Alimony in Washington, DC - How it Works
The District of Columbia has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. When contemplating divorce, many people wonder whether the Court will order their spouse to pay for all or part of the housing costs associated with living in this high-priced area.
Alimony is also known as spousal support. Alimony is a support payment paid by a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earning spouse after a divorce. It is important to note that Washington, DC's divorce and support payment laws are gender-neutral. This means that either a man or woman can be ordered to pay alimony to their former spouse.
A couple may decide to negotiate an alimony agreement on their own, or it can be determined by the Court through a trial. In either case, the advice of an aggressive and experienced family law attorney can help protect your interests and well-being.
How is Alimony Decided in DC?
The Court will, essentially, look at the imbalance between the parties. DC Alimony Code Section 16-913 states that the Court shall consider all “relevant factors for a fair and equitable award.” These include, but are not limited to:
- Whether the parties can support themselves
- How much time it would take for a party to become self-supporting
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- How long the parties were married
- Why the parties separated
- Age of the parties
- Physical and mental condition of each party
- Financial needs
- Income of each party
- The potential income of each party
- Child support
- Tax consequences
Who Gets Alimony in DC?
Alimony is generally awarded when the marriage lasted for a substantial period of time, and one spouse became accustomed to financial support from the other and is unable to financially support themselves now that the marriage has ended. Spousal support is often awarded if one spouse sacrificed his/her career or education for the good of the marriage.
Examples of this are when a spouse quits his/her job to stay home with the children, or when a spouse does not complete a higher degree or seek advancement in his/her career in order to support the other spouse in their job.
The longer the marriage lasted and the greater the earnings potential gap between the spouses caused by the marriage, the more likely that alimony will be awarded.
Example: Someone who could potentially anticipate an award of spousal support is a dad with a bachelor's degree in english lit who spent 7 years working two jobs to support his wife while she finished medical school, then after his wife obtained her MD quit his job to stay at home with the children which allowed his wife to focus on advancing her medical career, and who consequently has not worked for the past 20 years.
The Court is looking for one party who cannot support themselves without the financial assistance of the other person. Whether the inability to do so is temporary or permanent will determine the kind of alimony ordered by the court.
Does Adultery Effect Alimony in DC?
Many people wonder what effect adultery will have on spousal support. Typically, the party who was unfaithful can expect an award to be impacted by those actions. Unless there is a clear injustice, the court is unlikely to order spousal support to benefit the bad actor.
How Long Will I Receive / Have to Pay Alimony?
Alimony payments last as long as the judge decides is fair and reasonable, or if an agreement was reached for as long as the parties agreed.
It is very common that a judge will order alimony payments while the divorce proceedings are still going on to enable the spouse who is dependent to remain financially stable while the divorce is taking place.
Temporary Alimony in DC
Support may also continue after the marriage has ended. Alimony payments may be ordered for either a certain period of time, or until a specific event occurs, such as if the spouse receiving alimony payments gets married again.
This is the most common form of alimony. It provides support to the dependent spouse while he/she re-enters the workforce allowing him/her to become financially independent again.
Permanent Alimony in DC
In certain cases, a judge may award indefinite alimony, which means that support will continue to be paid to the supported spouse without any specific end date.
This is usually only the case when the marriage has lasted for an extremely long time, and the financially dependent spouse is neither able to obtain an education nor able to obtain employment that would allow him/her to be financially independent after the marriage ends.
An example of this would be a dad without a high school diploma who becomes quadriplegic and requires around-the-clock care.