Following a Washington final divorce decree, a maintenance award, also known as spousal support, may only be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the decree. The change has to be something that was not within the contemplation of the parties at the time of the divorce. There may be a change in circumstances if the spouse receiving maintenance was expected to become self-supporting, but is unable to do so through no substantial fault of his or her own. A trial court may choose a disproportionate property division instead of ordering maintenance.
A former wife recently sought modification of an order of maintenance shortly before the maintenance obligation was to expire. The couple had been married 30 years before they separated. The husband was a cardiologist, and the wife had worked as a registered nurse, but stopped working in 1989. She had been treated for mental health issues since 1996.
The husband was ordered to pay maintenance of $4,600 a month for five years, starting in August 2010, and child support of $1,400 a month until the youngest child graduated high school. The monthly maintenance payment was to increase to $5,750 per month when the oldest child graduated.