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Will I have to pay alimony if my spouse had an affair?

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2023 | Family Law |

Infidelity can drive a knife through the heart of a marriage and ultimately cause its demise. The faithful spouse likely feels deceived by the unfaithful spouse and there is generally a great deal of pain and anger under such circumstances.

The issue of alimony, also referred to as spousal maintenance, can be especially tricky in such a divorce. When one spouse is unfaithful, is it fair to make the other spouse pay them alimony?

Alimony factors under Washington law

There is not a specific formula in Washington for calculating alimony. Instead, an award of alimony will be issued after the judge considers a variety of statutory factors, including:

  • The financial resources and obligations of the spouse asking for alimony
  • How long it will take for the spouse asking for alimony to find an appropriate job
  • The standard of living each spouse enjoyed while married
  • How many years the couple was married
  • Each spouse’s age and health
  • The ability of the other spouse to pay alimony while still meeting their own financial needs and obligations

Why is infidelity not included on this list?

Note that this list of factors does not include whether a spouse was unfaithful in their marriage.

In fact, Washington statutes specifically state that an award of alimony will be made “without regard to misconduct.” Infidelity would be a type of misconduct that is not considered when a court orders a spouse to pay alimony.

While it might seem unfair to order the faithful spouse to pay alimony, it is part and parcel with the fact that Washington is a no-fault divorce state. This means spouses in Washington do not need a fault-based reason for divorcing; they can simply state their marriage is irretrievably broken.

However, if a spouse’s infidelity caused the other spouse to suffer financially, equity may demand the faithful spouse be compensated for this loss through the property division process. Infidelity could also affect child custody decisions if the affair is harming the child’s safety or well-being. So, there are ways that infidelity can impact the outcome of a divorce.