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How is maintenance determined in Washington?

A divorce or separation of domestic partners can be stressful - especially if it creates an extreme financial disparity between the spouses or partners. For example, if one party was the primary breadwinner and the other didn't work out of the home or perhaps had few marketable job skills, the latter may find him- or herself in relatively poor financial circumstances. In the state of Washington, a maintenance order can help to equalize such disparities.

Whether pursuant to a divorce or the dissolution of a domestic partnership, a maintenance order provides for payments to be made by one party to the other. A judge will determine the amount of the payments, the duration of the maintenance order, and how it will be paid. A maintenance order can be temporary or permanent, paid in increments or given as one lump sum. A judge will determine whether maintenance should be ordered by evaluating several statutory factors.

These factors include each party's financial resources and their individual abilities to meet financial obligations. A judge will consider how property was divided when evaluating financial resources. Other factors like age, standard of living, length of the marriage or partnership, and how long it will take the party seeking maintenance to find (and train for) adequate employment. The judge will issue a maintenance order if these and other factors so dictate.

If the financial circumstances of one or both parties change, it may be possible to revisit the maintenance order by requesting a modification. Modification requests typically must be evaluated by the judge or court who issued the original maintenance order. Whether requesting maintenance for the first time or moving for a modification, maintenance issues can seem complicated. The assistance of a seasoned divorce attorney can help a party to a divorce or separation negotiate the maintenance process.

Source: Washington State Legislature, Revised Code of Washington, "Section 26.09.090: Maintenance orders for either spouse or either domestic partner - Factors," accessed Feb. 11, 2018

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