Alimony in Washington, DC Divorce Cases

Spousal support, or alimony as it is called in DC statutes, is often one of the most hotly contested issues in any Washington, DC divorce proceeding. The first thing that should be understood is that the old-fashioned belief that a husband pays his ex-wife alimony or spousal support has not been the law in the District of Columbia for a very long time.

Pursuant to DC Code § 16–913, either party in a marriage can request an alimony award.  There is absolutely no longer a stigma, legal or otherwise, related to a husband’s request that his wife pay spousal support as part of divorce proceedings. This is especially relevant in the District of Columbia, where many families include a wife with a high paying job and a husband who stays home and takes care of the children.  The husband traded his opportunity to work and have a career to take care of the family and should not be penalized for that in the event of a divorce.

Alimony Factors

Now that we understand that any party can request alimony from the other party, it is helpful to understand some of the factors the court will use when fashioning an award.  It should be noted that if the parties can agree amongst themselves, the court will respect the wishes of the parties. If an agreement cannot be reached, here are some of the factors judges will use:

  • The ability of the party requesting alimony to support him or herself totally or partially.
  • The standard of living established by the parties during the marriage.
  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • The age of each party.
  • The ability of the party from whom alimony is sought to meet his or her other financial needs while paying alimony to the other party.
  • The physical and mental health of each spouse.
  • Tax issues pertaining to the spousal support award.
  • Circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties.

With respect to the circumstances that contributed to the estrangement of the parties, this is the one time when adultery and proving adultery, or physical or mental cruelty, desertion, or any other historic fault ground to obtain a divorce, might be necessary.  While you do not need to prove fault to get a divorce in Washington, DC, because all divorces are no-fault, you can use these fault grounds to help a judge make an equitable determination as to alimony.

For example, if your spouse was cheating on your and used assets from the marriage to finance his or her extramarital affairs (renting hotel rooms, buying gifts, etc.), and then that party asks for spousal support during the divorce, the judge can take this into account when determining what a reasonable alimony award would be.  While it is possible for a judge to rule against any alimony payments based up these fault grounds, it is also possible for the judge to lower the award in what he or she determines to be an equitable manner.

The family law attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group have years of experience handling domestic relations cases in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland.  Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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