Spousal support, which is also referred to alimony or maintenance, is a sum of money that one spouse is ordered or agrees to pay the other spouse on a regular basis during and/or after their divorce. In some cases, the spouses purposely agree to make a spousal support obligation non-modifiable. This means that the spouse who is paying spousal support cannot later ask the court to reduce the amount of his or her spousal support obligation. Likewise, the spouse who is receiving the spousal support cannot later ask the court to increase the amount of spousal support that he or she receives. If a divorce decree does not make a spousal support obligation non-modifiable, however, it is possible to modify the spousal support obligation under some circumstances.

You can only modify the amount of the spousal support payments that will occur in the future, not those payments that you already have made or received in the past. Additionally, in order to have a spousal support order modified, you must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was issued. This means that something has changed significantly since the date of the original order that the parties could not have reasonably contemplated at that the time of the original order. A common example of a substantial change in circumstances might be if the payor spouse develops an illness or disabling medical condition that prevents him or her from working and earning the same income that he or she did in the past.

Unless the divorce decree provides otherwise, a spousal support obligation terminates upon the death of either spouse, or upon the remarriage of the spouse receiving the payments. However, if the spouse receiving the payments simply cohabitates with a new partner, the other spouse’s spousal support obligation typically will not terminate, but could be grounds to change the support obligation.

We know how difficult and complicated divorce cases can be, especially when they involve complex issues like spousal support. Contact Pacific Northwest Family Law today and we will show you how we can help with your Washington divorce case. Our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your divorce case. We are here to answer all of your questions, calm your concerns, and help you through the often difficult process of contested divorce and family law cases.