Divorce and Spousal Support

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    Spousal support is a very complex area of law in Oregon.

    A great many different arguments can be made as to whether support should be awarded after a divorce.

    Arguments can also be made as to how long spousal support or alimony should continue after a dissolution of marriage in Oregon, and what circumstances should result in a termination or at least a reevaluation of spousal support or alimony.

    There are three kinds of spousal support in Oregon family law cases:  transitional support, compensatory support, and maintenance support.

    Transitional support, as the name implies, is designed to support the lower income person after a divorce while that person gets training and reenters the work force.

    Compensatory support is designed to compensate a person for support given to the family before the marriage, which allowed the other partner to significantly increase his or her earning capacity.  An example is the spouse who put his or her partner through school.

    However, if the family has benefitted from this increased earning capacity for a while, for example if a former medical student has been practicing as a doctor for a while, and the family has benefitted from that, the chances of compensatory support being awarded decrease significantly.

    Maintenance support is designed to provide support where there is little chance that the lower earning spouse will be able to transition to an appropriate earning level on his or her own, and where there is no basis for compensatory support, or where compensatory support has run its course.  

    Of the three kinds of support, maintenance support is the most likely to be long term support.

    Long term spousal support or alimony used often to be called permanent spousal support.  It is now called indefinite support.  No support is permanent.  Spousal support will likely be recalculated when there is a substantial and material change in circumstances.  Such changes can include the higher income spouse taking retirement, or losing a job, or changing careers.  Indefinite spousal support can also be changed if things change, so that the lower income spouse has reduced needs because of a change in family circumstances, or because that spouse reaches an age where he or she can begin taking retirement income or receiving Social Security, or the like.