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Modification of an Award of Spousal Support

Spousal support (referred to as spousal maintenance in Washington, and not alimony), may be awarded at the end of a divorce to a spouse in financial need, after consideration of a number of other factors. However, it is quite common for the financial situations of one or both spouses to change after the divorce. If this is the case, it may be necessary to return to court to modify the divorce decree to reflect the current financial situation.

The spouse seeking to modify spousal maintenance will need to show a “significant change of circumstances,” which is a legal term of art with its own requirements. A change of circumstances can result from a variety of different situations.

If you are the party paying maintenance, a change of circumstances may include a change in your financial situation. If you lose your job or have a medical condition develop that inhibits your ability to generate sufficient income to meet your maintenance obligation, this could be a change of circumstances. Note, however, that intentionally quitting your job just to get out of maintenance payments is not a valid option, and could backfire.

If you are the receiving spouse, your financial situation is also relevant. If you happen to get a big raise at work, your former spouse may request a reduction in spousal support, as your need for financial assistance will be accordingly reduced. If you get remarried or enter into a domestic partnership, you might no longer be entitled to spousal maintenance.

The timing of a request to modify maintenance is important. If you determine that a substantial change of circumstances has happened to you or your former spouse, you should contact your attorney as soon as possible. You cannot retroactively modify maintenance.  That is, it is not possible to have past maintenance support payments modified.  Thus, the sooner you file your request, the sooner you can get the relief you request from the court.

If a spousal maintenance award is no longer suitable for your financial situation, contact us today at (253) 272-9459 for an appointment. Most critical in all maintenance modification cases are the provisions in the final divorce documents relative to maintenance.  You should consult with us as to the impact of those provisions on your ability to modify maintenance.  We have extensive experience in helping our clients successfully review their spousal support cases. Call us today to talk about your financial situation and your future.

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