Spousal Support in Washington State
Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, is a common condition of divorce settlements. When a significant disparity between income and earning ability exists between partners, the court will mandate that the advantaged partner makes payments to an ex-spouse, either for a set period or indefinitely, to ensure a reasonable quality of life.
Though spousal maintenance amounts consider a spouse’s year-over-year income, an agreement will set payments at a fixed amount based on a percentage of income rather than a variable figure that is a direct function of the percentage the court sees fit to award. In other words, in an occupation such as sales—one with sizable variations in monthly income due to commissions—support payments will not rise and fall in proportion with paychecks.
The Modification Process
Fixing this dollar amount in a spousal support agreement also means that major changes in one’s circumstances will not modify payments. To make spousal support modifications, a party must petition the court for a change to the divorce agreement.
Before the court can examine whether modifications to spousal support are permissible and necessary, a divorce settlement agreement or a judge’s ruling must not stipulate that the figure is non-modifiable. Some divorcing couples may agree on a dollar amount ahead of time and make that order non-modifiable. For instance, a partner who is due to pay support may try to “lock in” a lower figure in exchange for cost certainty, inoculating against petitions for modification that may come with a significant raise in income while risking one’s own loss of relief in the event of job loss.
When To Modify Payments
In agreements that do allow for modifications to support or maintenance payments, a mere change in the payer’s circumstances—whether positive or negative—is not necessarily sufficient cause to make updates. Your ex-spouse’s increase in income must be a substantial one to successfully petition the court for higher payments. Conversely, to successfully argue for a reduction in obligations, you will need to argue that your emergent inability to pay due to job loss is one that you cannot immediately rectify through securing new employment, whether because of significant changes in the industry or a permanent disability that affects earning ability.
We Are Dedicated To Helping You Today
Navigating the complexities of seeking and attaining spousal support modifications requires expertise by your side. Whether you pay or receive support and need a change, contact Lacoste Family Law to discuss your situation with our staff. Reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 509-392-8000.