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When a marriage ends, there are several different types of "support" that can come into play.

In a general sense, there is the notion of emotional support. When going through a stressful experience like divorce, it is naturally important to have a supportive community of friends or family members who can help you see the way forward.

In legal terms, however, the word "support" refers to two, very different legal obligations.

One of these is child support for minor children. This type of support follows clearly established guidelines based on income level of the parties involved and the number of children.

The other is spousal support. As we explained in our recent article on spousal support, another name for this is alimony.

There is a big difference between child support and spousal support. It isn't simply that one is for the raising of children while the other is for a former marital partner.

There is also a fundamental difference in the availability of the two types of support. For child support, the guidelines provide a clear point of departure for courts in determining when support is called for and in calculating how much it should be.

With spousal support, though, the guidance is much less clear. As we explained in our article, there are many factors that can influence an award of spousal support.

For example, supposed it is a long-term marriage that is ending, one in which the wife stayed home to raise the children and has uncertain capacities for earning her own money. Such a case obviously poses a different alimony case than one in which both parties are young and have good earning capacity.

We encourage you to read our article for more information on the factors involved in spousal support cases in Washington.