The provisions for spousal maintenance in a Decree of Dissolution can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. An example would be if one or both of the parent’s employment and/or income has substantially increased or decreased, or their physical health has changed such that it effects their ability to earn.
There may be an exception to the general rule of modification, that could prevent a modification from happening. If the parties agreed at the time of entry of the Decree, and it is written into the Decree or Property Settlement Agreement, that spousal maintenance is non-modifiable, then it is not subject to modification and you cannot bring an action for modification. This would have to be specifically stated in your Decree. An exception to this, is we have seen some courts when a paying spouse becomes unemployed, to reduce the amount of maintenance for a period of time, and then adding it back on at the end of the term for spousal maintenance. This keeps the same amount of payment, but strings it out for a period.
Filing for modification of spousal maintenance requires filling out the mandatory forms, serving copies on the other parent, filing them with the Court and receiving a trial schedule. In King County, a trial is scheduled in about 4 months. It is a trial by affidavit, meaning that there is usually no oral testimony, it is all submitted in writing in advance, with oral argument by the attorneys.
You must provide proof of your income. This proof includes your last two income tax returns, six months pay stubs, and bank records.
If both parties agree, they can get the Modification Order approved by a judge without the need of a contested hearing. If they do not agree, the case will go to trial and a judge will decide. The procedures for setting a trial vary from county to county. In King County, a trial by affidavit is automatically scheduled about 4 months after the date of filing.
If you would like to have your spousal maintenance order reviewed to determine whether a modification action would make sense, please call our office.