August 2011 Bar Bulletin
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August 2011 Bar Bulletin

Maintenance and Marriage:

The Changing Nature of Support

By Lisa Dufour and Kim Schnuelle


It is likely that you have had a potential client ask you, "How long will my spouse have to support me if we divorce? How much will I receive?"1 If so, you know the answer is not simple and no longer limited to husbands paying money to wives who stayed home with the children for 20 years.

In fact, alimony is not even called alimony anymore, but rather is referred to as maintenance. The statute on maintenance, RCW 26.09.090, states that, where warranted, the court will award maintenance in such a duration and amount that the court deems "just," after consideration of a number of factors.2

The statute provides that the court should consider "all relevant factors," including - but not limited to - the following:

  • the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • the financial obligations of the spouse providing maintenance;
  • the duration of the marriage;
  • the standard of living during the marriage;
  • the age and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
  • the time needed by the spouse seeking maintenance to acquire the education needed to obtain appropriate employment.3

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