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Federal Way Spousal Maintenance

Maintenance in Federal Way

While spousal support, alimony, and maintenance are terms often used interchangeably, it is important to note that there is a very subtle difference between them in Federal Way. Generally, these terms refer to financial support payments that are made from one spouse to another following a divorce or legal separation.

Difference Between Alimony and Maintenance

Let’s look at some of the subtle differences between the two:


Historically, alimony has been the more commonly used term in legal discourse. It is also often referred to as spousal support payments. Alimony often carries connotations of a financial obligation that persists indefinitely or for a longer duration, which is typically until the death of either party or until the recipient gets remarried.

It has also been associated with traditional notions of support provided by a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earning or dependent spouse to maintain a standard of living similar to the one enjoyed during the marriage.


Maintenance is considered more of a modern, gender-neutral term that has gained popularity in legal statutes and proceedings over the years. It is often viewed as a temporary or transitional form of support and is provided as a way to assist a spouse in becoming self-sufficient following a divorce or separation.

Unlike alimony, maintenance may have a specified duration of time. After which, it is terminated or may be subject to modification based on changing circumstances like one’s employment status or financial needs.

While the terms alimony and maintenance have their own distinct historical and semantic nuances, they are often used interchangeably to refer to spousal support payments in King County.

What Factors Does the Court Consider When Awarding Maintenance?

The statute that outlines all of the factors the court considers when awarding maintenance can be found in RCW 26.09.090. Under Title 26 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), you will find that it addresses the dissolution of marriage, legal separation, and domestic partnerships.

The Financial Resources and Needs of Both Parties (RCW 26.09.090(1))

The court will evaluate the financial resources of each party, including their income, assets, and liabilities. In addition to this, all income from employment, investments, and other sources, as well as the financial needs of each party will be considered. This covers the standard of living that was established during the marriage, housing and medical costs, and other necessary expenses.

Duration of the Marriage or Domestic Partnership (RCW 26.09.090(2))

The length of the marriage or domestic partnership is another big factor the courts will take into consideration when awarding maintenance. Generally, longer marriages result in a higher or longer-lasting maintenance award because the court recognizes the level of interdependence that developed over time.

Age, Physical, and Emotional Condition of the Parties (RCW 26.09.090(3))

Next, the court will consider the age, health, and emotional condition of everyone involved. This covers any physical or mental health issues that may affect the person’s ability to work and support themselves financially.

Standard of Living Established During the Marriage (RCW 26.09.090(4))

To ensure that the maintenance recipient can maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce, to the extent possible, given the available financial resources, the court will consider the standard of living maintained during the marriage or domestic partnership.

Financial Resources and Earning Capacity of Each Party (RCW 26.09.090(5))

The court also assesses the financial resources and earning capacity of each party, evaluating their education level, job skills, employment history, and their potential to secure future employment. This helps determine whether the recipient spouse can become self-supporting and the extent to which maintenance payments may be necessary.

Time Needed for the Party Seeking Maintenance to Acquire Education or Training (RCW 26.09.090(6))

If the party seeking maintenance payments requires education or training to become self-sufficient, the court may consider how much time and what kind of resources are necessary. This helps lead the transition for the spouse to gain financial independence.

Other Relevant Factors (RCW 26.09.090(7))

Finally, the court may also consider other relevant factors, including the presence of dependent children, household contributions, or career sacrifices made during the marriage.

How Long Will Maintenance Payments Last?

In Federal Way, the duration of maintenance payments made varies depending on the specific circumstances of each case. Unlike child support, which typically has a set duration based on the children's ages, maintenance payments may be temporary or permanent, which the court determines.

You will find that some family law practitioners in Federal Way will use something known as the 4 to 1 ratio when it comes to alimony or maintenance payments. This means that for every four years of marriage, 1 year of spousal maintenance would be deemed appropriate, assuming the other factors the court considers are also present.

For example, if someone was married for 20 years, 5 years of spousal maintenance may be deemed appropriate.

Can Maintenance Orders in Federal Way Be Modified?

Yes. Under certain circumstances, maintenance orders in Federal Way can be modified. Modifications to maintenance orders are governed by state laws and statutes that are outlined in Title 26 of the RCW.

Under RCW 26.09.170, the court retains jurisdiction to modify maintenance orders based on a substantial change in either party’s circumstances. This means that either the paying spouse or recipient spouse can petition the court for a modification of the maintenance order if there has been a significant change in their financial situation or other relevant factors since the original order was issued.

Some of these changes may include a shift in income, a decline in health that affects their ability to work and gain an income, remarriage or cohabitation, or term limits. For example, if the maintenance order was set for a specific duration of time or until a certain event occurs, like the completion of education or training.

The expiration of that term or the occurrence of that specific event would trigger a review of the maintenance order, potentially leading to a modification.

What Happens if Maintenance Payments Are Not Made?

If maintenance payments are not made as required by a court in Federal Way, Washington, there can be serious legal consequences for the paying spouse. Failure to comply with these orders can result in contempt of court charges, wage garnishment, asset seizure, tax refund interception, driver’s license suspension, and credit reporting.

Are There Alternatives to Court Ordered Maintenance?

Yes, there are some alternatives to court-ordered maintenance in Federal Way and in other jurisdictions.

  • Mediated Agreements: Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution, wherein both parties work with a neutral mediator to negotiate and reach a mutually acceptable agreement on spousal support and other divorce-related issues.
  • Collaborative Divorce: This is a process in which the parties and their attorneys agree to work together cooperatively to resolve divorce-related issues, including maintenance, outside of court.
  • Lump Sum Settlements: Instead of making ongoing monthly payments, parties may agree to a lump sum settlement to resolve spousal support obligations. This means the paying spouse will make one single payment to the other party to satisfy their spousal support obligation.
  • Property Division: To address maintenance, parties may agree to an unequal division of marital assets and debts. For example, one spouse may retain a larger share of the marital assets in exchange for waiving their right to maintenance payments.
What Documentation Is Required to Support a Maintenance Claim?

When pursuing a maintenance claim in Federal Way, you must provide thorough documentation to support your case. This documentation may vary depending on the details of your specific case, but generally, you can expect to need the following:

  • Income Documentation: Pay stubs or income statements, including W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and tax returns for the last several years
  • Financial Statements: Personal financial statements that detail assets, liabilities, and expenses, including bank account statements, investment account statements, and retirement account statements
  • Employment Information: Verification of employment, offer letters, or a letter from the employer confirming income and employment status
  • Education and Training: Documentation proving educational background, including diplomas, transcripts, and certifications
  • Healthcare Expenses: Medical bills, insurance statements, and documentation outlining if there are any significant medical needs or health-related expenses

Consulting with a qualified family law attorney in King County is a good way to receive guidance on the specific documentation needed to support a maintenance claim. They can also help you navigate what can be considered a complex legal landscape.

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