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When can someone modify their spousal maintenance order?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Spousal Maintenance

Addressing economic issues is one of the most pressing concerns in any Washington divorce. Spouses have to find a way to divide their marital property at the end of a marriage. They also need to address the financial needs of any children they share. In some cases, one parent might have made numerous personal sacrifices for the benefit of the family unit. They may have left their career or agreed to work only part-time to care for the home and the children in the family.

The unpaid contributions of one spouse may allow the other to thrive in their career, which is one reason why the Washington courts may order spousal maintenance. Also known as alimony in other states, spousal maintenance provides a dependent or lower-earning spouse with financial support after the end of a marriage. The person paying maintenance may find the payments frustrating and expensive.

When is it possible to modify an existing spousal maintenance order?

After a substantial change in circumstances

The law in Washington provides numerous guidelines for the creation of spousal maintenance orders. Judges have to consider factors ranging from the health and separate property of each spouse to the duration of the marriage. There is usually an expectation that the party paying maintenance should continue doing so until they complete the maintenance requirements outlined in the court order.

However, it is sometimes possible to change maintenance obligations when family circumstances change. The spouse paying maintenance could request a reduction or early termination of their maintenance obligations when the other spouse goes back to work or secures a promotion. Their improved financial circumstances may make ongoing maintenance unnecessary.

Other times, it may be changing personal circumstances that warrant a modification. If the recipient remarries, that could lead to the end of a maintenance order. Similarly, proof that they have begun cohabitating with a romantic partner might be sufficient reason to request a spousal maintenance modification.

Finally, a negative change in the financial circumstances of the paying spouse could be a reason to reduce or end spousal maintenance obligations. A job loss or a medical emergency that changes someone’s earning potential could be enough to convince the courts that reducing the maintenance amount or ending the order early is appropriate.

Even after circumstances change, the party subject to a payment order usually needs to continue making payments on time, as they may otherwise risk facing enforcement efforts. Knowing the rules that apply to spousal maintenance modifications may help those who feel frustrated by their financial obligations after a divorce. Some people paying spousal maintenance can reduce their payments or end their financial responsibilities early. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to find out more about one’s rights and options under the law.