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Spousal Maintenance in Washington State

What is spousal maintenance?

It is not abnormal for one person to make more than another in a marriage. One spouse/domestic partner may have chosen to stay home to take care of the kids while the other worked a 9-to-5 or operated a business. Learn about spousal maintenance (alimony) in Washington State.

All are great livelihoods. However, the spouse staying home may argue that they lacked the chance to bring in an income by caring for the children day in and day out. That can make it challenging to reenter the workforce during or after a legal separation or divorce. It may also cause them to need to move in with another family member to make ends meet.

In a divorce, where one partner’s earnings are greater, the higher-earning spouse may need to pay spousal maintenance (also called spousal support). This is a sum of money awarded to the spouse who requests the support. The money should help the requester get back into the swing of things, find a good job, and enjoy a similar lifestyle.

Is there any difference between spousal maintenance and alimony?

No. These terms mean the same thing. Both indicate that one spouse has requested to have the other provide a reasonable monthly wage to help them get used to life on their own. The court awards alimony to both wives and husbands, based on whoever earns more.

It is crucial to note that the income difference must be sizable. If both partners are in a similar place financially after the legal separation or divorce, alimony might not make sense to the court.

For example, if you and your former partner both work and earn about the same amount of income in Vancouver, WA, you might not qualify for spousal maintenance. However, if there is a large difference in your income (or if your spouse makes no money), spousal maintenance makes sense.

Both partners must agree on the total amount of alimony. The court may modify this at their discretion. If you have questions about the spousal maintenance petitioning process, our family law attorneys are here for you. We have worked with a variety of legal separation and divorce cases, and we are familiar with how alimony works in Washington State.

There is no need to stress or overthink the process. One of our lawyers can help you determine a reasonable amount of alimony to request (or pay), as well as help you file the necessary spousal maintenance paperwork.

Who qualifies for spousal maintenance in Washington State?

There is no definite answer for who can get spousal maintenance in Washington State besides those who are married or in a qualifying domestic partnership. Ultimately, the case must be made that the requestor cannot maintain the same living standards without alimony that they had while you were married.

If you were married for a year or two, it is unlikely that you will be expected to pay spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is more common in marriages and domestic partnerships above three or four years.

How much alimony will you owe per year?

There is no set quantity on how much you must pay in alimony. The court will decide that after reviewing a series of criteria. For instance, Washington State RCW 26.09.090 states that the following elements play roles in the total amount of spousal maintenance owed:

  • The current financial state of the person requesting alimony
  • How long it may take that person to gain the necessary skills and/or schooling for a job that reflects their talents
  • The way of life created while the two were married or in a domestic partnership
  • How long the marriage or domestic partnership lasted
  • How much the spouse who will pay maintenance can afford without creating financial difficulties

Often, a spouse can expect to receive support for at least one year per three or four years of marriage while developing their professional skills and getting back into the workforce. The length of time you must pay alimony can vary depending on the financial state of both partners, in addition to how long you have been married or in a domestic partnership.

Can you request a modification of spousal support in Washington State?

When the requestor’s professional life and finances improve, you can petition to modify the spousal support order. Typically, the spousal support order includes an agreed-upon term of how long a spouse must pay alimony.

The spouse who owes alimony may also petition to modify the order if they have experienced large, unexpected financial changes, such as job loss. The court will examine the cause of the financial change before reducing or dismissing the alimony.

The obligation to pay spousal maintenance may be dismissed if you or your spouse pass away. The same goes if the one requesting alimony enters a new marriage or domestic partnership. RCW 26.09.170

If you are curious about whether your spousal support order qualifies for a modification, you can contact a family law attorney. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer is happy to review your case and see what can be done.

We are experienced in all things Washington law, particularly legal separation and divorce. While your case may be complex, we have likely worked with something similar and have practical ideas on how to help.

How much alimony can you get if you were in a long-term marriage in Washington State?

A long-term marriage is considered approximately 20 to 25 years in Washington. The court acknowledges that both parties likely contributed to the household income in some regard during that time, even if one party took care of things at home.

They strive to distribute things evenly in long-term Washington State marriages. That means that a spouse may have to pay a large monthly sum to ensure that the spouses have a relatively equal income. The goal is to help them maintain a similar financial position for the inevitable future.

Need a hand in requesting spousal maintenance?

Consider the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer. We are equipped with the know-how, tools, and attorneys to handle your family law matter with ease. Allow us to be your trusted confidant during this challenging time and assist you in collecting your well-deserved alimony to help you get back on your feet. Initial consultations are always free. Contact us today.