How Is Spousal Support Determined in Oregon?

Married individuals often become accustomed to a certain lifestyle during their years of marriage. They get used to the food they eat, the home they live in, as well as what they do for entertainment. Going through a divorce might put this lifestyle at risk, however, especially for the spouse who is not the primary wage earner for his or her family.

In order to avoid such a drastic lifestyle change, courts often award a husband or wife spousal support to maintain the standard of living similar to the one he or she had during marriage.

What Is Spousal Support and When Is it Granted?

Spousal support (known elsewhere as alimony) is a monthly payment from one ex-spouse to the other, and is designed to minimize any unfair financial consequences following divorce. For example, a spouse might need economic support if he or she did not work outside the home during the marriage, yet raised the children or managed household duties.

There is no specific method for determining whether spousal support is necessary or how much should be awarded. However, courts usually consider several pre-determined factors when analyzing spousal support cases:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • The parties' respective earnings or earning capacity.
  • Training and employment history of each spouse (earning capacity)
  • Education
  • Financial needs or resources of the parties
  • Responsibilities in caring for children
  • Each spouse's age and overall health
  • Standard of living established during the marriage

Of course, each divorce is different and courts will generally look at case specific facts before granting a support order.

Additionally, courts must determine what type of support to award:

  • Transitional: Given for one spouse to obtain education or training to facilitate entry into the job market.
  • Compensatory: Given when one spouse made a significant contribution toward enhancing/increasing the other's earning capacity by paying toward or supporting the other's education, training, skills or career during a marriage.
  • Maintenance: Given for either a specific or indefinite period when there is a significant difference in the spouses earning capacities. And where needed to help the lesser earning spouse to maintain a standard of living somewhere in the realm of what was enjoyed during the marriage.

Obtaining or Modifying Spousal Support Orders

A party may petition a court to modify spousal support orders under certain conditions, such as when there is either a material change in one spouse's need for the support or a reduction in the other spouse's ability to pay support. Modification requests can be filed by either the paying or receiving party. However, spousal support can only be modified while there is a duty to pay support. This means that if the support has been paid in full or there was no obligation to pay support in the divorce, spousal support cannot be awarded later.

Anyone who needs help obtaining, challenging or modifying a spousal support order should speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss his or her rights and potential options.