Washington D.C. was one of the forerunners in the march toward marriage equality when it recognized same-sex marriages in 2009. Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states in 2016, over half a million same-sex couples have married. Unfortunately, some of these marriages eventually face insurmountable challenges, and the spouses may find themselves navigating the difficult matters of divorce and spousal support.

Whether you are the spouse asked to pay support or the spouse seeking it, you may have concerns about determining the appropriate amount and duration of spousal support, and a skilled alimony lawyer could help. An experienced Washington, DC same-sex spousal support lawyer can help you resolve the unique financial issues related to same-sex divorce.

How Spousal Support is Determined

Spousal support, or alimony, is typically a payment made by the spouse earning a higher income to the lower-earning spouse after a divorce. In Washington, DC, spousal support laws are gender-neutral, and either a man or a woman can be ordered to pay alimony to a former spouse. Under D.C. Official Code §16-913, to calculate a fair amount of alimony, a judge must consider all ‘relevant’ factors, including but not limited to:

  • Each spouse’s age, physical and mental health, and financial circumstances
  • Whether the parties can support themselves and if one cannot, how long it would take that party to become self-supporting
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s income, potential income, and financial needs
  • The reason for the dissolution of the marriage
  • Whether one spouse will be required to pay child support
  • The parties’ standard of living during their marriage
  • The tax consequences the parties will face as a result of the divorce and any award of alimony

It is not necessary to go to court if the spouses can agree on spousal support. Whether alimony is determined by a judge or by the parties’ agreement, a knowledgeable same-sex spousal support lawyer could help ensure that a spouse’s interests are protected and that the final support order meets all legal requirements.

Challenges to Calculating Spousal Support in Same-Sex Divorces

One of the primary reasons it can be challenging to calculate spousal support in same-sex divorces is that same-sex marriage was legalized only recently. The length of the parties’ marriage is a significant factor in the determination of alimony, and the longer the marriage and the bigger the earnings gap is between the spouses, the more probable it is that alimony will be awarded. This can create a significant problem for spouses who may only have been married for a few years but have been in a committed relationship with each other for much longer.

For example, one spouse may have given up a lucrative career early in the parties’ relationship to care for the couple’s children, but the couple could not formally marry in D.C. until 2009 at the earliest. If a judge relies only on the marriage date when analyzing the ‘length of the marriage’ factor, the alimony award may be inequitable to the spouse who left the workforce for the family’s benefit. An attorney with experience in same-sex divorce could argue that the entire relationship duration should be counted, not just the length of the legal marriage.

Other challenges to the proper calculation of spousal support include prenuptial agreements and civil unions. If the parties executed a prenup or entered a civil union in another state before their marriage, the contract and the rights afforded by the legal union should be considered when calculating spousal support in a divorce. A same-sex spousal support attorney understands the potential impact of any prior agreements or other legal arrangements between the spouses.

Types of Spousal Support

In a divorce, either spouse may petition the family court for spousal support during the marital separation or after the final divorce. Two different types of alimony may be granted.

Temporary Alimony

The most common form of spousal support awarded is temporary alimony, supporting the financially dependent spouse while they regain employment and become self-supporting. The higher-earning spouse’s obligation to make these payments ends either after a certain time or when a specific event occurs, such as the former spouse’s remarriage.

Indefinite Alimony

In some cases, a judge may order one spouse to pay spousal support to the other without any specified end date. This may occur when the parties have been married for many years, and the financially dependent spouse is unable to further their education and obtain employment that would enable them to become financially independent.

Consult an Experienced Same-Sex Spousal Support Attorney

Courts have broad powers and a great deal of discretion when ordering the payment of spousal support, and a spouse in a same-sex divorce must be prepared to argue for or against an alimony award. One of our firm’s Washington, DC same-sex spousal support lawyers could provide essential advice regarding spousal support in these cases. Contact our firm to consult with one of our experienced attorneys.