Washington State Alimony Laws

••• Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

When two married persons divorce or domestic partners split up, a court may require one party to make monthly alimony, or spousal maintenance, payments to the other. Either of the former partners may make alimony payments based upon income. Under Washington State alimony laws, judges have wide leeway in determining spousal maintenance judgments with few restrictions. The Revised Code of Washington outlines these laws in Section 26.09.090, Maintenance Orders for Either Spouse or Either Domestic Partner.

Time Frame

According to RCW 26.09.090, a judge may require a party to pay alimony in the event of a split or divorce, regardless of the time that two Washington residents were partnered. Washington Divorce Attorney Robert E. Stark cautions that persons partnered for less than five years rarely receive spousal maintenance unless one party would end up destitute or unemployed as a result of the divorce. Former marriages or partnerships over twenty years in length usually result in some amount of alimony.


According to RCW 26.09.090(f), a judge will take into consideration the ability of a spouse or domestic partner to pay the claims of a spouse or domestic partner seeking Washington alimony. A judge will take into account the payer’s financial obligations and budget in order to ensure that maintenance payments do not impoverish the payer. This calculation also takes into account debts and liabilities.


According to RCW 26.09.090(a), a Washington judge will take into account the needs of the person claiming alimony. This calculation involves the ability of the claimant to meet her own financial needs without spousal support and the amount of children involved in the breakup or divorce.

Living Standards

In the state of Washington, judges may award alimony payments based upon an expected standard of living. If a divorced spouse or domestic partner becomes accustomed to a certain lifestyle over the duration of the marriage, the judge may order the man or woman to pay his or her partner accordingly.


According to RCW 26.09.090(a), the State of Washington does not place time restrictions on the amount of time that a claimant may receive alimony. A judge will take into consideration the time necessary in order for the alimony recipient to acquire new job skills, education and employment, after which point alimony payments may stop.

Physical Condition

According to RCW 26.09.090(e), a judge will take into consideration the unique circumstances surrounding an alimony claim before issuing a judgment. These factors can include age, physical conditions and emotional conditions. For example, an elderly divorcee or ex-partner who cannot reenter the workplace may receive a longer alimony reward. A disabled divorcee or ex-partner may receive extra benefits to pay for her higher cost of living.