You may pay — or receive — alimony if you are divorcing. Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance or support, is what one person pays a spouse during separation and after divorce on a temporary or permanent basis.
Spousal support is one issue that people tend to oversimplify or jump to conclusions on, which leads to misconceptions about people’s options and legal protections. We debunk four of these common myths below.
Separating myth from fact
Myth: If a spouse is a stay-at-home parent or makes less than the other spouse, they automatically qualify for alimony.
Fact: A spouse who makes less money (or no money) is not automatically eligible for alimony. They have to meet specific requirements to receive it. In Washington, the courts will consider several factors, including whether the prospective recipient is substantially dependent on the other party, the marital standard of living and the length of the marriage.
Myth: Alimony is tax-deductible for payors, and payees have to pay taxes on their payments.
Fact: It used to be that way until 2018, when legislators passed an alimony tax rule where that no longer applies. Therefore, the individual paying alimony cannot deduct it from their income, and the recipient does not need to pay taxes on alimony payments.
Myth: Alimony allows recipients to live a lavish lifestyle.
Fact: The purpose of alimony is to support a payee’s basic needs like food, utilities and groceries. It ensures the recipient can financially support themselves after a divorce; it’s neither a reward nor a punishment.
Myth: Only parents are eligible for alimony.
Fact: Alimony is for spouses, not children. Furthermore, if one spouse has to pay child support to the other, they have to pay it in addition to alimony.
When it comes to spousal support or any other divorce-related matter, it is crucial to separate fact from fiction in order to make informed decisions.