Types of Spousal Maintenance and When They Are Available

In Washington, “alimony” is referred to as “spousal maintenance” or simply “maintenance.”  Spousal maintenance is designed to help the economically disadvantaged spouse after the divorce. Because Washington is a no-fault state, it is irrelevant which spouse was the cause of the divorce. Instead, Washington courts will look to a variety of factors when deciding whether maintenance is appropriate. These factors include:

  • The financial resources of the person requesting maintenance;
  • The time necessary for the requesting party to obtain training or an education in order to raise earning capacity;
  • Standard of living of the couple during marriage;
  • Length of the marriage;
  • Age, health, and financial obligations of the spouse requesting maintenance; and
  • The ability of the paying spouse to actually pay maintenance while meeting his or her own financial obligations.

It is clear from this list that the threshold question is whether the requesting spouse even needs maintenance at all. The issue of whether the paying spouse has the ability to make the requested payments is also a crucial inquiry. Either spouse may request spousal maintenance, as gender does not factor into the calculation or award in any way.

In general, three types of maintenance are available: temporary, short-term, and long-term. Temporary maintenance is what can be awarded during the divorce. Either party may ask that after the divorce has been filed, but before the entry of the final divorce decree, that the judge make a maintenance award. In general, this type of temporary support is meant to maintain the status quo, and requires the parties to continue paying the bills and household expenses, as was done before the divorce was filed.

Short-term maintenance is designed to help the economically disadvantaged spouse transition into a new life. Often this type of maintenance helps the spouse get an education or degree, or otherwise raise his or her earning capacity. Short-term maintenance is designed to be just that –short-term. Once the purpose for the short-term maintenance no longer exists, the maintenance is designed to end. For example, a spouse who was unemployed at the beginning of a divorce might get temporary maintenance, but once that spouse obtains employment, the court could reconsider the need for maintenance.

Long-term maintenance, on the other hand, is designed to address an imbalance of financial situations that arose due to a long marriage. Long-term maintenance is more appropriate where, for example, one spouse gave up a career to stay at home and care for the home and children over a long period of time. Generally, long-term maintenance is not appropriate if the marriage was of a short duration.

Spousal maintenance is a crucial issue in many divorces. Many issues to be considered when deciding whether to pursue it or how to defend a claim that it be paid. Contact us today to discuss your particular marital dissolution and whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in your case. Call us at (253) 272-9459 or email us at info@theleveylawgroup.com for an appointment.


First Name(Required)
Last Name(Required)