When two people get married with very unequal incomes and then get divorced, the person who has less income may be left destitute. To counter this, the courts developed the concept of spousal maintenance payments, sometimes called alimony in other states. The partner with more income pays a certain amount to the poorer partner for some amount of time.
The courts have great leeway in how they can structure spousal maintenance payments. Sometimes a lump sum is chosen, and sometimes ongoing payments. Payments can be for a certain amount of time, or they can be permanent. Permanent alimony is becoming rarer, but some are still deeply affected by it.
A man in South Carolina has paid out half a million dollars in spousal maintenance payments over the past 35 years because his ex-wife never remarried or lived with someone for more than three months. That would stop payments under South Carolina law. He was able to get his payments reduced from $1,600 a month to $1,100 a month, but now that he is retired he's afraid he'll have to sell his house to keep up with the payments.
Spousal maintenance can be restructured if circumstances change, especially if payments may leave someone destitute. If you feel trapped by an spousal maintenance agreement that is no longer fair and you live in Washington State, call Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC for a free consultation. We can go over the laws with you and help you consider your options.