be considered. Similarly, the court may consider the standard of living each spouse experienced while married. How long the marriage lasted may also be considered. In addition, the court may consider basic factors such as each party's age and health.

Of course, this list is not all exhaustive. The judge has a certain amount of discretion when deciding on spousal support. Since this post cannot replace the advice of an attorney, those who are wondering whether they will be paying or receiving spousal support may want to contact a family law attorney for more guidance.

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