Case Note: In re Marriage of Washburn

In the case of In re Marriage of Washburn, the Washington Supreme Court limited a supporting spouse’s dissolution award to reimbursement and rehabilitation for her contributions made toward the attainment of a professional degree. Applying the Marital Dissolution Act of 1973, an eight-member majority held that when one spouse supports the other through professional school in the mutual expectation of future financial benefit, but divorce intervenes before the benefit can be realized, that circumstance is a relevant factor a trial court must consider when dividing property and awarding maintenance. The Washburn court relied upon the broad requirement of fairness under the dissolution act but refused to extend that requirement to include the supporting spouse’s expectation of enhanced lifestyle which a professional degree represents. This note analyzes the Washburn decision in light of comparative approaches taken by other jurisdictions and suggests that fairness requires the adoption of the marital asset approach. Washburn was a consolidation of two cases, In re Marriage of Washburn, and In re Marriage of Gillette. In the Washburn case, Mrs. Washburn worked full time to support her husband while he attended veterinary school.” Less than two years after Mr. Washburn began practice as a veterinarian the marriage was dissolved.  The trial court divided the community property equally and denied Mrs. Washburn’s request for maintenance.”

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Shawn B . Jensen, Case Note: In re Marriage of Washburn, 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 749 (1984).

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