Will I Receive Alimony for The Rest of My Life?

In Washington, courts may order temporary support, short-term maintenance, or permanent maintenance. Temporary support lasts only until the divorce is finalized, and ensures that both spouses can meet their financial obligations as they plan for what their financial life will look like after the divorce, which may include finding a new, independent source of income or employment. This kind of support stems from the fact that while the couple is still legally married, even if they are no longer living together and the divorce proceedings are ongoing, each spouse remains obligated to support the other. Temporary support is simply a court enforcing an obligation that already exists when the parties might not feel inclined to do so on their own.

Short-term spousal maintenance lasts beyond the end of the marriage but terminates after a specific period of time. This could be for a term of years determined by the court. As a general rule, courts will award a year’s worth of spousal maintenance for every three to four years of marriage in medium-length marriages of roughly five to twenty years.

Courts can also award maintenance until some future event. For example, a spouse who has less education and therefore less earning potential than their former partner might be awarded maintenance for the time it takes him or her to complete job training or higher education, especially if he or she contributed to their former spouses’ education by working to put the other spouse through school while they couple was still married. Once he or she graduates from school, the former spouse will likely no longer be obligated to pay maintenance.

Permanent maintenance is just what it sounds like. It is most commonly awarded in long-term marriages of twenty-five years or longer. After so long together, the court is likely to attempt to put both parties in a similar financial situation for the rest of their lives, and achieving this will often involve payments from one spouse to the other. This kind of maintenance is the most similar to the traditional conception of alimony, though Washington state law no longer uses that term.

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