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Post-Decree Modification of Maintenance

In Washington, the trial court's goal in determining maintenance in a long-term marriage is to put the parties in a roughly equal position. Under RCW 26.09.090, the relevant factors include both the payee spouse's needs and the payor spouse's financial resources. Maintenance should not be awarded against a spouse that has no ability to pay.

In some cases, after the trial court makes the award, an unexpected change in circumstances occurs that prompts one side to request a modification of the maintenance award.

Under RCW 26.09.170(1)(b), a court in the state of Washington can modify a maintenance obligation when the moving party demonstrates that a "substantial change in circumstances" occurred that the parties did not contemplate at the time of the initial dissolution decree.

Family Law Attorneys for Post-Decree Modification

If you are interested in learning more about a post-decree modification of maintenance in Seattle or King County, WA, contact an experienced divorce attorney at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. We can help you determine whether a substantial change in circumstances has actually occurred and how the court might address that situation. We also represent clients in actions to modify child support or modify a parenting plan.

Our King County Family Law attorneys represent clients throughout Seattle, Bellevue and Kent. We also represent clients in Snohomish County, Washington, including Everett, Lynnwood and Edmonds. Call (206) 712-2756 today to schedule a consultation free of charge.


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Change in Circumstances to Modify Alimony in Washington

The term “change in circumstances” refers to changes in the obligor spouse's financial ability to pay while accounting for the other spouse's necessities. RCW 26.09.170(5)(b) provides that “[a]n obligor's voluntary unemployment or voluntary underemployment, by itself, is not a substantial change of circumstances.

If a court determines that a modification is appropriate, RCW 26.09.170(1)(a) requires that the court may only make the modification for payments accruing after the petition for modification was filed. Therefore, the provisions of any decree respecting maintenance may be modified only as to installments accruing subsequent to the motion for modification.


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Non-Modifiable Maintenance Agreement in Washington

In some cases, the parties will expressly agree not to permit post-decree modification. Family law attorneys in Washington often called this agreement the "non-modifiable maintenance agreement." The court must follow that agreement if there is an express and written agreement that was freely and voluntarily entered by the parties.

But unless the parties expressly agree not to permit a post-decree modification for maintenance or alimony, the trial court is not permitted to order that without such an agreement. In other words, the court by itself cannot tell the parties in the order that neither of them can seek a modification in the future.

When enacting RCW 26.09.070 (7) and .170 (1), the Washington legislature did not add any provision that would allow the trial court to limit or preclude the modification of a spousal maintenance award in the absence of an express and written agreement to that effect, freely and voluntarily entered into by the parties. But when the non-modifiable maintenance agreement in the decree exists, the courts will often find it to be valid and enforceable.


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Additional Resources

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts – Visit the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) website to view valuable resources on divorce. AFCC is the premier interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. On the webpage, you’ll find FAQS parents ask about divorce, a guide for joint custody and more.

Divorce (Dissolution) Forms for Washington Courts - Visit the website of the Washington Courts to find free court forms that can be downloaded and are related to ending a marriage including forms for divorce or dissolution, legal separation, converting a legal separation to a divorce, invalid marriage, and temporary alimony. 


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Seattle Modification of Maintenance Attorney in Washington 

If you are interested in learning more about a post-decree modification of maintenance, the Seattle family law attorneys of Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson have the experience and knowledge to guide you through this process. Allow us to help you achieve an arrangement that meets your current needs.

Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson practices law throughout the greater King County area including Burien, Shoreline, Redmon and Seattle. We also represent clients in other areas including Everett in Snohomish County. Call us today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule an initial consultation free of charge. Attorney Shana E. Thompson is well-versed in matters that warrant a divorce modification.


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