Is spousal maintenance guaranteed after a divorce in Washington?

Spousal maintenance (sometimes called alimony or simply maintenance) is often a common source of confusion and worry during the divorce process. When there is an income or asset inequality between partners, or one partner has been reliant on the financial support of the other, spousal maintenance allows you to recover financially after the marriage is over. However, spousal maintenance is not guaranteed in the State of Washington, and the court will review each case based on merit. Spousal maintenance

Factors That Determine Spousal Maintenance Awards

When the court looks at your divorce case and request for maintenance, the judge will examine your situation to determine whether a maintenance order is appropriate and how much you may be owed. According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 26.09.090), some of the factors the court will use to consider your case will include the following:

  • Your financial resources. This includes any separate property and community property, as well as your ability to independently support yourself and any children you have. It also includes any financial obligations you may have.
  • Your education or training. The court will consider how long it may take you to gain any skills or education required to find employment that’s appropriate to your “skills, interests, style of life, and other attendant circumstances.”
  • Your standard of living. The court will make adjustments based on the standard of living that you had during your marriage.
  • The length of the marriage. How long the marriage lasted is an important factor in the decision to make an award of maintenance. Shorter marriages are less likely to result in maintenance payments.
  • Your health. This includes your physical or mental health and disabilities you may have, particularly if you relied on your spouse for support due to your condition. Your age is also a factor.
  • Your spouse’s finances. Whether your spouse will be able to afford to pay maintenance while still meeting his own financial needs is a factor, also.

It’s important to realize that the court is not bound by law to only consider these factors. Any relevant factor may be used to determine whether a spousal maintenance award will be granted, as well as the amount of the award.

Types of Spousal Maintenance Awards

There are different types of maintenance that can affect the amount of the payments or the length of time those payments will be made. Not all maintenance is permanent. Many agreements by law will terminate should you (as the recipient) pass away or remarry, although other terms may be negotiated or dictated by the court for your specific situation. The type of maintenance will typically determine the length of time the agreement is valid. Types of maintenance commonly granted include:

  • Temporary maintenance. This type of maintenance award takes effect during a separation period before the divorce is finalized and the marriage is dissolved. It aims to provide a temporary standard of living based on your situation before the separation, and it only lasts until you can make other arrangements for support afterwards.
  • Rehabilitative maintenance. When you need time to complete the education or learn skills to support yourself, rehabilitative maintenance payments can help you, although it may be limited based on the length of time you were married.
  • Disability maintenance. If you can’t fully support yourself due to a disability, disability maintenance payments can provide basic financial support. The amount and length of time the agreement lasts may be based on multiple factors, including how long you were married, how long the disability may last, and how much the disability impacts your earning potential.

Maintenance may also be granted for other situations, including redress for harm or guilt and compensation for educational assistance. Your divorce attorney can help determine if you may be able to pursue spousal maintenance, and if so, what kind might be appropriate for you.

If you have questions about your divorce or spousal maintenance, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny can help. Reach out to us by phone, or email us today to arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office about your situation.


Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny