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Kirkland Spousal Maintenance

The Essential Guide To Maintenance in Kirkland, King County

Maintenance, commonly known as alimony or spousal support, is one of the more important aspects of divorce proceedings in Kirkland, Washington. It's designed to ensure financial stability for one spouse after the marriage ends, especially if there's a significant disparity in earning capacity.

Understanding maintenance laws and procedures is essential for those navigating divorce in Kirkland. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with detailed insights into maintenance, including Washington state laws, common questions, and other pertinent information you will want to have as you begin navigating the process yourself.

What Is Maintenance in Washington State?

Maintenance refers to the financial support that one spouse provides to another after a divorce or separation. It is meant to help the spousal recipient maintain a familiar standard of living that was enjoyed throughout the marriage.

What Are the Different Types of Maintenance in Kirkland?
  • Temporary Maintenance: This kind of maintenance is often provided during divorce proceedings until a final maintenance decision is made.
  • Rehabilitative Maintenance: This is aimed at helping the recipient spouse become self-supporting through education or job training.
  • Permanent Maintenance: This is typically given in cases where one spouse cannot become self-supporting due to disability, age, or other factors.
Is There a Difference Between Alimony and Maintenance in Washington State?

In Washington state, alimony and maintenance are two terms that essentially refer to the same thing—financial support provided by one spouse to the other following a separation or divorce. However, the term that is commonly used in legal statutes and court proceedings is maintenance.

Alimony is a term used less commonly in legal contexts. Essentially, they both serve the same purpose, which is to provide financial assistance to a spouse who may have a lower income or earning capacity after the dissolution of marriage. The terms are often used interchangeably.

What Factors Are Considered In Maintenance Determinations?

The court will take several factors into account when determining the amount of maintenance to award. These include each spouse’s earning capacity and financial resources; the duration of the marriage; the standard of living during the marriage; the age, health, and employability of each spouse; contributions to the marriage; and any agreements made between the spouses.

How Long Do Maintenance Payments Typically Last in Kirkland?

Several different factors determine the duration of maintenance payments. These include the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and any agreements made between the spouses during their divorce proceedings. Maintenance payments in Kirkland can be permanent, temporary, or rehabilitative.

Can Maintenance Orders be Enforced if One Spouse Refuses to Pay?

Yes. King County courts can certainly enforce maintenance orders if a spouse refuses to comply. Failure to pay maintenance can result in penalties such as wage garnishment or even contempt of court charges.

Are There Alternatives to Court-Ordered Maintenance in Kirkland?

In Kirkland, Washington, as in many other jurisdictions, there are alternatives to court-ordered maintenance (alimony) that divorcing couples can consider.

These alternatives often offer more flexibility and control over the outcome, as they allow the parties to negotiate and craft their own solutions outside of a courtroom setting. Here are some common alternative methods:

Negotiated Agreements

Spouses can negotiate maintenance terms directly or with the assistance of their attorneys through mediation, collaborative divorce, or informal settlement discussions. In these negotiations, the parties have the opportunity to discuss their respective financial situations, needs, and preferences to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on spousal support.


Mediation, a cost-effective and efficient way to resolve maintenance issues without resorting to litigation, involves the intervention of a neutral third-party mediator who will facilitate discussions between the spouses to help them reach agreements on various aspects of their divorce, including maintenance. The mediator helps the parties explore their interests, identify options, and work toward a resolution that meets their needs and concerns.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a process in which the spouses, along with their attorneys and other professionals such as financial advisors or mental health professionals, work together to reach a comprehensive agreement on all issues related to their divorce, including maintenance. This method emphasizes cooperation and problem-solving, aiming to minimize conflict and promote mutually beneficial outcomes.


In arbitration, the spouses agree to submit their maintenance dispute to a neutral arbitrator who acts as a private judge. The arbitrator reviews the evidence presented by both parties and issues a binding decision on maintenance. Because the parties have more control over the process and outcome, arbitration offers a more streamlined and private alternative to traditional litigation.

Structured Settlements

Instead of traditional ongoing maintenance payments, spouses may opt for structured settlements that provide for periodic lump-sum payments or distributions of assets to meet the recipient spouse's financial needs over time. Structured settlements can offer predictability and stability while minimizing ongoing financial entanglements between the parties.

Property Division

To address the financial needs of the recipient spouse instead of or in addition to maintenance payments, spouses may agree to adjust the division of marital property. For example, one spouse may retain a larger share of the marital assets or property to offset the need for ongoing maintenance.

Waiver of Maintenance

In some cases, spouses may agree to waive maintenance altogether in exchange for other concessions or arrangements, such as a larger share of marital assets, a one-time financial settlement, or other provisions tailored to their specific circumstances and needs.

How Are Maintenance Order Modifications Handled in King County?

RCW 26.09.170 governs modifications to maintenance orders in King County. This statute allows for the modification or termination of maintenance orders based on substantial changes in circumstances.

Examples of said changes include an increase or decrease in income for either spouse or a new marriage for the recipient spouse. The one seeking a modification must petition King County court and demonstrate the substantial change they claim has taken place.

Are There Any Specific Guidelines or Formulas Used to Calculate the Amount of Maintenance?

Unlike some other states, Washington doesn’t have specific guidelines or formulas when it comes to calculating maintenance. Instead, the court will look at relevant factors such as the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and the contributions each spouse has made to the household. These factors are looked at on a case-by-case basis so the court can arrive at a fair and equitable maintenance award.

Can Maintenance Orders Be Modified Based on Changes in the Cost of Living?

Yes, maintenance orders can be modified based on changes in the cost of living. Suppose one of the spouses sees a big change in their income or financial circumstances due to inflation or changes in their living expenses. In that case, they can petition King County court for a modification of their maintenance order.

Is There a Limit to the Amount of Maintenance That Can Be Awarded in Kirkland?

No. Kirkland and Washington state in general do not impose any limits to the amount of maintenance that can be awarded. Instead, they consider all of the factors we have outlined above and in RCW 26.09.090.

Can Maintenance Orders Be Terminated if the Recipient Spouse Remarries or Enters Into a New Domestic Partnership?

Maintenance termination can be granted if the recipient spouse remarries. Under RCW 26.09.170, maintenance terminates automatically upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse or if the recipient spouse cohabitates with a new partner in what is known as a meretricious relationship, meaning a stable, marriage-like relationship. However, termination based on these factors may also require a formal request to the court to ensure proper legal termination.

Can Spouses Agree to Waive Maintenance in a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement?

Yes, spouses can agree to waive maintenance in a prenup or postnup agreement. However, for these agreements to be enforceable, they need to meet certain legal requirements such as a full disclosure of all assets and liabilities, voluntary agreement by both parties, and fairness of the agreement.

Can Maintenance Payments Be Made in a Lump Sum Rather Than Periodic Payments?

The decision to award lump-sum maintenance is within the discretion of the court. Lump-sum maintenance payments may be advantageous in situations where the paying spouse has the financial means to make a one-time payment and both parties prefer to avoid ongoing financial involvement with one another.

Can a Spouse Request Attorney’s Fees and Costs Related to Maintenance Proceedings in Kirkland?

Yes, a spouse may request attorney's fees and costs related to maintenance proceedings in Washington state. RCW 26.09.140 grants the court discretion to award attorney's fees and costs to either party in a divorce case, including proceedings related to maintenance.

How Does Remarriage of the Paying Spouse Affect Maintenance Obligations in King County?

Remarriage of the paying spouse typically won’t affect maintenance obligations. Unlike some states where remarriage automatically terminates maintenance obligations, Washington does not have a statutory provision that automatically terminates maintenance upon the paying spouse's remarriage.

However, the court may consider a few factors, including the change in the paying spouse's financials and their obligations to their new spouse.

Maintenance or spousal support in Kirkland is meant to ensure fairness and stability during and after the divorce proceedings. Whether determined through court orders or negotiated agreements, understanding your rights and the laws relevant to maintenance in Kirkland is essential when navigating a divorce.

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