Alimony is frequently a point of contention in divorce and legal separation cases in Washington. Alimony, or spousal support, is a financial award granted in some divorces to balance the financial disparity between two parties, allowing the lesser-earning spouse to maintain the standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage. If you wish to avoid paying alimony, there are legal and ethical ways to do this with assistance from an attorney.
It can help to understand when alimony is awarded in Washington. The family courts in Washington always allow a couple to work out their own settlement agreement before the divorce or legal separation case goes to trial. This means that you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse will have the chance to decide if alimony will be part of your divorce agreement on your own before giving the decision to a judge.
In a divorce trial in Washington, a judge will grant alimony based on factors such as the length of the marriage, whether the lower-earning spouse gave up a career or education to raise a family, and if the spouse making the request has the ability to be financially self-sufficient. You are more likely to avoid alimony if you end your marriage earlier – as soon as you know it isn’t working – or if your spouse gets a job.
The best way to avoid paying alimony is to prevent this type of court order to begin with.
If you think about avoiding alimony long before you are considering a divorce, when you are first engaged or newly married, this can allow you to put a clause in a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement that can protect you from having to pay alimony.
Your agreement can describe exactly which marital property will belong to each spouse in the event of a divorce. A judge will only sign off on a prenup or postnup, however, if it is fair and reasonable for both parties. If it is too late to put an alimony provision in a premarital agreement, you may still be able to avoid paying alimony with smart settlement negotiations and alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation.
You and your spouse may be able to work out a settlement agreement that does not include alimony with help from a lawyer. You may be able to trade something else for spousal support, for example, such as giving your ex the family home or a higher percentage of the marital property. Assistance from a lawyer can help you come up with creative solutions so that you can compromise with your spouse on a settlement that is a win-win for both of you.
If your case goes to trial, your lawyer may be able to build an argument against alimony, such as proving that your spouse does not have a financial need and is simply being vindictive in seeking alimony. Your lawyer may also be able to provide proof that your spouse is fit and able to work but is intentionally choosing not to. Finally, your lawyer can help you argue for child custody, as your spouse may not be eligible for alimony if he or she is not awarded sole custody.
If you have already been ordered to pay your ex-spouse alimony, you must pay. There is no way around obeying a court order. Even if your ex-spouse comes to a verbal agreement with you that you do not have to pay or can miss a payment, you legally must pay the amount due. Otherwise, you could be held in contempt of court.
You can submit a request to modify a spousal support order, however, if your financial circumstances have substantially changed from the date that the order was given. If you lost your job, for example, the courts may allow you to stop paying alimony or reduce the amount. For additional tips for avoiding alimony during a divorce or legal separation case in Washington, contact an attorney.