If you’re getting divorced, you may have difficulty maintaining the lifestyle you kept while married. Losing half – or more – of your household income is a frightening prospect. If you’re not vigilant, you could end up destitute.

Spousal support—referred to as “alimony” in some states—is the financial support provided by your spouse after divorce. It helps the lower-earning partner make ends meet for a definite or indefinite period. Knowing how spousal support works could save you from financial hardship and help you maintain your lifestyle.

Know how much support you can receive

In Washington, spousal support depends on multiple factors. These include:

  • The length of your marriage.
  • The difference in income between you and your spouse.
  • Whether your divorce involves children and child support payments.
  • The standard of living you maintained as a couple.
  • Your health and healthcare costs.
  • Your ability to become self-sufficient after the divorce.

Know how long you can receive support for

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will negotiate spousal support terms together. In a contested divorce, the judge may determine terms for you.

Some couples work out an arrangement where the primary earner pays permanent support. Other couples opt for temporary spousal support instead – which lasts for a shorter period while the recipient completes education or job training that helps them achieve financial independence. Consulting with a family law professional can help you determine which option might fit your situation.

You and your spouse may agree on your terms of the spousal support agreement. But it’s nonetheless important to know what you can rightfully receive. Understanding support laws can improve your odds of achieving a fair settlement.