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What may a Washington court consider when awarding alimony?

While many issues that come up in the end of a marriage can cause contention, perhaps one of the first and foremost is the issue of spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or alimony. On one hand, one party may truly be in the need of maintenance, at least for a while, especially if he or she earns significantly less than his or her ex, or if he or she stayed out of the workforce altogether to care for the family. On the other hand, the party being asked to pay alimony may feel that the amount due is unfair. Either way, it can help to understand how a Washington court goes about determining whether to award alimony after a divorce, and if so, how much.

The court in Washington is vested with the ability to grant spousal support in a matter that is "just" with relation to the amount of spousal support and how long it will be paid. This is without regard to any marital misconduct on the part of either party. There are a number of factors the court will consider when making an award of spousal support.

First of all, the court will consider the financial resources of the spouse requesting alimony. This includes the property (both separate and community) that the spouse was awarded in the divorce, as well as whether the party has child custody or pays child support. The court will also consider how long it will take for the party seeking spousal support to obtain enough of an education to find a job that meets his or her skills, interests and lifestyle. How long the marriage lasted is a factor, as is each party's age and health, both physical and emotional. Finally, the ability of the paying party to both pay spousal support and still meet his or her own financial needs and obligations may be a factor.

In the end, there is no formula for determining how much spousal support to award. It is determined on a case-by-case basis, and this post cannot guarantee any specific result. Therefore, whether you are seeking spousal support or whether spousal support is being sought from you, it can help to have legal representation. An attorney may be able to present your case in the most appropriate manner to a judge, so that a fair decision is reached.

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