In D.C., a judge may order a higher-earning spouse to pay their lower-earning spouse alimony or spousal support. Parties in a divorce or legal separation proceeding may agree to alimony or a spouse may request it from the court. The purpose of alimony is to provide "reasonable and necessary support" to one spouse after the couple is no longer together.
District of Columbia Alimony Laws at a Glance
While consulting with an attorney to understand how the law applies to you is always advisable, you can also learn a lot about the law by referencing a plain language summary of the content. See the chart below for a basic overview of alimony/spousal support laws in D.C.
District of Columbia General Laws:
- Section 16-904 (grounds for divorce)
- Section 16-911 (pendente lite relief)
- Section 16-913 (alimony)
- Section 46-204 (amendment of order establishing alimony)
How to Get Alimony
Divorce or Legal Separation
If you and your spouse are getting a divorce or a legal separation, both of you may agree to an alimony arrangement. If you don't agree, then you can still get alimony by requesting it from the court. However, you can't request alimony after the proceedings are over.
If you want an annulment and your spouse contests the annulment you may request alimony from the court. The court
could award you with temporary alimony while the case is pending. However, you can't receive alimony after the annulment is granted.
The court will determine the nature, amount, and duration of support using certain factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- The length of the marriage;
- The ability of the receiving spouse to be self-supporting;
- The time necessary for the receiving spouse to acquire training/and or experience to obtain employment;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The age of each spouse;
- The physical and mental condition of each spouse; and
- The financial needs and resources of each spouse.
Unless the parties can agree, the judge will determine whether the spousal support will be temporary, indefinite, or for some other duration that's appropriate for the situation. The court has a lot of discretion in making these determinations.
This type of alimony lasts until the following:
- The death of one party;
- A change ordered by the court; or
- An agreement by the parties.
Rehabilitative Alimony/Term-limited Alimony
This type of alimony lasts for the time ordered by the court or agreed upon by the parties. Ideally, during this time, the spouse who's receiving the support obtains training and/or work experience to become self-sufficient.
After the divorce, the alimony order can be modified if there's a "significant change in circumstances." The court can change the alimony award if the paying spouse's ability to pay has changed or if there has been a change in the needs of the spouse receiving the payments.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
District of Columbia Alimony Laws: Related Resources
Find Out More About District of Columbia Alimony Laws by Speaking With an Attorney
Spousal support might be an important aspect of your divorce or legal separation proceedings. If you need more information about how alimony laws may affect you, then you should seek legal help. Discuss your situation with a skilled D.C. divorce lawyer right away.